Slate patios have a natural look that complements the landscape rather than competing with it. Square slate tiles are most commonly used for building outdoors, but a patio made with different sizes and shapes of stone can be more appealing in a less structured outdoor area. Laying a patio without concrete simplifies the project because there is no need to set rebar or wait for the concrete to dry. This project doesn't require any special skills and can be completed in a weekend.
Mark the sides of the new patio with stakes and string.
Dig out the area inside the string to a depth of about two inches. Use a tamper to flatten the excavated area. Uneven spots will lead to an uneven patio.
Pour pea gravel into the excavation to a depth of about one inch. Use a rake to smooth the gravel out.
Lay the slate. Start in the middle and work outward to both sides if you're working with square or rectangular pieces. If you're working with uneven shapes, start in the middle and fit the pieces together as you work outward. Leave about a one-fourth-inch space between the pieces.
Check that the slate is level as you work. Lay a two-by-four across your work area and look for high or low spots. Adjust them by adding or taking out gravel beneath them.
Spread builder's sand on the slate when you're finished. Use a hose to rinse the sand into the cracks between the pieces of slate.
Calculate the patio's size so that you don't have to cut any pieces of slate. If you do need to cut slate, use a circular saw with a masonry blade. If the patio will be right next to a home or other building, make sure it has a slight downward slope so water will be directed away from it.
Slate can be more slippery than other stones.