How to lay a slate patio

Updated February 21, 2017

Slate is a sedimentary rock that has been used historically for indoor and outdoor purposes. It has a natural look that adds to the landscape, making it more appealing. Although concrete or textured tiles are also used as patio flooring, the natural charm of slate is unbeatable. You can purchase slate tiles in squares or rectangles, or be more adventurous and get them in different shapes and sizes. Laying a slate patio is not difficult and does not require prior experience or special skills.

Insert stakes on the sides and attach strings to them, pulling them taut, if you are laying slate on a new patio. Dig out at least 2 inches of the area inside and flatten it with a tamper to avoid an uneven patio. Pour an inch of gravel and level it. However, if you are laying slate on a concrete patio, power wash it to ensure it is clean.

Lay the more prominent pieces of slate in front, with cracked and broken pieces toward the side edges or where they are not so conspicuous. Think of a patio pattern and lay your slate dry to see how it looks. Play around with slate positions until you are satisfied with your design.

Wear your safety glasses and gloves and follow manufacturer's instructions to mix some mortar in a wheelbarrow with a hoe. Do not mix all the mortar in one go because it dries easily, but in bits to keep the supply moist and fresh.

Start in the middle of your patio. Moisten a slate tile with a damp sponge and apply mortar evenly to the back with a trowel before spreading it onto the patio floor. Slate tiles may be uneven, so you will need to apply more mortar to an end to make sure it lies flat and even. Move each tile back and forth in place a bit to set it into the ground. Keep checking the slate as you work to make sure you are laying an even patio. Make necessary height adjustments by adding more mortar beneath a particular tile or pressing it into the ground so the mortar under it spreads.

Apply grout to the edges where the tiles meet to cover any gaps that may cause people to trip. You may have to use a putty knife to ensure the grout reaches deep areas. Wipe the excess with a moist sponge. Complete and clean one section before moving on to another. Lightly hose the entire patio after you finish and allow it to dry overnight to help the grout cure.


Clean mortar and grout off the wheelbarrow, sponge and any other tools immediately because they are very difficult to remove once they harden.

Things You'll Need

  • Stakes
  • String
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Tamper
  • Gravel
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Mortar
  • Hoe
  • Slate tiles
  • Sponge
  • Grout
  • Putty knife
  • Garden hose


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About the Author

Tanya Khan is a freelance author and consultant, having written numerous articles for various online and print sources. She has a Master of Business Administration in marketing but her passion lies in writing.