How to lay garden paving slabs

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Building your own paving slab patio or path is not only rewarding, but also adds to the visual appeal of your garden. Paving slabs are available in many colour and style variations. The style of paving slab you choose should directly reflect what the area will be used for. Patios will require the flat, square or rectangular type, whereas paths can be made of the flat variety or the more rustic-looking flagstone slabs. Before you begin building your patio or path, confirm that the area has no power cables or drains running underneath it.

Prepare the ground

Mark the area to be paved with string and wooden stakes. Hammer the stakes into the ground with a rubber mallet just outside of where the patios corners will be.

Cut and remove the turf, if present. Dig up the soil in the area with a shovel to a depth of 30 cm (12 inches).

Place the spirit level in the middle of the area. Have a helper hold a levelling rod and move the marker until it falls into the level's crosshairs. Mark each of the stakes at the bottom of the rod with a pen or marker to show level.

Measure down two stakes, on the same side of the patio area, 3 mm (1/8 inch) for every 30 cm (1 foot) of width. This will mark the grade of the patio and help you gently slope the patio for water drainage.

Spread a 7.5 cm (3 inch) layer of gravel over the area. Use a garden hose and nozzle to dampen but not soak the gravel. This will help with compaction and keep dust at bay.

Compact the crushed gravel with a mechanical tamper. Spread another layer of crushed gravel and sprinkle with water. Compact this layer with the mechanical tamper.

Dig a shallow, level trench around the perimeter of the crushed gravel bed. The depth of the trench should closely match the height of the materials you are using as edge restraints.

Lay the edge restraints into the trench and check for level at several points. Back-fill the trench with soil or sand to butt the restraints up against the crushed gravel.

Lay a 2.5 cm (1 inch) layer of coarse sand over the layer of crushed gravel, up to the string outline.

Smooth the sand layer with the timber. Place the board face down at one end of the gravel and sand bed. Slowly drag it over the sand, pressing down firmly to completely flatten and smooth out the sand layer.

Lay the slabs

Lay paving slabs all along the perimeter of the area first. Tamp the slabs into place and check for level. To tamp the slabs down, place a small piece of wood on top of the slab and hit the wood with a rubber mallet until level. If needed, add or remove small amounts of sand from underneath the slab to achieve level.

Lay the slabs row by row in the remainder of the area. Space the slabs no more than 3 mm (1/8 inch) from each other. Tamp down the slabs and check for level as you go. Sweep the laid slabs with a broom to remove all debris.

Tamp down the all the slabs with the mechanical tamper. Start at the outside edges and work your way to the middle of the patio or path.

Spread a layer of joining sand over the slabs. Sweep the sand into the joints, using a broom, until all the joints are filled level with the slabs. If necessary, spread more sand to fill the joints properly. Tamp the slabs once more with the mechanical tamper.

Seal the paving slabs by applying a coat of paving stone sealer. Allow the surface to fully dry before using the patio or path.

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