Planning & preparation

  • A well planned and constructed path can be both very practical and decorative, so give due consideration to the shape and materials you intend to use. Concrete slabs are a good choice for areas with heavy traffic, gravel paths are easy to lay and inexpensive, and block paving can be designed in a number of striking designs
  • Carefully plan and measure your proposed path; it will determine what materials you’ll need to complete the job and save you time and money. Careful planning can also minimise the need to cut slabs
  • Don’t forget to factor a 10mm space between each paving slab, and the edging, into your plans
  • It’s generally recommended to allow for a width of at least 900mm for a path
  • Before committing to a shape and position of a path, mark out the proposed area using stakes and string for straight paths, or a garden hose for curved designs
  • You can lay slabs or block paving directly on the lawn to experiment with different patterns, not forgetting to take a photo of your chosen design

Do it right

  • If your path is sited on ground prone to waterlogging, you may want to increase the depth of your sub-base layer to around 150-200mm
  • Wait for dry weather before applying kiln dried sand

Staying safe

  • Wear suitable footwear and gloves when handling slabs, sand, gravel or cement, and when digging
  • If you are using a wacker plate, you should wear ear defenders and steel toe-capped boots
  • When using a mortar mix, or Slablayer, wear a dust mask, safety goggles and protective gloves and be sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions
  • Wet and dry cement can cause irritation and burns, so handle carefully, covering skin and immediately washing off any cement that accidentally makes contact
  • If you're using heavy paving slabs or lifting any other heavy items, ask someone to help

Aftercare

  • Remove any visible weeds from your paths, either by teasing them out by their roots or applying weed killer as per the manufacturer’s instructions
  • If the surface of your path is slippery or shows signs of green algae, clean with a brick and patio cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions

Preparing the area: general

1

Before laying a path, use a CAT tool to make sure there are no hidden cables or pipes where you intend to excavate.

2

Mark out the position of your path, using pegs and string, and dig out to the depth of the edging you intend to use. The top of the edging should sit at ground level.

3

As a general rule, gravel will need an overall depth of around 100mm whereas block paving and paving slabs will need a base of up to 150mm, plus the depth of the paving your using.

Gravel path

1

Starting at each end of the path, drive in treated pegs at 1.2m intervals and fix them to the treated timber edging boards with external grade screws. Check the level of the edging as you go.

2

Roll out and cut landscape fabric, allowing for a 50mm overlap across the width. For any overlap lengthways, allow 150mm excess fabric.

3

Add a 50mm layer of MOT Type 1 sub-base, or hardcore, and rake.

4

Compact with a tamper or, for larger areas, consider hiring a wacker plate.

5

Add your decorative gravel, to a depth of approximately 25mm, leaving a gap of 25mm from the top of the edging, and rake to level the surface.

Paving slabs

1

Add the MOT Type 1, or hardcore, to create a 50mm layer and rake.

2

Compact with a tamper or, for larger areas, consider hiring a wacker plate. Add another layer of MOT Type 1 or hardcore, to give an overall layer of 100mm, and compact again.

3

Add the Slablayer to a depth of 25mm, level with a rake, and add water as per the manufacturer’s instructions then rake again.

4

Dampen the underside of the slab and then place it into position, bedding it in with a rubber mallet and checking it’s square and level, adjusting if necessary.

5

Continue laying the slabs, bedding them in with the rubber mallet and checking the levels as you go.

6

Use offcuts of wood as spacers to maintain a consistent gap between slabs.

7

Once the path is dry, fill in the joints by adding water to Slablayer or 4 parts sand and one of concrete to create a damp mix, and apply with a trowel.

Block paving

1

Allow for 100mm of sub-base, 50mm of sand and the depth of your chosen block paving, bearing in mind that when compacted, the paving will sit about 15mm into the sand base.

2

Add a 50mm layer of MOT Type 1, or hardcore, and rake.

3

Compact with a tamper or wacker plate, then add the remaining MOT Type 1 or hardcore, to create an overall layer of 100mm, and compact once more.

4

Then, add a layer of sharp sand, that has been lightly dampened, and compress with a suitable offcut of timber to a depth of 50mm.

5

Lay your block paving, gently tapping them into place with a rubber mallet and constantly checking that they are level.

6

Sweep kiln dried sand over the path to fill in the joints. Use a wacker plate to compact and then re-apply the sand to fill any spaces.