Before you get started

A patio is an easy-to-build outdoor space where you can relax and entertain, but it is a permanent garden feature, so consider carefully where it should go. An area facing south or south west will get the most sun during the day and early evening.

Make a detailed plan of your new patio. Measure and mark any unmovable obstacles like doorsteps and drains, draw in planted areas and then map out where slabs will go so that the amount of cut slabs required are kept to a minimum and discreetly placed. Allow for the width of joints as well as slab size.

Transfer your plan into a full-size layout on the site, using string lines and pegs, and check its proportions complement the garden and house. You'll need to know the size of paving slabs now, so they can be incorporated into the design; wherever possible, plan to use full-size slabs to keep cutting to a minimum.

If you already have a firm base for the patio, check that it is sound and level before you begin work.

Paving slabs are inexpensive, hard wearing and come in many different sizes and colours that can be mixed, matched, cut and arranged in patterns and then edged as you choose. Take advantage of the potential for being creative.

Laying paving slabs is a quick and effective way of creating the perfect patio and something most people can do even if you have never attempted any hard landscaping before. The choice of materials is extensive, with something to suit every budget.

A well-made patio needs a good foundation. Hardcore that has been compacted with a hired plate compactor will make a sound surface on which to build.

Heating a patio, so you can take full advantage of it to dine outside, even on less warm summer evenings, can be achieved with several decorative alternatives. Among the heating methods available are stainless steel patio and table heaters or traditional, terracotta, Mexican chimineas. A chiminea is an open oven that gives off heat and doubles as an unusual barbecue too.

How to lay a Patio


If it joins the house, the finished patio should be 15cm lower than the damp proof course. Mark the area to be paved with pins and a line.


Use a large folding square to check that each corner of the patio area that you have marked is 90° square. Adjust lines if necessary.


Cut into the grass with a spade to outline the area. Once the patio has been marked in this way, you can remove the string lines.


Dig out the area to allow 10cm of hardcore, 2.5cm for Slablayer and the slab depth. The final patio should sit 1cm below the grass.


Drive in pegs at 1m intervals around edge, level with the ground. Fix treated timber to the pegs. Check that the patio area slopes away from the house.


Rake 10cm of hardcore level across the patio area and compact it with a sledgehammer, or a hired plate compactor, to make a solid base.


Dry lay the paving slabs to make sure they fit well across the area. Begin at a corner and work along the edges. Allow for mortar joints.


When satisfied with fit, remove slabs and evenly level out 2.5cm of slablayer with a rake – one bag will be enough for about three slabs.


Sprinkle the slablayer with water, using the fine rose of a watering can, as directed by the manufacturer. Rake the whole area level once more.


Begin laying the slabs, starting along the edge of the area. With large slabs, two people may be required to lift in and position them in place.


Ensure that the slab is lightly bedded into the slablayer. A couple of taps with a rubber mallet may be required to settle it firmly in place.


Slabs may be butted tightly against each other, or a gap left for a wider joint, depending on how much infilling you want to do along the joints.


To keep the width of the gaps between slabs consistent, use spacers. Offcuts of ply are ideal. Keep checking joint widths as you lay more slabs.


As you continue laying the rest of the slabs in the design, use a spirit level to keep checking the level and gradient across the site.


When all the slabs are laid leave the Slablayer to set for 48 hours. Cover the area with plastic sheeting if bad weather is forecast.


If slabs are not tightly butted, to infill joints mix up a dry mortar mix (four parts sand to one part cement) or Slablayer may be used again.


Spread the mix over the slabs and use a soft broom to brush the mix over the joints, gradually and evenly filling them all in.


Once all joints are full of dry mortar mix, use a pointing trowel to firm the dry mortar between the slabs. Add more mortar as required.


You can either leave the mortar mix joints to absorb moisture and slowly harden, or you can sprinkle water across the patio from a watering can.


Instead of mortar mix, you can finish joints with kiln-dried sand. Spread on the area and brush into joints. Leave to settle for a few days and repeat.