Laying patio slabs is probably one of the most important aspects in order to give your patio “the real patio look”. Patio paving slabs come in all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes; it is up to you to decide which slabs are the most appropriate; designs and style that would add to your outdoor area the touch you are looking for thus enhancing your garden decor. Also, it will probably be the most expensive element when you are building/planning your patio – or if you are remodeling.
It is very important to choose garden patio slabs that blend with the surroundings. This applies not only to the texture but to the color too. It will pay in the long run to use the best quality paving material you can afford – it is better to lay patio slabs in a small area well than a large area badly. But first make sure the site is properly prepared or you may have to deal with loose or uneven slabs later.
When planning the size of the patio, always make it a little larger than you think you will need. Ideally, aim to allow at least 3sa ft per person for the first three people and 2sq m for each additional person. For a family of four, this means a patio area of approximately 3x3m. If you are planning to have patio furniture other than seats or tables, then you will have to allocate more space. If our requirements change over the years, it should be possible to extend an existing patio and just keep adding your patio slabs as you go. The difficulties here are matching the surface levels of the original and new patio paving slabs and the color difference between the older, weathered material and the new. So, be generous to start.
If your patio butts up against an existing building, take care that the top surface of your slabs is at least 5cm below the damp-proof course. On the majority of sites this will mean excavating the existing level. You can calculate the degree of excavation necessary by adding together the depth of hardcore and bedding material and the thickness of the particular patio slabs you are intending to use, not forgetting the 5cm free space below the building’s damp-proof course.
Excavating and leveling work will depend on the condition of the original site – it may be necessary to bring in contractors or you may be able to do it yourself. Before planning anything too ambitious in cramped town conditions, consider how you are going to dispose of any soil – this is very important!!
One of the most popular patio slabs are, of course, real stone (especially York stone). It is very expensive paving material, but it has the advantages of wearing well and looking as though it has been in place for years, immediately after it has been laid. Second-hand stone paving slabs can sometimes be found but these, too, tend to be expensive and, very often imperfect. You can also use bricks to create an attractive paving slab around your chosen area. It will be a cheaper option to the York stone.
Concrete is the cheapest paving material for your patio and it can be colored using special coloring powders, or, for a textured look, watered and lightly brushed after laying so that the aggregate is exposed (then the surface tends to be less slippery under-foot). If you use concrete to create your own patio slabs, you must mark it out into squares while still wet so you can simulate the paving stones, but it will look more and more like concrete as it weathers.
Make sure you check for instructions on the internet before venturing into laying down the patio slabs yourself.