All The Tips And Tricks On How To Lay A Patio For Beginners

Your patio is an outdoor living space you enjoy all year, providing you have all the necessary tools. A patio heater to keep you warm in the winter and maybe a parasol for the summer if yours is without a roof. It’s a great way to exploit your outer space and create an area to relax and spend time with family and friends. 

garden patio with wooden roof, stone outdoor fireplace and outdoor living room

With the right guideline, you can lay a patio by yourself even if you are a beginner and you don’t have a clue about DIY projects. Plus you don’t need much money for the furniture since there are ways to create your own furniture from pallets, or if you like, you can get a garden sofa set.  

Ready to learn all the tips and tricks on how to lay a patio?

What is a patio?

A patio is an open space with walls or other structures. It can be attached to a house or not. You can have a patio of any shape and built with whatever you like, concrete, pavers, tiles, pebbles, rock or pea gravel. Usually, patio slabs are of concrete or sand and stones. 

Patios are the least expensive project for a homeowner who wants a space to relax and enjoy the fresh air. You can have your patio in any size and shape based on your needs, and since it’s built at ground level, it requires no railings. 

Planning before you start laying your patio

The first thing you need to decide before laying your patio is what you’ll use it for. Most people use patios for: 

A man paving a patio with concrete slabs

  • Eating outside 
  • Creating an outdoor entertainment space
  • Providing flooring for exterior rooms and spaces, like outdoor living areas and kitchens
  • Creating beautiful courtyards and outdoor landscaping
  • Room for outdoor games

Once you decide why you want a patio, you have to find where you’ll install it. Most patios are installed at the back of the house, creating an indoor-outdoor space. Or you can have it near your kitchen to be easier to prepare food and drinks for your relaxing times. Use a tape measure to measure your space to get the suitable size materials and mark the border using strings and wooden pegs.  

Then, you need to decide its size. If you want to enjoy your meals there, you need a patio at least three metres by three metres. But if you’re going to use it as an outdoor living space, then a bit larger (5mx5m) is best. 

Finally, what materials are you going to build it with? What materials you will use for your paving slabs is also an important part. Here are a few options you can choose from:

1.Paving stones

It’s the most typical and least expensive option to lay your patio. There are several patterns and colours, giving you the chance to mix and match. They usually come with the same thickness, a factor that makes them the simplest option to lay down, even if you aren’t familiar with DIY projects. 

2.Brick (Block paving)

Bricks give a great look to patios when they are laid down. However, they have a significant drawback: Brick is a porous material that retains moisture, leading to cracks during winter. Hence, you will spend a fortune to replace them and maintain them on a regular basis. 

3.Concrete 

You might don’t like the idea of laying your patio with concrete, but you may reconsider it if you knew that you could have a neutral appearance if you fix it up with stamped patterns. You need to know that you’ll have to reapply the top coating every couple of years to maintain its colour by choosing this option. 

4.Natural stone

Natural stone is the most expensive material of all four, but it’s the best one to get a natural, attractive appearance, and the one that will last longer with almost no maintenance. 

Preparing your patio area

You don’t need to hurry. Take some time to prepare your patio area carefully to get a professional result. Here’s how you can prepare your patio:

Stacks of concrete slabs ready to be layed over the sub-base

Step 1: Clear the area

Start by removing all the debris, weeds or turf from the area. Excavate grass or soil or any other surface you may have down to 15cm. Use a shovel to dig the ground. Then compact the soil and make a stable base for your patio. Eliminate, also, roots by using a weed killer to prevent any weed growth in the future. 

Step 2: Lay the sub-base

Once you have excavated the area, it’s time to the base to lay the slabs on. Use string lines to guide you and a shovel to mark the edges. Start digging the soil, moving to the centre. Allow for 100 mm of sub-base, 25 mm of slab layer, and the paving slabs’ depth.
Add MOT Type 1 or hardcore to a 50mm depth. Use a rake or a plate compactor to flatten and level the surface.

Fill the space with 10cm of sub-base material, and then flatten it. You need to get a smooth and even surface. Thus, keep flattening until you get the smoother possible surface. You can use a rake or, if it’s possible, a plate compactor or a wacker plate

Step 3: Levelling 

When you have laid the sub-base, you need to make sure that everything is level. Use a spirit level or a block of wood to check everything before and after laying the slabs. 

Step 4: Lay the bedding mortar

The final step is to lay the bedding mortar. It’s actually a land stabiliser to prevent weed growth and to hold your paving slabs. You will need sharp sand (or building sand) and cement, which will be the bed to lay your paving stones on. 

Make your cement mixture first. Mix three parts building sand and one part cement. Add as much water as needed to create a doughy consistency. If you can, use a cement mixer, or if you don’t have one, you can use a bucket. Make enough concrete to make a 40mm layer in the patio bed. You’ll know the concrete is ready when you pick some up and make a ball. If you let it go and retain its shape without falling apart, then your concrete is ready. 

Before starting, consider:

  1. If the patio is attached to a wall, then you’ll have to make sure that your patio is 15cm below the damp proof course to prevent rain from hitting the wall.
  2. Don’t forget the patio drainage. 
  3. The shady and damp areas of your new patio might develop mould and accumulate algae and green slime. Be equipped with a patio cleaner to treat these areas. 

Step-by-step guide: How to lay a patio

After preparing your area, you can start laying the patio. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Laying concrete paving slabs over sub-base in a patio

Needed tools and materials:

  • Trowel
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • Rubber mallet
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • String line and wooden pegs (optional)
  • Paving slabs
  • Dust mask
  • Hand gloves
  • Knee pad
  • Safety goggles

Now, it’s time to get to work. Things are pretty easy now. You don’t have much to do. Just to lay slabs and fill the jointings

Step 1: Lay the patio slabs

Before placing the slabs, make sure they’re wet; otherwise, they’ll absorb the moisture in the concrete, and it will dry out. Now, you can place the first slab into the correct spot. Sink the slab about 1.5cm into the concrete. Use a rubber mallet to fix it in place and a block of wood to protect the slab. Repeat the same process with the rest of them. Just make sure you leave a gap of 10-15mm between the slabs. You can use spacers to maintain the same gap between them. 

Step 2: Filling the gaps

The final step is to fill the gaps between the slabs. Leave the mortar dry for at least 24 hours. You’ll need to create some concrete again, mixing four parts building sand to one part cement plus some water. Then, push the cement mortar mix into the gaps between the dry slabs using a trowel. Use a semi-stiff brush to get rid of any excess mortar and finally wash the slabs with a damp sponge and clean water.

Step 3: Let it dry

You should let the mortar now dry. But you should be careful. If you’re making your patio in the summer, you should watch the mortar not to dry out too quickly. If you are working in cold weather, you may need to protect your project from rain by covering it with polythene sheeting. Your patio needs about 24 hours to dry. If there’s dry cement left on slabs you should clean it.

How to clean and maintain your patio

Cleaning concrete ptio slabs with a pressure washer

No matter the style, size or material you use, regular cleaning is essential to maintain your garden patio in pristine condition. There are many ways to clean the patio slabs. Washing it with soapy water and a brush can work well. In case you want to get rid of algae, lichens or mould, you’ll have to remove them ASAP to prevent any slippery accidents. Another common problem is weeds that can grow in jointings and also need to be treated immediately. Otherwise, they’ll overtake your patio, and it would be rather difficult to remove them. 

We have some top tips to help you maintain your own patio clean and sparkle for all these reasons.

Regularly brushing

Brush regularly your patio to remove any dirt and debris. Brushing will keep leaves out of the surface and seeds, preventing them from rooting, germinating, and growing any further.

Washing 

In some cases, just regular brushing won’t be enough. Washing liquid or even some floor cleaners can do incredible things. Keep in mind, though, that not all cleaners are suitable. Those being acid-based can react and damage some concrete or stone surfaces.

Washing your patio with a brush and soapy water is very easy. You just need a bucket, water (hot or cold), a brush and washing liquid or a floor cleaner. Pour some of the soapy water on the surface and scrub with the brush. Any dirt and grime will be removed. Afterwards, rinse with clean water. 

You can also use a pressure washer. It will make things much easier. Wash the patio with the pressure washer backwards and forwards. You can still use a cleaner or washing liquid. You need to be careful, though, while using the pressure washer, as it can remove the filler and damage the surface. Separate in small areas and don’t use the pressure washer for too long at one spot. 

Weeds

weeds coming of the joints between the paving slabs

You probably won’t be able to prevent weeds from growing at some point. When they appear, pull them out, ensuring you take as much of the root as possible. Don’t neglect to unroot weeds from the joints as well. However, you should be rather careful while removing them, as there’s a great chance of removing sand as well. Once you get rid of all the weeds, replace the sand in the joints. You can also use a weed killer. Just be sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions first.

Lichens

Lichens are a major problem. They’re those disgusting black and white spots ruining the appearance of your patio. The best tip is to apply some diluted bleach. Scrub the affected area, let the bleach stay for an hour, and then wash it with hot, soapy water. Repeat the cleaning process as many times as needed. Don’t leave lichens to sit on the surface for too long. It might be impossible to clean it, and you may even need to replace the slabs.

How much will it cost to lay a patio?

Either you choose to build your patio or hire a professional to get the job done, the cost varies depending on the materials you’ll use and its size. What’s more, if you choose to do it yourself, you might need to get some extra tools to help you lay it. For example, if you opt for a wooden base, you’ll have to get a table saw to cut materials or a grinder to cut the stones. On the other hand, addressed to professionals will automatically add about £100 per day to your costs. 

One of the most popular materials you can choose are: 

MaterialAverage cost per SQM
Natural Sandstone£40 to £80
Concrete Paving Slabs£14 to £60
Brick£19 to £50

garden patio with wooden roof, outdoor fireplace and armchairs with blue pillows

Making your own patio is an easy way to alter and improve your outdoor space. Be equipped with the materials and tools you need and start the DIY project. When you finish, you can decorate and upgrade your garden patio with brilliant ideas. To keep enjoying your evenings on your patio, don’t forget to maintain it clean and remove all weeds. 

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