Adding a patio to your back garden is a quick and inexpensive way of allowing you to do much more with your garden. Whether you plan to do some al fresco dining, or you need a dedicated space for a sun lounger, a patio gives your outdoor space more flexibility. The good news is that making your own patio is neither expensive nor difficult, but be aware, the job does involve some heavy lifting. Get help if you need it, and be careful of your back!

Tools and materials

For the materials, you will need the paving slabs and hardcore for the sub base. On top of the hardcore, will be putting either a mixture of building sand and cement or a ready made mortar mix, which will effectively glue the paving slabs into position. A similar mixture will be used for the grouting between the paving slabs.

For the tools, you will need wooden pegs and string for marking out the area, a spirit level and a lump hammer (or rubber mallet) for making sure the slabs are laid flat, and a spade, a pointing trowel and a wheelbarrow. For compacting the hardcore, use a levelling board or a vibrating plate.

Preparing the area

It’s easier to adjust the size of area according to the size of your slabs than it is to cut the slabs down to the right size. When you have marked out the area of your patio with wooden pegs and string, you can begin to prepare the ground. You will need to dig out the ground so that it is deep enough to accommodate 100 mm of a hardcore sub base (more if the ground is very soft) plus 50 mm for the mortar and the depth of the paving slab itself, i.e. around 200 mm in total. Use the wooden pegs as depth markers. If you are putting your patio next the wall of your house, then there must be a gap of at least 150 mm between the upper surface of the paving slab and the level of the damp proof course. Once the hardcore has been laid down, compact it with a levelling board or a vibrating plate.

At this point it’s a good idea to lay the slabs out in position, just to check that you are happy with the layout.

Laying the slabs

If you are happy with the layout, pick up the slabs again and prepare the mortar mix. If you’re not using a ready made mixture, use five points building sand to one part cement. You want the bed of mortar to be at least 50 mm deep. Then lay the slabs down into position, leaving a 10 mm gap between them for grouting. Use the spirit level and lump hammer to make sure that they are all perfectly flat.

Then leave them to set for about 24 hours. Finally, add the grouting – for this you can use a ready made mixture, or alternatively a mix of three parts building sand to one part cement. Add the grouting with the pointing trowel, and allowing for an extra couple of days for drying, your patio is complete.