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How to lay paving

by Michael Boyle on June 12, 2019

How to lay paving

A paving area brings real beauty and grace to a garden or other outdoor space, and maximises its potential as an outdoor living area.

At Donegal Town Hardware, we offer an extensive range of paving options from Acheson & Glover, one of the largest manufacturers of paving and other concrete products on the island of Ireland.

As with so much else, there is much to consider when about to lay paving, as taking extra time and care at the beginning will prevent problems from developing in the future.

In conjunction with Acheson & Glover, we therefore present this step-by-step ‘How to lay paving’ guide to all you need to know about, whether you intend to do the work yourself or else engage a professional to do it for you.

How to lay paving

1. Preparation

Remove all topsoil then dig down until you reach a layer of hard ground (subgrade) that is firm enough to provide a good foundation. Dig out any soft spots and fill with compacted crushed stone – see below.

Getting the depth right

Allow for the depth of your chosen paving block

  • PLUS a minimum of 40mm for bed of compacted sand (laying course).
  • PLUS if laying paving blocks an additional 3-5mm of compacted sand for bedding in (N. this is NOT required if laying flagstones – see step 5).
  • PLUS the required depth of crushed stone or hardcore (sub-layer). For patios and walkways, use a minimum of 100mm of crushed stone. For driveways, at least 150mm should be used.

Don’t forget…

Allow for a fall in the finished surface. A gentle slope or fall allows water to run off naturally instead of forming puddles.

2. Restraining edges

When laying any sort of pavers, it’s important to work within solidly constructed restraining edges. An edge course should be built using kerbs or blocks and should be laid on a concrete bed. This will act as a rigid frame, preventing the pavers and their foundations from moving. So if you don’t already have your edges in place, these need to be built before moving on to the next step.

3. Sub layer of crushed stone

Lay crushed stone then compact with a vibrating plate vibrator to create a firm base layer.

Add more crushed stone and compact again until the required depth has been achieved across the entire area.

4. Bed of compacted sand (laying course)

Use a coarse concrete sand. Spread the sand evenly and deep enough to allow for compaction then lightly compact the sand using a vibrating plate. Remember: the final compacted layer of sand should be at least 40mm – and, if you are laying paving blocks, don’t forget to allow an additional 3-5mm for bedding in! Do not compact the sand too heavily (1 or 2 passes only) at this stage, otherwise the paving blocks will not be able to bed-in when laid.

5. Screeding

Use a screed board (a straight piece of timber) to level the surface of your sand laying course. This can be done by pulling the board along screed rails laid at the desired level in the sand. Unless you are using one of the Acheson & Glover permeable paving products, remember to allow a gentle fall in the eventual finished level of the paving so that rainwater will run off the surface into your soak-away system.

6. Fill gaps left by screed rails

Remove the screed rails then carefully fill and compact the gaps left behind in the sand.

Carefully screed off these areas to the level of surrounding sand. Avoid standing on the sand laying course once screeded.

7. Laying paving

Starting from one of the restraining edges, begin laying pavers along one laying face. Set up a builders line and adjust the gaps between pavers to within 2-5mm to ensure the lines in the pattern remain straight. When paving a large area, it’s a good idea to mix blocks from several different packs to achieve a good blend of shades. Continue laying until all full blocks (in other words all those that don’t require any cutting) have been laid.

8. Lay header / string course

Think about laying a header course of pavers or setts (see step 10) of a different colour and/or shape along the edge to create an attractive feature.

9. Cut blocks

Cut the blocks as required using a hammer and bolster chisel, mechanical block splitter or (for a really clean edge!) a stone saw.

Remember to wear appropriate safety equipment – including safety goggles – when cutting pavers. Carry out all cutting before moving on to the next step.

10. Bedding in – paving blocks only!

After checking and adjusting the pavers to ensure the lines in the laying pattern are straight, compact paving with a plate vibrator. This will reduce the finished level of the paving by the 3-5mm allowed for.

Note: Flagstones should NOT be compacted with a plate vibrator. Instead, gently bed in each flagstone using a rubber mallet.

11. Spreading jointing sand – paving blocks only!

Spread jointing sand and brush into joints.

Fill joints level to top of pavers.

12. Compact sand – paving blocks only!

Compact sand into joints using plate vibrator then top up joints with more jointing sand as required. Brush off excess sand so that only a small amount remains on the surface.

Note: A dust mask should be worn to avoid inhaling fine particles of jointing sand while using the vibrating plate.

Other things to note

All the flagstones in the Acheson & Glover range are suitable for internal as well as external use. By using these products indoors as well as outdoors, you can create a seamless transition between your rooms inside and your outside rooms. You will need to seal the surface of any products used internally but this is a straightforward process and we will be able to recommend a suitable sealant.

If you are thinking of laying permeable paving, it will need to be laid in a slightly different way using different materials. It’s a job usually best done by a professional installer. We will be happy to explain more about what’s involved.