DIY Patio Paving
Now that your patio's design concept has been concluded, the next important thing to have are detailed drawings of the designs.
You can create your design ideas yourself by using a home and landscape drawing software that's easy to use, and has an easy-to-navigate interface. And if you are not computer software savvy, you can put your designs on paper the traditional way, by drawing scaled sketches using graph paper. The drawings must be dimensioned, and the following permanent outdoor elements, fixtures and features must be positioned on the plan.
- The house
- Manhole covers
- Power supply points
- Large plants and shrubs
This careful and thoughtful step to planning patios goes a long way in ensuring the complete success of all patio designs.
Choosing The Right Materials For Patio Paving
For the do-it-yourself patio builder, in order to avoid the onerous task of having to cut slabs of stone or slate, a 'chessboard' layout is a good choice for flooring.
Another easy to use and apply material are one of the range of stones that feature half-slabs. A few squares from the chessboard pattern can be left without paving and can be used for planting beautiful flowering shrubs.
Simple Tools & Implements Required For DIY Patio Flooring
- Spirit level
- Hose pipe
- Builders square
- Club hammer
- Screeding float
- Pointing trowel
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The patio surface must be a minimum of 150cm (6") below the damp proof course of the house, so that rain doesn't bounce off onto the walls above. There must be a gradual slope away from the house, to ensure rainwater drains off. Allowing a minimum of 25mm (1") drop in every 150cm (5') or alternatively installing a drainage channel is also a good idea.
Transfer your patio design plan to the outdoor ground, using wooden pegs, a builder's square and a roll of string.
Mark bold lines on the pegs to indicate the finished levels of hardcore, mortar bed and the finished surface of the patio floor slabs.
Allow for a gradual slope away from the house when inserting wooden pegs, and make sure the marks for the finished patio surface is at the same level with any paving existing on the premises, including all manhole covers.
Preparing The Foundation
If there is any turf, plants or paving in the way, remove them. Dig down to a depth of about 15cm (6") for the foundation. For a strong solid base, add a layer of hardcore to a depth of roughly 5cm to 8cm over the area of the patio.
To distribute the hardcore evenly, use a rake, ensuring you even out all bumps. You could, on the other hand, hire a powered wacker plate to level and compress the hardcore for a good solid base. Now, a layer of bedding mortar can be poured over the hardcore base.
Preparing The Mortar Bedding
Patio builders have the option of using premixed mortar, or they can mix it themselves. If you don’t mind the messiness, you can certainly do it yourself.
Mix the bedding mortar on a wide plastic sheet, using a ratio of 3:1:1 (3 shovels of sharp sand to 1 shovel of soft sand to 1 shovel of cement). This is about the right mix. Create a centre in the mix and add water sparingly, turning it over and over until a lump free wet mix is made.
Pour enough mortar to the required thickness, so that you can set down one complete line of paving slabs. Compact the mortar well, and level it using a screeding float trowel, making sure the mortar thickness is even over the ground.
Setting Patio Paving Slabs
Before you laying or setting the slabs, it is advisable to check with a builder's square that the string guiding lines are square to the house , if they are not, they must be adjusted until they are.
Lay down the first slab against the house, starting at the corner. Check that it aligns with the string guideline, because it is imperative that the first slab is accurately positioned. Tap it gently to the correct level using a club hammer and a block of wood to protect the slab.
Finally, check that the slab aligns with the spirit level, allowing for the slope away from the house. Continue with subsequent slabs until all the patio paving slabs are laid down. Carry out a final check to make sure all the set slabs are level.
Filling The Open Gaps Between Laid Slabs (Pointing)
Once all your patio slabs have been laid, leave the mortar to dry for a minimum of 24 hours before filling the open gaps (also referred to as pointing) between the slabs with semi dry mortar. Pointing stops the slabs from slight shifts or moving, and it also prevents weeds from growing out through the gaps. The semi-dry mix is made up of 4 parts of sharp sand to 1 part cement (4:1). It must be used whilst still damp, to avoid shrinkage after drying out.
To know if the mix is right, test it by squeezing a handful of it. If it stays as a firm wet ball when you open your hand, and does not crumble or ooze water, then it's just right. If it crumbles, it's too dry, so add a bit more water. If it's too wet and oozes water on squeezing, add some more sand and cement, still using the same ratio of 4:1.
When the consistency is right, press the mortar mix into the gaps with the edge of a trowel. Brush off any surplus mortar before it gets completely dry by using a semi stiff brush. After pointing, clean the finished patio floor slabs with clean water and a damp sponge to remove all traces of cement.
Job done! But it will be at least 24 hours before you can walk on, or use your patio, to allow it to dry properly without unnecessary foot pressure.
How To Maintain Your Patio Floor
Many home-owners with patios want to seal the patio flooring slabs, to prevent water seepage or eventual fading, but it's good to check the manufacturers' recommendations before using a sealant. Applying a sealant to some paving materials may affect their colour.
In winter, if the patio floor freezes, do not try to melt the ice using salt as it could damage the surface. It's best to use a plastic shovel or stiff brush to remove ice or snow.
Check for loose or damaged slabs regularly, about every three months, and make sure that all the pointing in the gaps is still intact.
There are manufacturers instructions on how to clean stains such as wine stains, or barbeque fat, grease, chewing gum and/or bird droppings. Its good to clean them as they occur, but if they had gone unnoticed for a while, and appear set, the instructions will tell you how you can give your patio floor an intensive cleaning treatment.
Patio Paving In Winter Or Summer
If you are flooring your patio in the summer, it is important to ensure the mortar doesn't dry out too quickly. If it does, the pointing mortar could crumble.
And equally in the colder months, its good to protect the drying mortar from rain or frost by covering it with a polythene sheeting when done.
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