How we built a new patio for our period home

Nov 4, 2015 | 2 comments

The idea of building a patio was mooted by my dad earlier this year. We had an area outside our back door covered in gravel, which was just fine for garden furntiture, but not ideal for a toddler that saw small stones as an appealing snack. Creating a paved area would also offer a better play-space for riding tricycles etc, so if it was going to happen, it was worth doing it now. With the offer of labour and a bit of financial assistance we took the project on in August.

Choosing patio stones.We wanted flags that fitted the character of the house, but with a project budget of around £1000, we were fishing the lower end of the market. Recycled Yorkshire Flags were far too expensive, as were the concrete imitations, so we plumped for natural sandstone imported from India – a 20.7m patio pack from Pavestone in Old Black (£515) – with a calibrated thickness of 24mm. Here are a couple of catalogue images (wet/dry):

Sorting out a pattern. The patio pack, which was delivered in a crate to our back gate, came with a ready-to-go template design for a random layout. We modified this a little to fit our area by cutting out and re-positiong a few slabs (see below). Essentially, make sure you get a pattern sorted before you start laying.

Preparing the site. The first step here was to shovel-up and cart-away about 30 sacks of the old gravel, which I did in bits over a three-week period. This gave us enough space below the damp course to lay the patio. We then pegged out the patio area with very professional-looking neon builders line and pegs, to include a drop of 1:60 going away from the house.

Laying the patio. We rented a small cement-mixer to make a mortar mix of sharp-sand and cement (around 5:1 ratio) on to which we laid the slabs. It’s handy to have one person mixing and ferrying mortar, with another laying (bribe some mates with a BBQ). We got through about 50 bags of sharp-sand and 6 bags of cement for an area of approx. 17sq.m. The bedding layer had a depth of around 50mm. Laying was quite swift – tip mortar into position, level it as much as possible using a bit of wood and the builders line as a guide. Check the mortar level with a spirit level before placing the stone on top. Check levels again and tap with a rubber mallet to adjust. We also used a bolster to make small adjustments to the width of the gaps between stones. Here is a gallery of the job in progress:

The wait Rain can really bugger up this process, so pick a sunny weekend and cover the patio while it dries overnight. And don’t stand on it for a day or so otherwise, like me, you will find yourself having to lift a wobbly slab, dig everything out, and re-lay….a right pain:

Pointing We used a polymeric jointing compound which we swept into all the gaps. We went for a sandy colour to contrast with the flags. The stuff we used was called Jointex, it’s not the cheapest on the market, but it is dead easy to use and did the job well. Click here for a youtube video that shows the process in action.

Finishing touches To finish off, we went around the edge of the patio with a bolstering layer of wet mortar, just to add strength to the edges and try to prevent movement. We also left a gap all the way around which I back-filled with some of the old gravel to create a basic ‘French Drain’.

Because the patio sloped away from the house, we found that at the far end it was 10cm below the start of our lawn. I got round this by adding a small step using a couple of decking planks. You can just see them in the background in the pictures below – and unless you knew better you might think it was the plan all along!

Job done. I have to say I’m delighted with the results. The stone looks great and the little one is out there all the time in his car. As with all jobs like this I have to stress this was very much an amatuer DIY effort with the aim of creating something we were happy with, rather than meeting the highest professional standards! I must also finish with a huge thank you to This is a brilliant resource which I discovered via Google and referred to constantly throughout this job.

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