A well-done garden patio with its stylishly arranged pots and plants accentuates the beauty of a landscaped garden. Functionally, it is an ideal area where you and your family can relax after a hard day’s work. It is a great place for family get-togethers over a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of wine. Better still, you can have a fun-filled barbecue and drinks with friends. Alternatively, you can sit alone late afternoon reading a book or daily newspapers as you watch the sun setting or simply listening to the water trickle through your garden water feature.

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The site

If you are the do-it-yourself connoisseur, then constructing a garden patio is your cup of tea.  Start by deciding where you will locate the patio. It is best if it is located in a sheltered area, protected from strong winds and rain.

Equipment and material

Since it involves construction, you will need to gather some equipment and materials that you will need in the process including:

The basic building materials – paving slabs, (or luxurious Indian sandstone) cement, sand (building), concrete/hardcore material, and cement mixer (optional) as well as shovel, rake and wheelbarrow. You also need wooden sticks, a hammer, a spirit level, string, rubber mallet, bolster chisel and pointing trowel.

If you calculate the patio site into square meters and calculate a single slab’s surface area you can work out how many slabs you need to cover your patio. You are better off buying all your slabs from the same supplier to avoid getting slabs with too many variations in colour and texture.

Marking out

Start by drafting a plan of how your new patio will look. In the plan, you need mark out important fixtures on the plan – the house, walls, fencing and manhole covers. Indicate any obstacles – drains, doorsteps, or trees and large plants.

Then mark a clear layout of the slabs around any of the obstacles, complete with space for mortar/joints.

With the aid of the wooden sticks and string, tightly tie two string lines on the sticks to guide both the line and the level of the patio floor. One will go the length of the patio while the other from side to side.

Taking account the size of the slabs, transfer the plan to ground where you want to construct the patio.

Preparing the site

Like any construction, a garden patio requires a good foundation. Begin by clearing any vegetation and grass the full length and breadth of the site of the patio. Then dig to a depth of 15cm-17cm and remove the soil. You will fill the shallow rectangular or square hole you have created with hardcore, mortar and the slabs.

Patio level

Drive the wooden sticks into the ground around the patio site at intervals of 1.5cm using the hammer. They should be in line with other paved areas or covers of drains. Ensure they are level all of them with the aid of the spirit level.  All this while ensure that the patio area is sloping away from the house. This will ensure water does not gather and flow towards the house. Let the patio be15cm lower than the damp proof course if touches the house. This will prevent the water splashing to the wall above the damp proof and spoiling it.

Creating the foundation

Fill the site with the hardcore up to between the 5cm and 8cms level. With the help of a rake, spread it evenly across the whole area that you dug out.

To create a solid foundation, level and compact the hardcore using a board nailed into a wooden plank, wacker plate, sledgehammer or even a neighbour’s plate compactor. This will stop the base shifting when you are laying the slabs.

Mortar

Prepare the mortar by following the instructions on the cement.

Test run

Gently place the slabs across the patio area you have prepared starting from one corner and working your way to cover the site. All this time, leave 1cm joints between two adjacent slabs-joints; you will fill these with mortar.

You are likely to cut the slabs if you opt for the interweaving pattern when laying them or randomly placing them. Here you may need an experienced hand guide you.

Laying the slabs

If satisfied, lift slabs off, spread evenly the mortar (5cm – 8cm deep) and return the slabs as you had placed them during the test run. Where the spirit level shows an uneven level, gently tap with a rubber mallet or press down with your hands.  Place the slabs around the things such as drains because they can affect the level of the patio.

You can lay a number of slabs on the ground to help you to decide, which shapes interlock well together, if you want a random design. You can design the slab’s arrangement on paper before transferring it to the site.

After placing all the slabs, seal with mortar the 1cm gaps between the slabs using the trowel.

Leave to set

Clear off with a brush any mortar that had spilled on the slabs and then wash them using a damp sponge and clean water.

If it is summer, water the area to prevent it from drying out too fast and protect the mortar from crumbling. If it is winter, cover with a polythene bag to shield it from rain or frost. Once it is all done consider protecting your property with CCTV cameras – just think of all the work you have completed.

Ready for use

Wait for at least 24 hours for the mortar to set then sweep the whole area and the patio is as ready for use. Enjoy.