How to Lay Paving

Article Summary: How to Lay Paving - Paving can be traditional and plain, or laid with a more freestyle approach. However, when you lay paving you need to do your homework first. This article gives you some hints and tips and looks at what is needed to get perfect paving.

Before you do anything...

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Paving can be expensive if you order too much material for the job at hand, which is a common mistake. Answering a few questions before you start will save you both time and money.

How big is the job? - Accurately mark out and measure the area where you intend to lay paving.

Where is the paving going? - Check the area to be paved isn't a trap for water, if it is can you either relocate the site or raise the paved area?

Check levels - Is the paving butting up to an existing structure? If so, always maintain a slope away from the structure and make sure that the paving is lower than the existing slab height. (Check with your local authority for their requirements).

What sort of traffic is there? - Foot traffic only will allow you to use thinner pavers (2 inches, 50mm), while for vehicles you will need a minimum 4 inch (100mm) paver.

What patterns/styles do you want? - You can create some really nice brick patterns inlaid into a standard brick pattern. Talk to your supplier who will advise on the different types of brick.

Mark out the Site

Perfect Brick PavingStart to lay paving by marking out the site so that you have a firm idea of where the paving will go. Hammer in stakes at each corner of the site and then use a string line between the stakes to mark the exact height that the pavers will sit. Remember to allow minimum water run off slope away from the house of 1/2 inch for every 10 feet (12mm/3M).

Having marked the paving location and depth you can now remove any topsoil to take the land height down a sufficient depth to allow a layer of bedding sand plus the height of the pavers. If the base material is loose after excavation you may need to hire a vibrating plate compactor to properly compact the ground.

Note: - Bedding sand is also commonly know as "Sharp" or "River" sand. You should use medium grade suitable for concrete and it should always be laid damp - not wet, just damp and never dry.

At this stage you can either use timber formwork to mark out the paving or if you are more experienced you can simply use the string line. I would always recommend using formwork as once set up properly, it is very hard to go wrong. The top of the formwork should be set exactly at the height you want the pavers to be at.

Laying the Sand Base

A useful rule of thumb for base sand is:

30 cubic feet sand per 36 sq.ft at 1 inch depth. (1cu.m per 40 sq.m at 25mm depth).
30 cubic feet sand per 18 sq.ft at 2 inch depth. (1cu.m per 20 sq.m at 50mm depth).

Spread the sand evenly over the surface at a depth of 1 inch for foot traffic and 2 inches for vehicle traffic. Use a wood straight edge (screed board) to scrape away the sand until level. If you have fixed wood formwork this is where you will save time, simply make a screed board that fits nicely between the formwork and screed a perfect layer of sand. the screed board should be about 1/2 inch less than the thickness of the paver to allow for tapping the pavers down with a rubber mallet. Only lay a maximum of 9 feet (3M) of sand at a time. Any more and you will find that the sand will build up too much as you scrape it away, eventually it will become too much to handle.

Start Laying Pavers

Perfect Limestone Paving SlabsHaving laid the base sand perfectly flat (but don't forget the slope) you can now begin to lay paving. Always start from outside the sanded area and if you lay paving on a reasonable slope, always start from the bottom of the slope and work upwards. Lay paving with a small gap of about 1/5th inch (5mm) between them.

The best idea is to get a piece of wood of the correct thickness to use as a spacer. This doesn't apply to small brick pavers, instead these should be butted up to one another. After you have laid about 10sq.ft (1sq.M), use a piece of timber across the pavers and using a rubber mallet, tap the pavers down into the sand. Use the timber in a full 360 degree turn and use a spirit level to ensure that the pavers maintain the correct slope.

If you are covering a large area over 100 sq.ft (25+sq.M) I would suggest using a mechanical whacker. They are quite difficult to use and you must use a protective covering on large pavers but they do make short work of an otherwise long job. Try not to walk on pavers that have not been tapped down to avoid cracking.

Cutting Pavers

Using a hammer and bolster, first mark around the entire perimeter of the paver with a shallow cut. Then slowly move across the paver top surface until it splits along your cutting line. If you are using hard brick pavers you will need to hire a brick cutter. They do need a water source to keep the diamond blade cool but are absolutely essential for nice clean cuts.

Finishing Off

Once all the pavers have been laid, spread a mix of 4 parts clean dry sand and 1 part dry cement over the pavers. Use a hard bristled brush to sweep the sand into the gaps between the pavers and then tap the pavers to settle the mix into the gaps. Repeat the process until all gaps are filled. Once this is completed, brush off the surface then use a very fine spray to dampen the surface of the pavers. This will allow the sand/cement mix to harden.

To finish the job off in a professional manner, remove the wood formwork and lay an edging of brick pavers around the perimeter. Alternatively you can use a straight mortar mix to lay along the paverís edge. This will keep the end pavers from moving outwards. You may have to dig a small channel for this purpose in order to give the mix something to bind into.

How to Lay the Perfect Paving
Tools & Materials Required
TrowelsCorrect Quantity of Bricks
String Line Sharp Sand
Level Hammer & Nails/Screws
Rubber Mallet Wood Formwork
Spade Bolster
Safety Precautions
  • Always check regarding Planning Permission
  • Always wear approved gloves and glasses when cutting bricks
  • Always ensure adequate ventilation
  • Keep the kids away!