How to Lay a Patio: A Step By Step Guide

If you like DIY projects and you’ve got a spare weekend or two, why not drag a mate along to help you lay some patio? It will make your garden look a fair bit tidier whilst providing some useful space which requires little maintenance. Sounds great to me! If you can enlist your mates for this, be sure to try to get them to help with the fence as well.

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to get rid of some grass and lay a patio in its place. You may have just got on the property ladder or bought a new house and you aren’t too keen on the current arrangement out back, perhaps you’re planning some landscaping or looking to add some curb appeal with a water feature.

You might have been living in a house for several or more years and you’re just a bit fed up with the back garden looking the same, or it’s overgrown and you’re planning a major overhaul. You might just want somewhere outdoors where you can sit down, chill out and have a barbecue with friends. Others might just hate maintaining grass and prefer to slab over it. Lawn mowers create two problems, firstly you need to use them and secondly they are expensive and break down but still a necessity to keep the lawn in good condition. Whatever your reason, we’ve got the solution!

It doesn’t really matter why you want to lay patio, all that matters is that you know how to do it. And that’s why we’re here today. We’ve put together a quick step-by-step guide on how you can lay your very own patio in the garden that gives you details on pretty much everything you need to know.

Why Shouldn’t I Hire A Professional?

You might be asking yourself, ‘why shouldn’t I hire a professional to do this for me?’ Well, it’s a good question, but give me a minute and I’ll quickly explain to you why you should at the very least try it yourself first, if you’re frugal this is for you.

  1. It gives you a sense of accomplishment as well as good exercise in the garden. Nothing makes you feel better than doing something yourself that improves your home; especially if your other half doubted you.
  2. A professional will likely cost you three times as much as it would to do it yourself; maybe more – ring around to get quotes and work out how much your time is worth.
  3. You’ll know you’ve done the job properly and not cut any corners if you’ve done it yourself.
  4. You can tell all of your friends how awesome you are every time they sit down outside with you, by telling them you put down the patio they’re standing on!

Obviously if you have no clue about DIY, we don’t recommend this for you as it is quite an intermediate to advanced job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a shot. As the saying goes – you won’t learn unless you try, just remember to be safe.

Required Equipment:

  • Spade: You’ve got to dig up the turf from the garden at some point and you’ll certainly need a good spade for the job.
  • Wheelbarrow: There’s a lot of waste and material to transport during this project and a wheelbarrow will save you both time and effort. Two will come in handy if you have a friend helping out.
  • Lump hammer: Used to tap the slabs into place once you’ve lay them down. A rubber mallet will also do the trick.
  • Hardcore: You need a base for your slabs to go onto and hardcore is the most obvious choice unless you have specific requirements that need something else.
  • Mortar mix: Get your hands on some ready-made mortar mix (or make your own with building sand and cement). The amount you need will depend upon the size of the patio, as you’ll need to put down a bed of mortar and fill the gaps in between the slabs.
  • Vibrating plate compactor: Used for compacting your hardcore base to ensure a solid foundation for your patio. You probably won’t have one of these lying around so it’s best to hire one for the day.
  • Spirit level: You will need to know at all times if your patio is looking level or sloped; so an accurate spirit level should do the trick.
  • Wooden pegs & string: These will be used in conjunction with one another to create an outline for the edge of the patio. Wooden pegs will also be used as a measuring depth gauge when adding hardcore.
  • Paving slabs: What’s the point in going to all this work if you don’t have any paving slabs to lay down for your patio? Make sure you order the right amount for the area of your patio.
  • A mate & muscle: Doing this job alone is a fair bit of effort and having a friend lend a hand will certainly save you some serious time. It also requires a fair bit of muscle as you’ll be lugging around a lot of stuff which weighs quite a lot; if you’re on the skinnier side, just consider it a good workout!

Cost, Budget & Time:

We’ve outlined what you need above. Make sure you have all of the basic essentials; wheelbarrow, spade, lump hammer and so on. If you don’t have your own, see if you can borrow them from a friend for the weekend; otherwise you’ll have to incorporate the cost of these into your budget.

Slabs will cost anything from £15 per metre squared (p/m²) so factor this into the size of your planned patio. Realistically for an average sized patio of 3x3m you’ll probably be looking at a budget of £200 or more for everything, including the day hire of a vibrating plate compactor. You’ll probably want a pressure washer to clean your patio as time passes.

As well as the actual expense of this work, you also need to budget enough of your time to allow for completion. You’ve got to take into account all of the manual labour, drying time and the sourcing of all the equipment. The labour itself is likely to take you an entire weekend and drying will also take 24-48 hours; the longer you can leave it the better. Ideally you’d get the majority of the work done one weekend, allow it to set and then add the finishing touches the following weekend. To save time in sourcing, most equipment and essentials can be sourced online, we offer most of this equipment in our online gardening shop, delivered to your door; but obviously if you have a large DIY store local to you, this may be a quicker option.

Planning & Preparation:

All successful projects start with a lot of planning and this is no different. You need to make sure you have your plans laid out in a simple fashion which you can understand and reference during the work and why not get creative? What’s a patio without well organised plant pots and troughs, you can always consider hanging baskets and some vertical gardening too. We strongly recommend that you draw up a quick sketch of your garden and house boundaries; either use a piece of paper or software – whichever you’re most comfortable with. From this point you can easily address which parts you want to turn into a patio and work out measurements. Look into keeping the patio safe for your children, design it accordingly.

Don’t forget to take into account elevation; small changes in the gradient can cause issues during construction. However, a small angle to the patio will help ensure that drainage is adequate. Make sure that the slope is pointed away from your building and any of your neighbours’ buildings as this can manifest into a problem over a long period of time.

Before going ahead with anything, lay down the perimeter outline of your proposed patio with the wooden pegs and string mentioned earlier. This will give you a full idea of the size of your project and how it will look against your garden/house. It’s also wise to plan patios with right angles and straight edges to avoid extra work such as cutting slabs.

Ready to Start:

Now you’ve got all of the planning and preparation sorted; have a quick double check that you have all of the necessary hand tools and essentials to get started and then you can follow the step-by-step guide below. Remember, take it slow and make sure you’re as thorough as possible to prevent having to redo any work at a later date. If you’re in doubt about anything at all, consult a professional or someone who is well adept to DIY and seek advice before continuing.

Step One: Grab your spade and begin digging up the turf in the area you’ve laid out using pegs and string. I really rate an edging tool for neat and straight cuts. You can either dig up all of the turf, or cut lines in it and roll it up; people prefer different methods. Either way, you’ll want ensure there is a depth of roughly 15-20cm to allow for hardcore, mortar and slabs. Please note; if you’re laying patio against the house, make sure that your slabs are 15cm (or more) below the damp-proof course.

Step Two: Time to put all the hardcore down. But first, grab a few of your wooden pegs, measure 10cm and put marks on them; these will act as depth markers for the hardcore. 10cm is usually enough for most applications. Dig the pegs into the ground and begin putting down the hardcore layer. Remember that you want to create a very gentle slope in order to drain water away from the buildings; this can be done by using your spirit level and pegs. An average amount of drop per metre of patio is around 1cm. Therefore, if your patio is 3m long, you should have 13cm of hardcore at one end and 10cm at the other end to ensure adequate drainage; don’t go below the recommended amount of hardcore. Now use your hired vibrating plate to compact the hardcore down; this should give you a firm base. Some people decide to cover this layer with sharp sand, but it’s not strictly required. It needs to be good as you’ll probably want to put a water butt there too and that’ll be heavy full. So pay attention to footings.

Step Three: Put your slabs in the positions you’ve planned to lay them out. This will make sure that you’re confident and happy with how it will look. If for some reason you decide this isn’t what you want, stop immediately and re-evaluate the design based on where you’re at now. However, if you’re happy, carry on.

Step Four: Using your ready-made mortar mix (or a combination of five parts building sand to one part cement), put down a layer roughly 3-5cm thick and make sure to allow for the slope. Adding more mortar up to 8cm will be fine.

Step Five: Place the first slab gently on top of the mortar you’ve just put down. We also advise to start from nearest the building and work away from the house (or downhill); wetting the back of a slab will also help it to stick and position correctly first time around. After it has been positioned, gently tap the slab using your lump hammer or rubber mallet. It’s a good idea to use a block of wood as a buffer to ensure no damage occurs to the slab. Use your spirit level to ensure the slab is level and fill in any gaps underneath with mortar; then continue onto the next one. Knee pads will really help.

Step Six: This is simply a case of rinse and repeat. Continue to add slabs, making sure there’s a 1cm gap between each and repeatedly check to ensure slabs are level whilst also taking into account the gentle slope. Remember, do not step on slabs which have just been put down!

Step Seven: We strongly recommend you wait at least 2-3 days before walking on the slabs or filling the joints. If they’re damp from rain or it looks as if the heavens are about to open up, wait until a drier, sunnier day. Now you can finish up the joints by filling the gaps with your ready-made mix of mortar (or 3 parts building sand & 1 part cement). Continually compact the mortar into the gap using your trowel and then add more mortar to ensure a tight compact finish with no holes.

Step Eight: Before adding water to the mix, remove all excess mortar on the slabs. Make sure you do a thorough job as it’s easy to miss bits. After this is done take a watering can and gently pour it over the whole surface of the patio to wet the mix; then leave it to set.

How to Lay a Patio

Give it a couple of days, then stand back and admire your work. If everything has gone to plan, you should have a stunning new patio area for your family and friends to enjoy!

A Guide on How to Replace Fencing

 

White Fence

If you have the luxury of owning a property with a garden, there’s a good chance it will either be separated from your neighbours by a brick wall or a fence, maybe we might even be lucky enough to have a topiary hedge. Now if it’s a fence, there’s a good chance that over the years it has become a bit worn down and tatty looking with all the weather and other environmental abuse it has to put up with, even if you have put in a good bit of wood care. Thankfully it’s not that hard to replace and you might be surprised to know that even amateur DIY’ers can do it with a little bit of a helping hand!

So, whether you have decided to replace an existing fence or even if you just fancy putting a completely new one up, along with a full on landscaping project, this guide should be able to help you out. We should note that the guide relates to fencing that can be erected and secured onto metal spikes as opposed to being bolt-down or embedded into concrete, but we do sell petrol augers if you would like to change the steps slightly.

What Equipment Do You Need?

  • Fence posts & panels – without these, your fence is going to be pretty non-existent. Fences can be picked up from many stores and cost around £25 for a 6ft panel. You’ll also want to work out how much you need before buying by working out the length of the area you want to fence and dividing that by the size of a panel. You might want to consider some fence panel stain though.
  • Support spikes & fence brackets – you need these to provide support and sturdiness to the fence as well as brackets to hold in place panels on the fence.
  • Drill driver – much better option than nailing and will save you a fair bit of time if you’re putting up a lot of fence panels.
  • Measuring equipment – you’ll want a spirit level, tape measure and some string/pegs on hand to mark out the fence posts and ensure panels are level.
  • Saw, axe & sledge hammer – the saw is needed to cut boards to size and the sledge hammer to hammer the spikes into the ground. The axe will help loose ground and generally all garden digging tools will help here. You could take a look at this guide to choosing the best gardening tools.

It’s also wise to have a pair of decent gloves just to reduce any damage to your hands since it’s a fairly labour intensive job.

Part One: Setting Spikes & Fitting Posts

Marking the board for cutting

Before you even consider slamming in your spikes, make sure that there is no pipe-work or cabling underneath the area where you plan to put your fence.

A simple detector will make sure there is nothing there – if you’re still not 100% sure, contact the local council who will be able to advise you.

Begin hammering the spikes in (you can get a specific spike tool that goes on the top to make it even easier to seat); continue doing this until the square base of the spike lines up level with the ground. Now, if you’re confident with your measuring and lining up skills you can go and drive in the rest of your spikes ready to fit fencing. However, if you’re a bit uncertain, fit the first fence panel first and then come back to the hammering in the spikes when you move onto the next one.

Depending upon which option you’ve gone for, simply slot your fence posts into the top ‘square part’ of the spike. Before you fit all posts, make sure the spikes have been hammered in level using the spirit level; if they aren’t, adjust them until they are. Once that’s done, you’re ready for the next part! We an use a chain saw to adjust the height of the posts.

Part Two: Lay The Bottom Part Of The Fence

If you put regular fence panels right at the bottom, you’ll risk the likelihood of rotting. To avoid this, some people will leave a 50-100mm gap at the bottom of the fence, but this can look rather unattractive so instead treated gravel board is the answer. These won’t rot and can make your fence look considerably nicer than a huge gap at the bottom of each panel.

Lay the gravel board on the bottom of the fence where you plan to have it and then mark where it overlaps the posts. You’ll have to saw it to fit flush. Once this is done, attach the fence brackets and the board to the bottom of the fence panel; before you carry on, ensure the bottom board is level and horizontal.

Part Three: Add Fence Panels

Now you have the support structure and the base of the fence in place, you can begin adding the rows to the fence panels. You should add two or three brackets (post clips) per panel depending on the size of the panel as this provides extra support.

Simply grab a panel and rest it against the gravel board and the posts either side. It can either be screwed or nailed into the post, but we recommend screwing as it’s easier when you have a drill on hand to do all the hard work. Make sure you use stainless steel or galvanised screws – as long as they’re weather proof you shouldn’t have any problems down the line.

After the first, continue upwards adding more and more rows to the panel until you reach the top. Ensure they are as level as possible and you don’t leave any gaps between the panels or it will look unsightly and probably end up causing you more work at the end. So take your time and be thorough first time around!

Step Four: Make Sure Everything Is Neat

After all of your fence panels have been put up, you’ll be left with some annoying looking posts. You’ll want to make sure that the top of these posts are all level, so get your saw out or sand like crazy until they’re perfectly levelled off.

Pinting Fence

Now attach a post-cap to round off the look and protect the top of the fence posts from weathering. It’s strongly recommended to drill a hole in the post cap before screwing it on as this will reduce the likelihood of it splitting.

This should do the job. Obviously if you aren’t the strongest of people, you might want a hand to manoeuvre the fence panels around and two people will be more than enough for this. Also, it’s best to give yourself a day or an entire weekend to dedicate to this project, depending on the size of the fence you’re putting up, and once you get it done, heres a nice article on how to turf a lawn as your next project!

Note: This all applies to fences that are being installed on completely level ground which in an ideal world is what we want. However, there are some situations where you’ll want a fence on ground which uneven or sloping. In these cases, you’ll still want to keep the panels horizontal, but to take into account the slope; you can cut the gravel base board at an angle to offset the slant of the ground.

DIY: Fun And Creative Ideas For Bird Feeders

There is nothing more soothing than a small, green picturesque garden and the relaxing sound of birds, chirping around. It’s also not just relaxing, it’s good for you mind and body having a lovely garden. With a little dose of gardening imagination and some basic, building skills and a few good garden tools you can provide these little fellows a cozy place to live and nest, attracting birds is a serious skill and offers many benefits. In the summer you will enjoy their songs while drinking your morning coffee, and in the winter will save a few creatures from the piercing power of wind and snow(here’s some tips to prepare for a snow). Winter is not only uncomfortable for the birds but it is also quite dangerous for their lives, that’s why I always try to have some winter blooming flowers too. During this period of the year, they usually find their carefully collected stocks of food buried under thick layers of snow and ice. But if you manage to create a single bird house, you can provide a shelter for some sparrows or pigeons, which will use it to cuddle together during the long and cold winter nights. Bird feeders, on the other hand are also a very good solution, since they provide food for the birds. Here we will offer you some useful ideas for building, layout and maintenance of a bird feeder.

Where?

There are a variety of options to place your bird feeder. You can situate it in the garden, on a special stand; on the wall of the house or somewhere in the branches of a nearby tree. If you live in an apartment, you can put your bird feeder even on the balcony. The food should be placed early in the morning or in the late afternoon. It is advisable to feed the birds at least until the end of March. It is not necessary to provide water, since they are used to drinking from the snow, but if you decide to provide some container for water, it mustn’t be too large, so that animals cannot bath in it. Apart from the regular placement of food, your bird feeder must be kept clean all the time.

A bird feeder from a plastic bottle

All you need is:

  • A plastic bottle – 1.5 litres is perfect;
  • 2 sticks, each around 20 centimetres long – you can use some branches, unsharpened pencils or Chinese chopsticks;
  • Some drilling tools – a scale model knife, an awl or scissors;
  • Rope or wire, about 20-30 centimetres long;
  • Some feeding seeds to put in;

7 simple steps:

  1. Clean up and dry the bottle in order to be sure that the seeds will not grow mouldy;
  2. Drive a hole in the lower end of the bottle and then do the same with the opposite side,
  3. Drive in the hole one of the two sticks and then repeat the whole procedure a bit higher. These are intended for alighting.
  4. Measure approximately 4 centimetres above each hole and make another one, this time a bit smaller, which birds will use for picking the seeds. Of course this hole shouldn’t be too big. Otherwise the seeds will fall out of the bottle.
  5. Drive another two wholes in the upper part of the bottle, which will serve as a loop.
  6. Fill the bottle with seeds;
  7. Hang it on some branch or on your balcony.

Another very creative, easy and affordable idea for a bird feeder is an apple (or any fruit) fixed somewhere in your garden. This is also a very good (and eco friendly) way to reduce food waste in your home or at least make some use out of the bowl of fruit, that you bought a week ago as a great source of vitamins for the children and no one seemed to be interested in it.

About Shelly Smith

Gardening gives something different to each and everyone one of us, be it a hobby, a love of beautiful flowers, or our profession, we all share the love of a garden so join me; understand what a garden means to me. You’ll find thousands of useful tips in my website to save money whilst gardening; I love to write about what I do in the garden. I’m a devoted mother and a passionate home gardener for over twenty years.

Yours Sincerely Shelly

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