Laying a natural stone garden patio can transform your outdoor space into a beautiful sun terrace and make all the difference to your outdoor living. In this guide, we'll walk you through the step-by-step process of laying a natural stone patio, ensuring you achieve a professional finish that lasts for years.

Essential Tools & Equipment

You may also find that thick timber pegs, sticks, or anything you have lying around that you can use as a marker. For the sub base, you'll need MOT type 1.

Step 1: Preparing The Ground

  • Remove any existing paving or turf from the area.

  • Dig down to a depth of approximately 150-160mm to create space for the sub base. 

  • Note that the required depth may vary depending on the type of paving you are using.

Step 2: Marking Out The Patio

  • Use a square, marking paint, and timber pegs to mark out the exact dimensions of your patio.

  • Use marking paint and a tape measure to mark out the size of the patio by spraying it at each corner. 

  • Using a square to get precise angles, spray more paint to join up the initial markings.

  • Dig out any extra turf within the painted lines.

  • If you’re laying your patio right next to your home, it is crucial that you make sure the top of the patio is 150mm – or two full brick heights – below the damp proof course to protect your home from moisture.

Step 3: Set The Right Fall

  • Hammer a timber peg into one of the back corners of the patio until the top is completely level with the surrounding turf. 

  • Hammer in a second peg on the front corner of the patio on the same side.

  • Using a spirit level, check the level of the second peg. You don’t want it to be completely level, or rain will collect on the patio. 

  • Make sure the second peg is sloping towards the grass 16mm for every metre. For example, if you’re building a 2m patio, you should have a 32mm slope between the first and second peg. 

Step 4: Dig Out More Soil

  • For the space you’ve dug out, it should be between 150mm and 160mm deep. 

  • Measure the depth of the entire area using the string line as a guide, and dig out the amount of soil to get to the 150mm to 160mm guideline across the whole space.

  • Getting the right depth is crucial, as cutting corners at this stage could lead to the patio slabs sinking later down the line.

  • Once the soil is dug out, you should have a firm base, which you can check by trying to dig your heel into the foundation. If your heel sinks in, dig a little more soil out.

Step 5: Laying The Sub Base

  • Fill the dug-out area with MOT type 1 up to around 50mm below the bottom mark on the timber peg.

  • Compact the sub base using a vibrating plate, going over the area a couple of times to give you a firm base. 

  • Next, fill the rest of the MOT type 1 sub base, using your rake to distribute it evenly. ensuring stability and preventing future sinking. Depth may vary based on the paving type.

  • Use the vibrating plate to compact the sub base until it’s around 60mm below the string line – this gives you 40mm for the laying bed, and about 20mm for the slabs.

Step 6: Mix Your Mortar

  • Mix your mortar with some water.

  • The mortar mix should not be too wet or your slabs will slide around, or too dry as there won’t be a strong enough adhesion. It should be damp and workable, meaning you’ll use about the same quantity of water as cement.

  • It’s best to add the water slowly and keep mixing to get the right consistency.

Step 7: Laying The Paving Slabs

  • Prepare a full contact mortar bed for each stone slab to a depth of 40mm.

  • Before laying each slab, use a stiff brush to remove any dust from the manufacturing process as this will affect the adhesion. 

  • Lay the stone, ensuring each piece is level and follows the string lines. 

  • Tap the slab lightly to ensure a strong bond to the mortar below.

  • Each paving slab should be a minimum of 6mm apart.

  • As you lay the stones, mortar will creep up between them. Use a tuck pointer to remove this mortar as you’ll be sealing the gaps with a jointing compound later.

Step 8: Pointing The Patio

  • Leave the paving slabs about a day or more before standing on them, so you can make sure the mortar is dry.

  • Ensure the gaps between the stones are at least 24mm deep and 6mm apart.

  • Empty the jointing compound over the paving slabs, and use a stiff brush to move it around the patio and into the gaps.

  • Using a tuck pointer, press the jointing compound into the gaps.

  • Sweep away any excess compound and clean the patio surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it essential to compact the sub base?

How deep should I dig for the sub base?

How do I ensure the stones are level?

What's the importance of a full contact mortar bed?

How do I clean the stone after laying?

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