How to Lay a Patio With Slabs

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You are thinking about having a patio installed, but when you get the estimate you are stunned by the cost of labor. It is much easier to install a slab patio than you might think. Follow these easy steps to complete this project over the weekend.

Things You'll Need

  • Pegs
  • String
  • Builder's square
  • Roller or plate compactor
  • Level
  • Spade
  • Crushed stone
  • Sand
  • Paving slabs
  • Trowel
  • Mortar
  • Wooden spacers
  • Stiff broom
  • Prepare the patio area. Before starting to lay the slabs, clear the area of all debris and weeds. Make sure to locate any utility meters and underground utilities in the general area to avoid damaging them. Keep in mind that the site must slope slightly so that rainwater and groundwater can drain away.

  • Calculate how many slabs you need. If you are using mortar in the joints, allow for ¼ or ½ an inch between each slab.

  • Mark out the site of your patio with pegs and string, using a builder's square to keep the corners at right angles. Use a roller or a plate compactor to firm the base. For the foundation, use layers of crushed stone and sand deep enough to withstand your local winter conditions. Consult local contractors for specific depths.

  • Pack the patio area level. After marking the area out with pegs and string and removing the topsoil, compact the subsoil with a roller or plate compactor. Allow for the depth of the foundation, plus the thickness of the slabs you are going to lay.

  • Use marked pegs every 6 feet and a level to ensure that there is a slight drainage slope. Shovel a layer of crushed stone over the area, then compact and level it again. Add a layer of sand if necessary.

  • Use a straight edge to lay the slabs. Work from an existing straight edge, such as the wall of the house. If you want to plant alongside a wall or next to the house, leave an area unpaved. After preparing the foundation, you can start to lay the paving slabs.

  • Use a builder's trowel to lay mortar in a square to lie just within the edges of each slab. For large slabs, make a cross of mortar through the center, too.

  • Put the slab in position, and then tamp it down onto its mortar bed using the wooden handle of a tool. Use equal-sized wooden spacers between the slabs. Check with a level that each slab is laid level, both side to side, and with its neighbors.

  • Remove the spacers as soon as possible. After at least two days, fill the joints with a stiff mortar mixture, firming it and smoothing it so the mortar is just below the surface of the slabs. Use a stiff broom to clear away all debris and loose mortar.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't try this project alone.
  • Lift slabs with your legs to prevent back injury.
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