Laying Paving Slabs
Tips For Laying Paving Slabs
Laying paving slabs can be a leisurely and satisfying activity if you take the time to do it right. Otherwise it can be a nightmare, or at least the final result might be. The art of laying paving slabs is definitely not for the impatient, or for those more interested in getting the work done than in the final appearance.
Two Better Than One - Although it isn't absolutely necessary, laying paving slabs is often a task better suited for two people than for a single person, although it's helpful to be working to a definite plan to avoid arguments, confusion, or misunderstandings. Also, if the paving stones are heavy, although they usually aren't really heavy, fatigue may set in. A single person working on a project can always stop and rest, but we often have a tendency to keep going once we're started and have settled into the rhythm of things. While we may have plenty of energy to finish the job, if we do get fatigued we tend to make mistakes, and mistakes are the last thing you want to see when the job appears to be about completed.
It can be discomforting to say the least if your final row of paving slabs is supposed to match a straight line and you find instead the line slants a few inches off course. Either you leave your walkway or patio with an edge having a noticeable slant, you find where the mistake occurred and do a lot of readjusting (seldom a good idea), or you start all over from scratch. With two people, especially on a large project, you can take turns measuring and eyeballing to ensure everything is lined up as it should be.
String And Stakes - String and stakes play an important role in laying paving slabs. Not only will string lines help keep rows straight, in both directions, but will aid in keeping patterns matched up evenly if you choose to go that route. If you have a very large pattern that is repetitive, and one pattern gets slightly out of alignment, it will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb once the project is completed, and you, and most certainly your wife or mother in law will notice it as well, and they will not hesitate to mention it on a weekly, if not daily basis. Use string and stakes.
String also plays an important role in keeping the surface nice and level. The important thing here is to get the substrate level, whether it is sand or gravel, by adding some here and taking away some there where necessary. The paving slabs will usually be of uniform thickness, but if they are not, a line of string for reference is really a requirement. Like a slightly slanted edge, or a pattern a bit out of line, a paving slab that is just a tad too high it a tad too low can be instantly noticeable.
Do Not Disturb - Whether the base of substrate is sand or gravel it's important that it's well tamped down. For small projects a hand tamper will usually do just fine, but for larger efforts a plate compactor may be needed. Once you get the substrate as smooth as possible as well as level, avoid stepping in it or otherwise disturbing it. Don't start at one corner with your knees and feet in the substrate and plow your way along, or by about the third row of paving slabs you'll start to run into problems. As much as possible, put your weight on the slabs that have already been laid, although you still want to be careful so as not to disturb the slabs or the underlying surface any more than necessary.
When A Standard Slab Won't Do - Unless your patio is a perfect square or rectangle, and you aren't strictly limited as to where at least a couple of the edges have to be, the chances are quite good that you'll need some irregular pieces for the last row, the last corner, of for any object which is going to stick up and you have to work around. A concrete, stone, or tile cutter can usually be rented from many home improvement centers. Making straight line cuts is naturally easiest, but you may need to rent a special saw to cut curved or other non-linear edges. Let the home improvement specialist know what you are cutting and the shapes you intend to be cutting and you should get the equipment and advice you need.
Once you get started laying the slabs, you'll no doubt discover that is the easiest part of the whole project. A final tip: When you start laying paving slabs, start in a corner.