Skip to main content

Concrete paver patio

By March 21st, 2024No Comments

Some of the prettiest paths, steps, and patios are constructed using widely available precast concrete products, such as slabs, fake flagstones, and imitation ties. There is a huge variety, and if the type shown here is not available in your location, substitute something similar, or adapt the design to suit your needs.
Irrespective of what you decide to use, preparation of the site will be exactly the same. Essentially, you will need to ensure that there is a solid sub-base, and then lay the slabs on a bed of sand. A certain amount of excavation may be necessary, and in some cases (particularly where the soil does not drain well) a layer of hardcore will have to be laid beneath an area to be paved.
The shape of your site will determine whether you build the steps, path, or patio first. In this instance, it was sensible to start with the steps, as this made access up the slope easier during the rest of the building process. Since the path is slightly lower than the patio here, it was laid last. The simplicity of laying precast slabs and blocks on sand makes the entire operation very flexible, and mistakes are easy to rectify.
Rounded precast concrete blocks, designed for the construction of modular retaining walls, are used to build these steps. In this case, the units are approximately 11 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 8 inches high. Designs vary, but the basic concept of interlocking units remains the same, and any type may be used. Since they are laid with the open side uppermost, the treads are topped with a precast imitation railroadtie, giving the steps a neater and more attractive finish. Another option is to fill the blocks with a relatively weak concrete mix and screed the upper surface with mortar. Alternatively, look for modular terrace blocks which may be laid on their side, but remember that these should be filled with dirt or concrete for
stability. The patio, which has a border of heavy concrete kerbstones, is laid using reconstructed stone paving slabs made in three different sizes, which gives it a random finish and a pleasing, informal look. You could also use old railroad ties or cut lumber as an edging, and cut stone or ordinary precast concrete slabs for the floor. Stone chips are scattered between the
slabs, both for effect and to level the patio surface. Otherwise you could plant a ground cover or low-growing, sweet-scented herbs to soften the look, or you may want to scatter flower seeds amongst the chips to add color and charm.
The same pavers are used for the
path, alternating with a row of three
imitation ties. Small pebbles may be
used between the slabs and ties, and
in the case of the patio, various low-
growing plants are also an option.
The first step is to remove any
vegetation from the area where
the steps are to be located. If the
ground is particularly hard or stony,
you will need to use a pick to loosen
the soil. Also remove any large rocks
before you go any further.

2 Each step must be laid on level ground, so you will need to create rough steps in the embankment. Starting from the bottom, excavate an area of about 40 x 40 inches for the three-block-wide step, which will be 33/2 inches wide with a 14-inch tread.
3 Although a concrete foundation is not necessary, every step must be laid on well-compacted ground. A home-made punner is an invaluable and effective ramming tool. You can make one by concreting a wooden pole into a can.
4 It is also essential that each block is laid on a flat, even surface. Use a spirit level to check this, and scrape away dirt if necessary. Place the tool on several spots, and draw it across the soil to make sure that the surface is level in all directions.

Place the first three blocks on the prepared surface, making sure that they interlock properly. The convex side of each block should fit snugly into the concave side of the next. The flat surface of each unit faces to the front to create a flat riser.
8 Now fill the space behind the blocks with sand or dirt. Never backfill with clay, as this will prevent water from draining away effectively. Use a punner to flatten and compact the soil behind the first step thoroughly before preparing for the next one.
Before filling the gap behind the blocks, it is essential to check that they are completely level. A good way to get them level is to place a little dirt in each hollow and then move them about so that any voids gaps are filled and the blocks sit firmly.
9 Follow the instructions given in steps 2-4, ensuring that the compacted ground behind the blocks is on the same level as the upper surface of the blocks. Place the next row of blocks so that the front edge overlaps the back of the first step.
Do not rely on guesswork – use a spirit level to ensure that the blocks are level. If the bubble is not completely centered, put a little more sand in the hollow and move the block around a little. If it seems too high, remove some of the sand.
Position and level the blocks as before, then fill them with soil or, if you wish, a weak concrete mixture. Fill the gap behind each step with sand or soil and compact each level in the same way until you get to the top of the slope.

11 Lay tiles or precast concrete ties (as shown here) over the tread of each step. These may be loose-laid or set on a little mortar to keep them in place. Plant a hardy ground cover in the soil at the back of the step to fill the gap.
12 Lay out the path from the top of the steps to the patio site. The path is 40 inches wide because of the length of the ties used. Using a steel tape measure, ensure that the edges are parallel along the entire length, marking with chalk or flour.
13 Although this patio has cut-off corners, it is best to set out a full rectangle before laying the edging kerbstones in place. Use the 3:4:5 method (see page 35), measuring 200 inches across the diagonal, to ensure that the corners are square.

14 Prepare the surface of the path and the patio before you begin laying any of the slabs or stones. The amount of soil you excavate will depend on the thickness of the precast slabs as well as on the natural slope of the ground.
Make sure that the base is flat and even, with a slight slope for drainage. Use a spirit level across the path to check that you are not removing too much soil. Although the slabs are to be laid on sand, it should not be used to rectify levels.
Build the patio before you lay the pathway. First, level the area where the patio is to be built. As the patio is to be raised above the level of the path, it is not necessary to excavate the soil unless it slopes. Throw any excess soil into the center.
To avoid unnecessary digging, it may be possible to fill in slightly in places, building up the level of the ground. Since the area of the patio covers more than 30 sq. feet, you will need to set the spirit level on a long 2×4.
You will also need to check the level of the sub-base, diagonally across the surface from corner to corner. Place the straightedge and spirit level on bricks to help establish accurately how much dirt must be removed from any particular place.
19 Once you are certain that the entire area is flat and level (or slopes for drainage, if necessary), you can put the edging in place. Hefty precast concrete kerbstones are used here. Use a steel builder’s square to ensure that the corners are at 90°.

20 Position all the kerbstones as shown. If the ground is stable, fill the space within the kerbstones with sand or dirt, otherwise first half-fill the area with hardcore of crushed stone and gravel to aid drainage, then top with sand or dirt.
The hardcore and all the sand and soil used as fill must be well compacted before the sand bed is laid. You can use a home-made punner, although a mechanical compacting machine is useful for large areas as it takes less time and is more thorough.
22 The finished level of this sub- base should be below the top of the kerbstones, leaving enough room for a 1-2-inch bed of sand and the paving slabs, which in this case are about 2 inches thick. Cover the surface with soft building sand, the rake it.

23 The sand must be level before you start laying the slabs. Hose it lightly to aid compaction, then drag a 2×4 across the sand, smoothing and leveling it. You will also need to check with a spirit level to ensure that the ground really is level.
24 Start laying the slabs from one of the corners, leaving a small gap between each one. There is no particular plan to follow. Simply place them in an attractive pattern, using a good mix of the three sizes at all times. Use a spirit level to check alignment.
25 If you are not happy with the way the pavers are laid, change them now rather than later. When they are all in place, spread sand over the surface and brush it into the gaps with a stiff-bristled broom, then hose down the area lightly to compact the fill.
26 Spread pebbles or stone chips over the surface, then brush them into the gaps over the sand.
Once the stones have settled, you can add more if and where you think it is needed, or you can sow seeds among the stones for an informal effect.
27 The path is laid in much the same way as the patio, but without an edging. Leave space for a step between the kerbstones and where you are to lay the first sleeper. Spread sand along the excavated path, smoothing it out with a spirit level.
28 Position the imitation sleepers across the path, about 24 inches inches apart. They are usually slightly irregular in thickness, as are wooden ties, and it is sometimes hard to get the upper surface flat. Remove a little of the sand bed if necessary.

29 Leave a gap of 5-6 inches, depending on the curve of the path, and then lay a group of pavers. All the gaps may be planted once the pathway is complete. As plants become established, they will soften the path and give it a pretty, countrified look. 30 Continue laying sets of ties and slabs alternately, until the path is complete. Then build up the step to the patio. Having left a natural step, all you need do now is spread a layer of sand over the slightly elevated surface and level it before laying the ties. 31 Lay two ties close together to form a step up to the patio. If they are slightly unstable, insert three pegs at the front of the two ties to hold them securely in place, knocking them in so that they do not protrude above the upper surface of the step.

George Gitau

Meet George, an advocate for traditional craftsmanship. I will provide you with educational content, techniques and ideas for your next garden and home improvement project. Together, let's create beautiful spaces that are not only beautiful but also functional

Leave a Reply