A practical pathway or a pretty garden trail can really transform your outdoor space. Follow our guide on how to lay a path and get your project started on the right foot.
What you’ll need:
Step 1: Dig foundations
Every good path needs a sturdy foundation. Once you’ve chosen the area you’d like to pave, remove any turf or existing paving that might be in your way. Dig deep enough to accommodate your slabs and around 100mm of foundation.
Step 2: Lay your foundations
Lay down 50mm of crushed rocks in the bottom of your foundations, checking they’re level throughout. Add a wooden border on either side of your foundations to help you visualise your path and secure your paving slabs in place once you come to lay them.
Step 3: Create your paving mixture
Cover your mouth and nose with a dust mask and use sturdy gloves to protect your hands during this step. Mix three bags of sand with just a handful of cement before pouring over your crushed rock foundation. This should be just enough for your first few slabs, so don’t feel the need to stretch it across your whole foundation bed.
Step 4: Level the bed
Paving slabs sit best on a level bed of cement and sand. To make a level bed, take a thick piece of timber, and cut it to the width of your path so it fits between your wooden borders. Place the timber at the height you’d like your mixture to sit at and mark this height against each border at both ends. Then hammer nails halfway into the timber over these markings so the nails will sit comfortably on your borders, holding the timber up.
Step 5: Screed the bed
Lay the timber over your path, letting the nails rest on the wooden borders. Slowly pull the timber towards you and let it smooth out the mixture in your foundation. Go back and forth until it’s all flat and level.
Step 6: Lay the paving
Before you begin to lay your paving slabs, think about the pattern or design you plan to use. Take your pavers and create the design adjacent to your pathway to help you prepare your materials. Once you’re happy, carefully place each paving slab into your foundation, keeping it flat to ensure the mixture beneath is as level as possible.
Step 7: Create your string line
Once you’ve laid your first set of slabs, take two unused pavers and place them on either side of your pathway. Tie a piece of string around each paving slab and pull to tighten. This string line will help you set a standard and keep your slabs level. If a slab is below the line you’ll need to take it out and add more cement and sand to your mixture before placing it back. If a slab is above the line, use a rubber mallet and gently tap it down until it’s uniform with the others. Use a spirit level to check your slabs are flat.
Step 8: Repeat steps 2-6
Pour the same amount of mixture into the next section of your pathway. Screed the bed, levelling it with your hands if the sand and cement is too close to the slabs you’ve already laid. Continue along your path, laying more pavers and checking each one is level as you go.
Step 9: Fill in the gaps
Mix one bag of sand with a quarter of a bag of cement. Take the mixture and gently pour it over the length of your whole path, taking care not to step on any of the slabs. Using a garden brush, spread the mixture across the pathway until you’ve filled all the gaps between the slabs.
Step 10: Spray with water to set
Make sure there’s no remaining mixture on top of the pathway and set the slabs by lightly spraying the pathway with water. When it dries, the mixture will harden and your path will have set.
How to maintain your pathway
Laying the slabs yourself can be an extremely rewarding process and you’ll want to take extra care of your handiwork in the years to come.
To help you keep it in excellent condition, we’ve put together our top tips for maintaining your pathway:
- Cracks in the grout between your slabs can cause a number of problems. Water can freeze in the gaps, which can cause further damage. They can also very quickly make a home for weeds, which can widen holes and ruin the look of your path. To combat cracks you must regularly check your slabs for any breaks and tackle weeds quickly by manually removing them and finishing with chemical weedkiller. Then use a mixture of sand and cement to fill the holes.
- Stop dirt from collecting and seeds from germinating on your path by regularly brushing away any debris. By grabbing your brush once every week or so, you can help to prevent damage in the long run.
- Over time, your slabs can become stained by use. Depending on the size of your paved area, you can scrub the path with a brush and soapy water. For the best results, use a pressure washer and watch as the dirt and grime is blasted away.
- If you discover the growth of stubborn algae or lichen on your paths, you can use a specialist path and patio cleaner for a pristine finish.