How To Build Paths

Gravel paths and driveways

1. Set out the site with string lines and pegs.

2. Dig foundations to a depth of about 6 in. (or 15 cm).

3. Level off the base of the site and roll.

4. Hardcore, broken stone or clean brick rubble can be used to provide a firm base. Compact

4 in.-6 in. (or 10-15 cm) of hardcore and blind with 1 in.-1i in. (or 2.5-3-5 cm) of sand or gravel.

5. As gravel spreads easily, it is necessary to use edging strips. These can be brick, treated timber boards 1 in.-1i in. (or 2.5-3-5 cm) thick, supported by wooden pegs, stone or concrete kerbing or metal strip.

6.The gravel, which may be of crushed rock or pebbles, can be laid and raked to a depth of 2 in. (or

5 cm), level with or just below the edging strips.

Self-setting. Some types of gravel containing very fine material will set almost like concrete if laid wet and rolled with a heavy roller. The process is termed “self-setting”. This type of surface is easy to maintain, usually needing only an annual application of weedkiller to keep plant growth at bay.

Brick paths

Use heavy engineering or specially prepared paving bricks Conventional bricks are not suitable, as they are vulnerable to wear and tear: crevices would appear, providing a home for vegetable matter and making the path slippery and dangerous. With a brick path. You can achieve variety 2′ o, interspersing areas of cobbles c- exposed aggregate paving slabs.

A brick path should not be subjected to heavy Traffic, so the bricks can be laid on sa-a or mortar (1:5) in a shallow well—fled trench. You must take account of the dimensions of the bricks in relation to the a–ea to be covered and decide whether to butt-joint the bricks or leave gaps between them. Gaps between bricks should not exceed about in. (say 1.2 cm). Simply butting the bricks may make it difficult to set Out the path, since bricks vary slightly in size. Joints, on the other hand, allow for discrepancies to be taken up without filling large gaps with odd pieces of brick.

When laying bricks on sand, it is essential to have firm edges. A brick kerb or edge may be laid with bricks set at an angle.

1. Lay one kerb first; setting the bricks into

a bed of concrete. Draw the concrete at least halfway up the sides of the brick and leave this to set.

2. Lay the bricks inside the kerb on a level bed of sand or 1:5 mortar 2 in. (5 cm) deep. Butt the bricks or leave gaps as desired.

3. Start work at one end of the path, bedding each brick firmly by using a hammer butt or piece of wood. Constantly check levels with a straight edge and spirit level.

4. Position the second kerb, again ensuring that the concrete is pulled well up on the outer side. Any gap between the brick bed and the kerb can be filled with concrete.

Fill joints between bricks with sand or mortar. In the first case, scatter sand over the bricks and brush it into the joints. Add water. Apply further sand and re-water as necessary. If you use mortar, pack it dry into the joints and water it through a fine spray from a can. Take care to keep the mortar from the brick surface. Alternatively, a mortar slurry can be poured into the joints and the surface pointed. When dry, surplus mortar can be removed with a soft brush. Driveway. Where used for a driveway, bricks should be laid in a bed of standard concrete at least 4 in. (or 10 cm) thick on a base of 3 in. (or 7.5 cm) thick hardcore, well-rammed.

Stone inlaid in concrete

Almost any type of stone can be used. It can be fairly thin stone, since the concrete base provides strength. Random-sized pieces allow attractive shapes and combinations to be devised.

Prepare the site in the same way as for continuous raft concrete. Do not bring the level of concrete up to the level of the shuttering: allow for the displacement caused by the stones.

1. Plan the layout of the stones, roughly checking for fit and position.

2. Scoop out a shallow depression in the wet concrete and place each stone in position.

3. Use the butt end of a hammer or piece of wood to tap the stone down gently and evenly across the surface. Check, with a spirit level, that each stone is level.

4. Use a trowel to smooth over the bedding concrete pushed up by the slab.

5. Finally, brush the area gently when partly dry to smooth joints.

After a few days, the shuttering can be removed and the edges mortared. An interesting effect can be achieved by adding a colouriser to the concrete and mortar mix.

Broken paving slabs

1. Mark out and prepare the site.

2. Excavate and lay foundations. If the paved area is to take heavy loads, lay foundations consisting of 6 in. (or 15 cm) of brick rubble, well compacted.

3. Over the foundations lay a 2 in. (5 cm) bed of sand, raking it out evenly.

4. Set the broken paving slabs on to the sand in a form rather like a jigsaw puzzle, fitting the pieces together in the most effective

arrangement. Keep larger pieces to the outside and the smaller pieces in the centre to give greater strength.

5. Prepare a 1:5 mortar mix.

6. Lift each slab separately and place a generous amount of mortar under the edge. Then put the slab back into position, tapping it down with the butt of a hammer or piece of timber.

7. Point all joints.

Paving slabs

Concrete paving slabs are made in a variety of colours and textures. Many are ‘reconstructed” or “reconstituted” (i.e. they are not hewn from the solid stone but consist of a fine aggregate of natural stone, bonded with concrete and cast in various sizes and finishes). Typical reconstructed stones are York and Cotswold stones. Special shapes such as hexagons and pentagons are available.

Planning. Make an initial rough sketch plan of the area to be surfaced. This will make it easier to calculate the correct number of slabs needed. Allow a few extra for cutting and accidental breakages. Slabs can be laid with or without gaps, normally about in. (or 1.2 cm).

Preparing the site. Remove the top-soil and excavate to the required depth. On soft ground, a base of well-tamped hardcore should be laid and “blinded” with sand or ash. The slabs may then be laid directly on to sand but it may be better to lay them in a mortar mix (1 : 3).


1. Check the levels.

2. Prepare

the mortar mix and spread it to a depth of about 1 in (2.5 cm).

3. Use small timber spacers to keep distances even between the slabs.

4. Tap each slab into place with the butt of a hammer or a piece of timber. Do not use a hard implement or the slab may crack. Bed slabs one at a time. Check each level before laying the next slab and remove spacers as work proceeds.

Joints. Use the same mortar mix to fill the joints.

1. Keep the mix fairly stiff and push it well down into the joints.

2. Smooth the surface of the joints with a pointing trowel or a piece of wood. The mortar should be slightly below the slab surface.

3. Wash off any mortar spillage on the finished surface. Joints may also be filled with sand or dry-mix mortar, placed just below the surface of the slabs and watered in.

Cutting slabs. The same method is used

to cut stone or concrete. Stone less than

1’21 in (4 cm) thick will shatter if you try to cut it. The tools you need for cutting are a straight edge, a cold chisel (broad bolster type) and a club hammer.

1. Bed the slab that is to be cut on a heap of sand to absorb impact and lessen the likelihood of breakage.

2. Mark the line of the cut on the slab with a straight edge.

3. With the hammer and cold chisel cut a shallow indentation across the face of the slab.

4. Turn the slab over and incise a second line matching the first.

5. Mark the edges of the slab to join the two lines.

6. Using firm but not violent blows, strike along the chiselled line on the face of the

slab. The ringing tone of the blows will change to a “dead” note, indicating the slab has been cut. Any rough edges can be trimmed with a bolster.

Planted paths

A garden pathway bearing light traffic may consist of paving stones or slabs laid directly on to the soil, though a shallow layer of firmed hardcore will improve the drainage. The hardcore should be laid to a depth of 3 in. (or 7.5 cm) with a 1 in (2.5 cm) thick dressing of soil above it. Laying. Dig out the site, tamp down the sub-soil and check the levels. Position the hardcore, if used, and then cover to a depth of about 1 in. (2.5 cm) with good topsoil. Lay out the stones and brush more topsoil over them to fill the joints. The stones look most attractive if laid in a random pattern.

If you wish, you can leave gaps in the

Stone surface of the path and into them introduce ground-cover plants the better to merge the path with the rest of the garden.

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