A patio installation guide

As so many people tend to consider a patio an absolute garden essential, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with patio installation over your garden landscaping career. Some clients want a basic paved area that just does the job of being a place to position garden furniture. Others might prefer a more elaborate design that has been carefully selected to go with the look of their garden.

Whatever the specifics of the client’s requests, the basic steps to patio installation are much the same. Our quick overview can be useful for helping clients get a handle on the work you’re undertaking. You’ll also find recommendations for tools and supplies included.

For a more detailed guide to laying flags you can read the Planning and Laying guide from Stonemarket.

  • 1. Plan, measure and mark

    When you’re making the plan for your client’s patio, you’ll probably follow very similar processes to the ones involved in planning any large outdoor job. Get out your tape measure and measure up the area, taking any obstacles into account.

    Mark out the space with stakes and string lines and calculate the number of full and partial paving slabs you’ll need to fill the space. As always for a job like this, you’ll have your spirit level to hand throughout all stages of the work. You’ll also use a large folding square to ensure all corners are perfect right angles.

    With everything marked up with stakes and string, use your spade to cut around the outline of the patio space.

  • 2. Start digging

    As you move onto digging out the marked-out space, you’ll be keeping in mind the depth you want for the finished patio – usually around a centimetre below the surrounding grass.

  • 3. Apply the sub-base

    At this point, you can choose to frame the edges of your newly-dug patio area with pegs and timber. Next, start spreading your sub-base across the space and use a sledge hammer or a plate compactor to flatten it down and pack it solid.

  • 4. Lay the paving slabs

    Make up a slightly wet mortar mix of 1 part cement to 5 parts building sand approx. 25mm thick. A PVA, SBR or equivalent bonding agent can be added to the mortar to assist bonding, particularly with natural stones. You may also consider using an appropriate plasticiser additive in the mix.

    Then start laying the slabs – as always, starting from the outer edge. If it’s a two-person job your colleague or apprentice should be on hand to help you lift. Your timber spacers should keep things even, but as always, you’ll be checking everything with your tape measure and spirit level as you go along.

    Decide if the slabs need to be pressed down a little. If so, fetch your rubber mallet and start tapping them.

    With the slabs laid, you’ll be free to get on with other work as you let them set for around 24 to 48 hours.

  • 5. Apply mortar or sand

    This final step won’t, of course, be necessary if you’ve placed the patio slabs tight against one another. If there’s a gap between them, though, spread a dry mortar mix of 1 part cement to 4 parts building sand or pre prepared jointing compound (whichever you prefer) over the joints and push into place with a broom and a trowel. After a few days, you can repeat this process to finish off the patio completely.

    For a more visual overview of all the steps involved, see this Stonemarket video on how a patio can transform your garden .


  • What are the main tools needed for laying a patio?

    When laying a garden patio, it’s essential you have the right tools for each stage of the job. Below is an overview of the types of equipment you’ll need.

    • Paving
    • Drainage supplies
    • Driveways
    • Cement
    • Sand
    • Stone and gravel
    • Ballast
    • Sealants
    • Patio cleaner