How to Lay Paving Stones
If you want to lay paving stones at home for a patio, a path, or even a driveway, it’s not a particularly difficult task. All you need is the right equipment and a reasonable amount of time. It’s also a job you can comfortably accomplish on your own although it will be much easier if two people undertake the task. Don’t expect to accomplish everything in a single day either. Instead, work in stages and you’ll achieve much better results. With a little planning, your paving stones will look every bit as good as if you paid a professional and your bank balance will appreciate it!
Step 1 - Prepare the Ground
Using your shovel, dig down through the turf within the area you wish to pave. You will need to dig to the depth of the stones you're using, plus an additional two inches. If your paved area will be used for parking, dig down another four inches and put in crushed rock as a base. Put the excavated earth aside for use elsewhere in your garden or for professional removal.
To ensure the water will drain off your final result, you need to create your base with a slight slope running from the center to the two sides. The slope only needs run at a gradient of about half an inch per yard.
Step 2 - Add the Paving Stones
For a large area of paving, you should create a detailed plan before putting the stones into the ground. This is ideal for mapping out where you're setting your slabs so you avoid purchasing too many, or too few, individual stones. For a smaller area, this isn’t quite as important.
Cover the area you’ve excavated with one inch of sand, and use a 2x4 to smooth out the sand and to tamp to down to give a firm base for the paving stones. Then, begin laying the stones according to your diagram, if you have one, using the ¼-inch pieces of wood as spacers between the slabs.
Step 3 - Set the Stones in Place
Make a mortar by combining one part concrete with four parts sand and water. It should be a reasonably thick mortar so it will be easier to manipulate during the laying process.
Starting in one corner, remove four of the paving stones. In the area where the stones previously sat, spread mortar to a thickness of 1 1/2 to two inches on top of the sand. Set the paving stones back in place, using the spacers to position them. Afterward, use the mallet to tap the stones firmly in place. Don’t tap the stones directly with the mallet; instead, put a small block of wood on the stone and tap that with the mallet until it makes good contact with the mortar. Place a spirit level on the paving stone once it's set and tap where necessary until each stone is nearly level. Remember a slight slope from the center to either side will be required so water can drain effectively.
Remove the spacers and move on to more of the stones, working across the length of the desired area. Mortar down four stones at a time and make sure all are level, both individually and with each other. Let the stones set for two days without walking on them or putting any weight on them.
Step 4 - Fill in Between the Stones
Once the paving stones are firmly set, you can fill in the spaces between with sand by scattering it loosely and brushing it into place. Or, for a more permanent solution, make up a mixture of one part cement to three parts sand. Pour and brush this into the spaces between the stones like you would the sand. Then, use the hose to spray the entire area lightly with cold water. This will wet the cement mix so you end up with everything firmly in place. Allow two days for the surface to fully set.