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Garden paradise
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It is not only simple to create an attractive outdoor patio area or path using flagstones, it’s also very quick: you can transform your garden in just a weekend.


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19.03.2014 - Flagstones, or paving slabs, are available from DIY stores and stone yards and can be easily laid on a bed of sand or fine gravel without the need for cement.  Although the disadvantage of this method is that over the years the stones will need adjusting as the bed settles, the advantages for DIYers tend to outweigh that.  For instance, not having to worry about finishing your stone placement before the cement hardens makes for a much more relaxed project and gives you plenty of time to make adjustments as you go.  In fact, possibly the biggest challenge is that the stone can be heavy, so it may be advisable to wear a back brace, as well as gloves to protect the hands.

Strictly speaking, stones can be laid on almost any flat area, but here we shall excavate the ground so they are laid level to the ground surface, giving you an attractive finish and ensuring that your new patio or path doesn’t turn into a trip hazard.

 

Planning

First of all you must decide on the location and dimensions of the area you will use.  Think about what time of day you will be out there most; where the sun will be at that time; and will you want full sunshine, shade, or a combination.  Choose spots with utilities handy such as taps; areas which have privacy and/or that have the best views possible.  You may even want to plan it round another feature like a fountain, tree or flower bed.

And what shape will it be?  Geometric; shaped to follow the natural characteristics of your garden; or maybe something completely abstract.

Do a scale drawing of your ideas and, having already investigated sizes of flagstones available, work out how many you will need to buy.

 

Preparation

Before you lay the stones you need to ensure the surface is as flat as possible. 

Mark out the edges of the area where you will be laying the flagstones: string and stakes can be one of the best ways of doing it.  You will then excavate the marked out area to a depth that equals at least six centimetres plus the depth of your paving stones. 

(In areas where additional drainage is needed simply excavate to a greater depth and apply a layer of crushed stone before adding sand).

 

To begin, first dig around the perimeter of the area to the chosen depth, then remove all the soil from the centre.  Next, level and smooth out the top surface (a landscaping rake is handy here).  

To check the ground is flat use a level in conjunction with a flat piece of wood or metal.  Lay the flat piece along the ground in all different directions, checking each time.  Once you are happy, moisten the soil and compact it down.

Add a roughly two centimetre layer of fine gravel or sand and level and compact the area.  Your flat piece of wood or metal can also be used to gently run across the top of the sand or gravel to help flatten it.  Repeat twice more until there is a firm, compacted base that is at least six centimetres thick.  

Though flat is best in most circumstances, if you choose to lay a patio up against a house, ensure the surface slopes slightly down away from the house for drainage purposes.

 

To begin

For most designs it is best to start laying the flagstones in one corner and work your way out from there.  You will be using either the manufactured rectangular paving slabs or the rustic, irregular-shaped stones.  Either which way you will need to lay them as close together as you can, leaving as even a gap as possible between each of them. 

Make sure every stone is well seated in the base by standing on it or hitting it with a rubber mallet.  Keep checking the stones are level with each other: if one is resting too far down, remove it and place more sand under it.  If a stone is sitting up too high, do the opposite: scrape some away from underneath it.  Don’t rush – it is worth taking your time to get this stage just right.

Once all the stones have been laid, pour sand onto the top of the flagstones and, using a broom, sweep it into the cracks between them, compacting it as you go.  

Once finished, you can add potted plants, outdoor seating, or even a BBQ, to create a quaint garden escape. 



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