Garden Advice

How to lay block paving?

Do you have an area that you are looking to transform into a stunning driveway or garden patio? Block paving is one of the most popular and convenient ways to achieve this. It offers a variety of colours, patterns and styles that can be uniquely combined to create an exceptionally beautiful result. Furthermore, it is extremely durable in nature. If properly laid, it can definitely serve for a long time. Although you will lay it at a place where it will be easily noticeable, block paving can also make a great shed base or an alternative to decking, if you are on a tighter budget. So, if you want to find out how to create one of those beautifully crafted driveways that you see in movies, read along.

Preparing the area

Before you start with your project, it would be best if you prepare a plan including the dimensions of the area, borders, etc. You can do your own construction drawing or get professionals to do it for you. This way you will make your job easier and faster. Not to mention that good preparation is the key to great results. 

Once you have your plan ready, you should start by marking out the area accordingly. You can use a spray marker or string lines to do this. Allow at least 30cm at each free edge for easier handling of materials and haunching of edges and curbs. 

Before you begin any excavation work make sure that you know where electricity cables, gas pipes, drainage pipes, cable tv lines, telephone lines, etc. are approximately running through.

What tools you will need:

  • A broom and a garden rake.
  • String lines or spray marker
  • Screed rails
  • A shovel or a spade
  • A spirit level and a tape measure
  • A mallet
  • A wheelbarrow
  • A plate compactor
  • A straightedge
  • An excavator
  • A skip or a grab wagon

As for materials, you should prepare:

  • Sub-base aggregate
  • Sand
  • Kiln-dried sand
  • Block paving stones
  • Kerb stones
  • Edge course bricks
  • Concrete

Once you have everything, it’s time to get to work.

The way to create a durable, long-lasting block paving is to ensure that you build a solid foundation. Sunken or rocky block pavings are always the result of a poorly constructed foundation, which can cost a lot to repair down the line.

To start off, remove all vegetation and topsoil to approximately 20-25cm. This is important because organic material will decompose and create voids in the foundation, leading to sunken block pavings. To do this, it is best to hire an excavator. Any soft spots in the ground need to be removed as well and then refilled with compacted sub-base material. You can hire a skip or a grab wagon to load the generated waste into.

Keep in mind that a grab wagon might work out cheaper, because of how much soil needs to be removed when working larger areas. A 20-25sqm area would require about one 6ya skip load of rubbish to be disposed of.

If you need to install any drainage, the best time to do it is once you have cleared out your area. Then, haunch the pipes in concrete to protect them.

Start with the borders

The edge restraints are one of the main reasons why block paving is a timeless classic. When done right, the stunning contrast created between a pathway or a driveway and its edge is unparalleled. 

To begin laying the edge courses and kerbs, set up taut string lines to guide you what the correct place and height of the border are.

You need to create a concrete bed of at least 10cm for the edge courses and kerbs. Make sure that your lines and curves are proper when laying the bricks. Kerbs are to be laid first and then the decorative edge course. Use a rubber mallet to hammer them in place. You can use a spirit level to ensure your edge courses and kerbs are level. Then, apply concrete up to halfway up the outside of your kerbs to haunch them in.

Applying a sub-base

The sub-base is your main supporting layer. It ensures that your pavement can properly support the weight of people and vehicles on top of it. It usually consists of granite limestone, basalt or another type of material crushed down to stones.

When it comes down to the quality of the materials used, the aggregate you use for your sub-base is probably crucial. Poor quality materials and execution during this part of the process can cause you a lot of headaches down the road, since large areas of your driveway might settle and cause it to look and feel horrible to use. To protect your project, use a geo-membrane between your sub-grade and sub-base to prevent the stones being pushed down into the ground. 

Make sure that the ground is level before you continue on to spreading your sub-base aggregate. You can use the excavator to spread a minimum of 10cm of sub-base material. Then level it out and compact it using a plate compactor. For a heavy duty driveway, spread 7.5cm of aggregate, compact it and then apply another 7.5cm layer. Experts recommend to compact your sub-base a minimum of 5 times to properly pack the aggregate.

Laying sand

Once you have your sub-base down, it is time to apply the laying course. Spread a 5cm layer of damp sharp sand. It needs to be moist enough to compact, e.g. to make a ball of sand without it breaking down. Remember to use the vibrating plate compactor and then level the layer of sand evenly with a screeding board. The surface profile of the laying course pretty much matches that of the block paving itself, so screeding properly is vital. 

It is ill-advised to use building sand during this step of the process, since it does not drain water as freely as sharp sand does and is likely to wash away.

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Laying your pavers

Before moving onto this final step, randomise the blocks by picking and choosing from at least a couple of packs. This ensures a unique combination of shades and hues for your driveway, patio or pathway and prevents banding of colours in a certain spot.

The most popular paving patterns are 45° and 90° Herringbone patterns. These are excellent for driveways and carparks, since block pavings that need to support vehicular traffic should be interlocked for better structural support.

On the one hand, the 90° Herringbone pattern is faster and easier to lay, because it reduces the number of bricks that need to be cut to fill the sides where the pavement meets its edge. This is especially true for areas which are square and rectangular. Should you choose this pattern, start by laying the pavers tight against the edging course in one corner and proceed from then on. If that is not possible, use a taut string as a baseline.

On the other hand, the 45° Herringbone pattern is more aesthetically pleasing, even though it requires a lot more brick cutting. To achieve this pattern, establish a baseline square to the area and lay the pavers 45° to that line to ensure that you won’t stray away from true later on. The “chevrons” are the V-shaped line that forms when you lay the blocks in a herringbone pattern. Having them longitudinal to the direction of traffic rather than transverse helps to achieve a more pleasing look for your driveway.

When laying the chevrons after the first one, always work from the side of the already laid block pavings and not from the side of the already screeded sand, so as not to disrupt it.

Once you have laid all of the bricks, run a diagonal taut string to check the alignment and adjust the blocks as needed using an alignment bar tool. When you are finished with that, start cutting in the edges. Use a block splitter or a bench-mounted saw to cut the pavers.

Finally, it is time for jointing and compacting the block paving. Spread generous amounts of kiln-dried sand over and use a soft brush to sweep it around and into the joints. Then, using the vibrating compactor plate go about 5 times over each section of pavement, alternating at 90° compared to the previous passing. To prevent damage to the edges of the pavers, you can attach a neoprene cushioning mat to the base of the plate compactor.

Sweep the excess sand and voila! Your block paving is completed and ready to be used!

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Laying block paving on a slope

If your driveway has a slope, always start from the lower end and work your way up. It is best to start from a right angle edge course or a straight edge. Check your pattern as you go up the slope to get the best results.

Contact professionals

Dreaming of a picture-perfect driveway, but don’t know how to undertake such a huge project? Wishing you could have a cup of tea on a cosy garden patio, while birds sing you songs, but you don’t have the time to bring your fantasy to life? Look no further than Fantastic Services! We offer high-quality paving services of any kind, provided by experienced experts, who work with a variety of paving slabs, including block paving, Indian sandstone and many more! 

Call us to get your bespoke pavement work now!

Need help with laying block paving?

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  • Have all of the tools and materials before you start
  • Prepare the area by removing all of the vegetation and topsoil
  • Always start laying the borders first, they are the frame of your block paving puzzle
  • Make sure you use high-quality materials to achieve outstanding results
  • Create a stunning Herringbone pattern to support vehicular traffic
  • Get in touch with us for any assistance: from materials sourcing to the finishing touches


Did you find this information useful? Let us know in the comments section down below!

Image source: shutterstock/ Virrage Images

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