Garden Advice

How to Lay Paving Slabs on Sand

Creating a paved area in your backyard is a great way to elevate the look and the atmosphere of your outdoor space. The patio is perfect for friends and family gatherings, having fun, or just enjoying your garden.

Laying slabs on sand is a relatively simple task and you are definitely capable of completing it on your own in a weekend. But with any home DIY project, there are some key points to consider for successful outcomes. When it comes to laying the patio on sand, precise preparation is crucial. This includes a well-planned course of action, tailored to your backyard specifics, correct tools and techniques, enough time, and patience. Such a solid organisation guarantees that your effort, money, and time won’t be wasted in vain.

So, if you:

  • wonder how to lay paving materials on sand by yourself;
  • aren’t aware what equipment you need;
  • are looking for which sand is best to use.

Then, read ahead to get fully prepared for your outdoor space transformation.

How to Lay Paving Slabs on Sharp Sand

First, let’s go through what equipment you need for the labour.


  • Paving slabs
  • Sharp sand
  • Gravel
  • Long timber straight edges – for framing the patio
  • Landscape fabric


  • Tape measure
  • Builders square
  • Builders line 
  • Wooden pegs
  • Hammer
  • Pencil
  • Lawn edger
  • Spade
  • Shovel
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Rake
  • String line
  • Screeding tool

Safety Kit

  • Rigger gloves to handle the paving slabs
  • Mask and goggles to protect you from the dust
  • Knee pads to preserve your knees while arranging the slabs

Pick an Appropriate Area

When deciding on the location of the patio, think about viability rather than style and convenience. It’s important that you choose a well-drained area, so the foundation you will lay remains stable and you avoid any future issues and costs. This goes double if you decide to build a shed and use paving slabs as base.

Prepare the bed

Determine what shape and size you want your patio to have and outline the site you picked in the desired dimensions. If the shape includes angles, use wooden pegs and a builders line to ensure straight and even edges. A builders square helps for accurate angles.

Provide some extra space because there is a lack of uniformity from one paver to another.

Include the fall in the calculations, too. The fall is a slight slope across a paver-covered area that ensures that surface water drains away easily. Don’t worry, the slope is unnoticeable because it’s completely gradual.

After, remove the turf in the enclosed area, with the help of a lawn edger to cut turf strips and a spade to lift them. Save some of the turf strips in case you need to fill any gaps between the paved surface and your existing lawn.

Then, using a shovel dig a 150mm bed for the foundation and the paving. Make sure to level out the soil evenly.

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Lay the Landscape Fabric

Cut out a piece of landscape fabric big enough to cover the patio area and lay it in the bed. The fabric prevents weeds from growing up through the gravel and you won’t have to pull them later.

Frame the Patio

Next is creating a wooden frame to keep the patio in place. Place the first timber perpendicular to your house. Use the string to measure out the frames and double-check if all angles are right. If the corners are correct, cut your wooden bits to size. These steps guarantee that when you put all of the pieces together, you’ll get sturdy and suitable for the patio frame.

Add the Gravel

Once you finish the frame, it’s time to pour the gravel layer. Add a flat and even 100mm deep gravel layer. A few bags should be enough. It’s exactly the step of adding the gravel when you should leave the gradual slope away from your house. This ensures proper water drainage from the patio. After you add the gravel, smooth the layer and even it out using a screed tool, such as some type of board.

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Add the Sharp Sand

Adding a concrete layer over the gravel afterwards is more of a complicated task, requiring a professional approach. So, when you want to build the patio by yourself, adding sharp sand is a great alternative because it’s easier and the sand works just as well. Not only is it capable to hold firm cement such as the paving slabs, but it also lets the water go beneath, so it doesn’t flood the patio. Lay just as much sand as it’s necessary to fill the difference between the turf level and the thickness of your flags. Again, make sure there is a gradual slope, and the layer is completely flat on the surface. Let no loose sections left in the sand.

Lay the Patio Slabs on the Sand

It’s finally time to lay the patio. Make sure to arrange the paving slabs according to the initial plan. If you change the pattern now, the slabs are unlikely to fit. Some of the paving slabs would need to be cut as well, again to fit better. How you do it, either with a chisel and hammer or a power tool, is up to you.

Start from the corner by placing the first paving slab 15mm deep. No matter what type of paving slabs you have, place them 15mm firmly into the sand. When arranging the pavers, leave a gap of 1-15mm between them. Try to kneel on the sand instead of the slabs already laid out. Otherwise, there’s a risk the pavers go too deep and your patio becomes uneven because of the pressure.

Sweep and Spray

Once you arrange all of the paving slabs, add more sand to fill any gaps. Make sure it’s enough and sweep it around to completely cover the empty spaces. Spray some water over the patio so the sand can settle well after drying. It’s important to keep packing. This means repeating the process after a week to ensure that the sand is completely packed in between the gaps. This way you end up with a well-built patio to be proud of.

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Difference Between Sharp Sand and Building Sand

Sharp sand is coarser and has larger particles compared to other types, such as building sand, which has smaller grains.

Using sharp sand comes with certain benefits:

  • Its grains are angular, which causes them to interlock with each other. This provides the strength of the sand as a layer under paving or as a component of a concrete mixture.
  • The larger grain size decreases the amount of retaining water. So, the sand has excellent drainage properties.
  • Its low silt and clay content contribute to the drainage abilities, too.
  • It’s free from silt and salt which erode paving flags and damage them.

Because of its small grains structure, building sand doesn’t have such features and qualities. Besides, it breaks fast and easily. Compared to building sand, sharp sand lasts much longer. If you would like to know more, visit our in-depth “Building vs. Sharp Sand” blog article.

Can You Lay Paving Slabs on Building Sand?

The answer is NO because building sand is too soft. You may find it combined with concrete but even that mixture isn’t strong enough to hold paving slabs in place.

So, if you want to avoid patio demolition, don’t replace sharp sand with building sand.

Because of their sturdiness, paving slabs can also make a great shed base, so if you someday

Contact the Professionals for a Service

Still thinking about hiring professional paving services? At Fantastic Services, we provide a hassle-free service, delivered by qualified paving experts

After a thorough project discussion with you, the specialists arrive at your home fully equipped to do the job. They perform the service, following the exact steps from above. Thanks to their experience and professional knowledge, the paving experts build a flawless patio fast and can handle any issue, occurring during the process.

So, if you lack the time or skills to build your patio, don’t hesitate to book Fantastic Services now.

Need a professional?

Find a landscaping expert to lay your paving slabs!

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  • Laying paving slabs on sand and building a patio on your own is a completely feasible undertaking when you’re well prepared. 
  • If you make accurate measurements, prepare the patio site well, use the right materials for the bed and be precise with the slabs arrangement you’ll end up with a perfect little-to-no-maintenance patio.
  • Laying a patio is a great way to refresh your garden and add value to your property. 

So, what type of patio are you building in your backyard? We would love to read about your experience, so feel free to leave a comment below.

Image source: Shutterstock /

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