Garden Advice

Laying Paving Slabs on Soil – How-to Guide

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A patio or a small paved area in your garden can be a good spot for relaxation and get-togethers with friends during the weekend. Building a new one, or upgrading your existing patio can be done DIY, although it is a bit time-consuming. But, with the right tools and knowledge and maybe, some help from friends and family, you can have a nice looking patio in no time. Paving slabs can also be laid for a shed base, make a great foundation for a greenhouse and a good replacement for an old stone pathway. Plus, they can help to improve clay soil, as you won’t be walking on it, further compacting it. Another bonus!

So, if you:

  • are planning on laying paving slabs, but have never done it before;
  • already did some digging, but found out the ground isn’t level;
  • want to build a more solid base for your greenhouse, or replace an old stone pathway;
  • are fed up with annoying weeds in your garden and want to cover the area with paving;

keep reading on, and we will give you some tips on how to lay paving slabs on soil properly.

Safety first

The most important aspect of every building project is safety. Paving slabs can be very heavy, so you should always handle them with caution. Get help from a friend or a family member when lifting them. Cement is also a material that should be handled properly. It can cause irritation, so try to avoid contact with the eyes and properly wash your skin with soap and water if it ever comes in contact with it. While mixing mortar, cement dust can go everywhere, so you should wear goggles, gloves and a face mask to prevent inhalation. 

The plate compactor machine should also be operated while wearing eye protection and you will need steel-toed boots and ear protection, as well.

While personal safety is the most important aspect of the job, you shouldn’t neglect the safety of your property, either. Before you start digging and preparing your sub-base, you should make sure there are no cables or pipes underneath. You can hire and use a cable avoidance tool to check for any gas or water pipes or phone and electricity cables running underneath the area. If you find any, consider hiring a professional to relocate them if needed.

What tools and materials you will need to lay slabs on soil

Of course, before you start laying paving slabs in your garden, you should make sure you have all the necessary tools and materials prepared. Obviously, you will need paving slabs but that’s not the only material needed. You must also buy cement, sand and some kind of sub-base aggregate. 

As far as tools go, a shovel is required for digging, but you will also need equipment, such as a wheelbarrow, rubber mallet, trowel, rake, spirit level, tape measure, timber spacers and optional stuff, like a cement mixer or some string line and pegs.

Preparing the area

Naturally, before you start laying the paving slabs on the soil, you should properly prepare the area. Here’s a list of what you should do to prepare the ground properly:

  • If you are replacing the slabs of an old garden path or patio, you should start by digging them up, first.
  • If you are starting from scratch, the first thing to do is to mark out the area where you will be laying the paving stones.
  • Dig up the area at a depth of around 15cm and make sure the soil is level and properly compacted. Use a spirit level and compact soil well.
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Laying the sub-base and preparing the bedding

After you have dug up the soil and made sure it is properly levelled and compacted, you should lay the sub-base. The ideal material for a sub-base is generally known as Type 1 Ministry of Traffic, but there are other types available on the market. Type 1 is preferred because it is well-suited for driveways and areas that you walk more on. 

After you have done the preparation and set a proper fall so that any surface water drains naturally, fill the area with the necessary amount of sub-base material. Then comes the part, where you will use a plate compactor to compact the sub-base and make sure it is level, as well. Again, if you find loose spots, make sure to fill them up with more material and run them over with the compactor a second time. Finally, cover the surface with a thin layer of sharp sand and rake it so it is spread out evenly. 

When you are done with the sub-base, you should prepare the bedding. This is pretty straightforward to do. Paving slabs are laid on a mortar bedding. You will need to prepare this mixture with four parts sharp sand and one part cement. Using a cement mixer will help you have it done in no time, but you can also mix the mortar by hand. Pay attention to the consistency of the mixture – it shouldn’t be too runny or too dry.

How to lay paving stones

So, you have laid a sub-base and prepared bedding and it is time to lay the first paving stone on your new garden path or patio. Start laying the paving stones in one corner. The first slab is very important as it serves the purpose of a guide for the rest of the slabs. Place carefully your first paving stone on the freshly laid mortar bedding, which should be about six centimetres thick (always lay a layer of mortar over an area that is a bit larger than the slab). Using a rubber mallet, tap the slab into the mortar and after you make sure it is levelled properly, add additional mortar mixture under the slab and cut it flush. From the first slab, continue laying the rest of the stones in the direction of the slope, going along the sides of your area. Use spacers to create even gaps in between the slabs and a spirit level to make sure everything is level. It is possible that you would have to cut the last paving stones to size, so they’d fit better with the overall shape of your paving path. You can use a chisel and hammer or a power saw with the right kind of blade. Check our post on how to cut paving slabs for more information on both methods.

After you are done laying the paving stones, the mortar mixture should be left to dry at least 48 hours.

The final step to complete your patio or garden path is, of course, to fill the gaps with a jointing material. The process is known as pointing a patio and is not very dissimilar to grouting.

It’s important to know here that the size of the joints (gaps) matter when it comes to what jointing material you should use to fill them up. The rule of thumb is that for gaps that are less than 1cm wide, you should use a dry mixture of 3 part sand and 1 part of cement. Brush in the substance carefully. Underground and air moisture will help the jointing harden in no time. 

For larger than 1cm gaps, use wet mortar. Make sure to wipe any excess jointing material before it stains your newly laid paving slabs.

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Get professional help for your garden path or patio

Building a new garden path, patio, or rebuilding your existing one can be done DIY, with the proper tools and some help from friends and family. But nowadays, many people don’t have that much free time to take on such projects on their properties. If this is the case for you, or you just find building hard, consider booking professional help. 

Fantastic Services offers expert paving services for your convenience, just a couple of clicks away. We’ll send pros who can help you with all types of paving projects, be it a patio, a garden path or a driveway. The team can also do repairs to your existing paved area and will deliver the materials, so you don’t have to worry about getting them yourself. 

You can also combine your service with over a hundred different property maintenance services from our portfolio. Book now!


  • Safety in any building project is important – make sure you get help with the heavy lifting and wear the necessary protective equipment.
  • Before you start laying your paving slabs, make sure you have all the tools and materials required for the job.
  • Properly prepare the area for your patio or garden path and make sure that the soil is level before you lay the sub-base.
  • Paving slabs are laid on a mortar bedding. 
  • Start laying the paving stones by placing the first one in the corner and continue with the rest by using that first one as a guide.
  • Use dry jointing material to point your patio with gaps smaller than 1cm in width and wet mortar for joints that are wider than 1cm.


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