Walking around neighbourhoods, you may notice footpaths, patios, and driveways starting to show cracks or being uneven. This can lead to a host of problems, including danger to pedestrians. Although not everyone has the funds to hire in specialists, here are some things and processes to be aware of should you hire a professional.
The secret to any good patio, pathway, roadway, or pavement is the foundation. No matter how firm or hard the ground looks or feels, the preparation is what makes the difference in the end product. I will focus on pathways for now, but the principle is the same for any hard standing area. (Sandstone, Yorkstone, or slate will be covered in a later article.)
Firstly, set out the pathway. Use a hosepipe if there are curves in your path, or it is straight or has definite angles you can use bits of straight wood. Once this is done, work out what the finish or surface is going to be constructed of and work backwards from there. For example, if you are using a 50mm thick block paver or paving slab, you will need a layer of sharp/course paving sand that is 50mm thick once compacted and a firm base layer of 150mm. It is best to use a granulated material that has a percentage of fine material mixed in with the stone so that it compacts well.
Excavate therefore to a depth of 250mm. You can use the excavated material to create a mound or rockery in some unwanted corner of the garden, or you can get someone to take it away for you. Compact your sub-base layer with a plate-compactor (jumping up and down with the wife and kids will not do the job), and then put a layer of geotextile material on top to help with weed control. Plate compactors can be hired quite easily. If a rubber plate cover is available when you hire the plate compactor, get it as well. We’ll come back to the rubber cover plate in a moment.
On a curved area, timber edgings are easier to bend, and if they are treated they will have a good lifespan. Otherwise, concrete path edgings can be used on a bed of concrete and haunched with concrete on both sides as well (keep the haunching 50mm below the top so that the paving blocks sit snugly with the level of the edging). Let the concrete set for at least a day before putting in the base layer and compacting this well. The trick to getting the sand layer correct is to get a straight bit of timber that spans the width of the path and overlaps the edgings on both sides. On the inside edge of the path cut the timber so that 50mm hangs down from the top of the path edging, now you have the exact depth of your paver and the timber becomes a screeding/levelling tool on the compacted sand layer.
Start at one end and work off the pavers you have just put down. Lay all the whole pavers first and leave any cuts until the end so that you can take time to measure and cut correctly. Once all the pavers are in, get kiln-dried sand (fine paving sand) and brush in before putting a compactor over the top for the last time. Now you put the rubber plate cover on the plate compactor so the pavers are not scratched in any way.
The build-up methodology applies to all surfacing types. If you do get a professional landscaper in to do the works for you, make sure they follow the steps mentioned above. This will allow you the enjoyment of your hard standing area for a very long time.