Whether you are looking to build a driveway or a path on your property, block paving has some notable advantages. It will provide you with an attractive finish, which combines the traditional with a sleek and clean look. Adding to that, they are easy to maintain and not as expensive as they used to be.
We all want our homes to have ‘kerb appeal.’ Most people agree that a good paved driveway or path helps establish that elusive appeal and drive up the property value accordingly.
One of the secrets to an attractive and solid block paving job is edging kerbs. Aside from their aesthetic advantages, they will also secure your path and prevent the blocks from falling away prematurely.
Is Laying Block Paving a DIY Job?
Laying a block driveway is not suitable as your first foray into home improvement. However, if you have a reasonable amount of experience and are good at planning things out, you should be able to do the job yourself. Just make sure to follow the steps carefully and have things planned before you start. After all, it is far easier to do things right the first time than fix mistakes later on.
What Do I Need to Lay Block Paving?
You will need a considerable number of tools and materials to do this job right. Laying block paving is a reasonably complicated job, and you should not start work until you are sure you have all the materials necessary. Let’s have a look at the list of required items:
- A broom and a rake
- A laundry string line and pegs
- A long piece of timber
- A mallet
- Some screed rails
- A shovel
- A spirit level
- A tape measure
- A wheelbarrow
These are all things you probably have at home. If you don’t, they are all useful to have. However, laying pavement is usually a professional-grade job. Therefore, it requires some equipment you may need to rent. Do not buy these tools unless you work construction jobs often. Equipment necessary includes:
- A block splitter
- A cement mixer
- A compacting tool
- For large areas: a mini-excavator or JCB
- Block paving stones
- Kiln-dried sand
- Sub-base aggregate
What Are My Options?
The two widely available varieties of block paving are concrete and clay. Concrete costs less and is easier to install. Therefore, it is more commonly used. Also, it is sold in a wider array of sizes and shapes, and consequently, it is easier to find a type that suits your needs.
Nonetheless, concrete is ultimately an inferior substance to clay. The colour fades eventually, and though the concrete variety lasts a good 20 years, clay can last about 30. Also, clay looks better for longer. The colour is ingrained in the substance, and therefore it does not fade.
How Do I Lay Block Paving? Step By Step
- Make a map of the path or driveway.
While there is no need for a massive amount of detail, it is always good to have a general idea of where you are going and how you plan to get there. Perhaps the most important elements to get right in the diagram are the dimensions of the path or driveway and where you plan to place the pavers.
When you measure out the section you want to pave, it is beneficial to know the exact size of the blocks. That way, you can measure it out in block size and save yourself a good deal of time and effort.
When looking at the list of materials, you probably wondered how many stones and how much sand you will need. That is where planning comes in. A good map will allow you to estimate the amount of each material you will need to obtain to complete the task. Once you know more or less how many m2 you need to cover, it will give you an idea of how many stones to order. Each product should include specifications for the amount of ground it is designed to cover.
- Mark off the relevant area.
Now that you have the construction area planned and have all the necessary materials, mark the work area. One of the most important reasons we do this is to assure safety during construction. Therefore, be sure that you know where all infrastructure cables and devices are located. Be aware of electricity, gas, cable tv, and other installations before you begin the excavation.
Measure the area you plan to pave and the borders with a tape measure. Then use a tape measure and pegs to mark the width and length of the site. We also advise you to leave approximately 300mm at each one of the free edges. This precaution will make the handling of materials and setting the edges significantly more convenient.
- Excavate the area that you plan to pave.
The absolute minimum of the depth necessary is about 150mm below the surface. However, the typical domestic driveway requires more depth than that. Excavations usually measure at 200-250mm below the level of the finished pavement. Calculate for a sub-base of around 100-150mm sub-base, with a 40mm sand bed and 50mm of blocks. As a rule of thumb, it is far better to dig too deep than remain too shallow.
Use common sense depending on the lay of the land. The terrain can change in different areas as the land level rises or falls. You may think it is good if the ground is completely flat, but that can cause some problems with drainage. Therefore, dig in a gradual slope to facilitate draining. As a rule of thumb, plan for a 1 cm drop for every 60 cm of paving.
If the area you are excavating is manageable, you should be able to use a shovel. However, for larger jobs, you may want to use a mini-excavator or JCB.
Make sure to excavate all soft spots in the ground thoroughly. Each one should be backfilled with material for a compacted sub-base.
- Make sure you allow for adequate drainage.
Make sure to have all of your drainage solutions in place before you begin to place the blocks. Since many traditional blocks are not porous, this is one of the most important elements in the process. If you install drainage implements, make sure to protect them. Therefore, set them with concrete.
- Lay the sub-base.
The compacted sub-base should be spread at least 100mm thick. Make sure there are no voids in the sub-base. If you spot any, fill them with stone dust or grit sand compact carefully and thoroughly. Make sure the sub-base is solid and completely in place before you begin to lay the bricks.
Some people prefer to use a non-woven geo-membrane as well. This can prevent the stone from pressing downward. The geo-membrane can be a good investment if the sub-grade is not of the highest quality.
- Place edge restraints.
Follow the lines you set up earlier carefully. Lay the edge course bricks and kerbs onto the concrete bed. You will want to make sure that the straight lines are indeed well-lined and that the curves are full and aesthetically pleasing. Keep the edging and keep the kerbs in place with a 75 mm thick layer of concrete.
It would be best if you started by digging around the edges of the sub-base. That way, you can lay concrete footings for each kerb individually. Ideally, the footings will project 75mm outside the edging blocks while keeping to less than 25mm on the inside. Once the concrete has dried, lay the edgings on a bed of mortar. Level them with a line and spirit. It will take about three days for the mortar to harden, so be patient.
Remember to always complete the edging before commencing with the actual paving. Think of the edges as the framework that holds the entire pathway together. You have to get it right to keep the structure tight and serviceable.
- Lay the course.
Spread and level the course-sand as needed. Then compact it and screed it to the correct level. One way to make sure the course is level is by using the edging kerbs you just placed as a guide.
After compacting, you want the sand to be about 25-40mm deep. The smoother the surface, the better suited it will be to laying bricks. Therefore, attention to detail at this stage is critical. A good method is to place a length of timber longer than the width of the path and cut a notch in the end where it hits the end. If the course is level, the notch will measure less than 10-15mm. You can pull the board towards you, levelling as you advance.
- Lay the Bricks.
Make sure you have the pattern fully figured out before you lay the bricks. That means you should calculate the angles you are laying them with and measure at least the first few carefully until you get into the swing of things. To avoid mistakes, it is always best to start at the corners or the edge of a structure. This will give you a reasonable frame of reference. Make sure the blocks are placed in tight proximity leaving no joints or spaces between them. Most bricks have useful little spacing nibs in the design. Use them!
A good tip to get an even finish is to select the bricks randomly from different packs. That way, you do not get a particular shade clustering in specific sections.
If you have many bricks to lay, it is always best to wear knee pads at this point. Also, spread your weight over as many paving blocks as possible.
Follow the instructions and lay the bricks in sections of roughly two square metres at a time. Press the blocks into the sand using your compacting tool. If they refused to cooperate, pick them up and adjust the sand below until they do. Continue working in sections comprising of two square metres.
- Check and adjust the alignment.
You can’t always get a complete idea of the alignment using the naked eye. Therefore, once everything has been laid, it is a good idea to double-check. To do so, make a string line and stretch it diagonally across the courses. Readjust if you see any significant discrepancies. Keep in mind that clay pavers often require a good deal more readjustment than their concrete equivalents. Nonetheless, both can be layed incorrectly or drift out of position.
- Cutting in.
Once all the blocks have been placed and positioned correctly, you can cut in the protruding sections. If you are using clay pavers, prepare to sweat a bit more than if you are working with concrete. Therefore, you may want to use a bench-mounted saw for clay.
Mark the blocks on the line you wish to cut. You can use a tape measure to ensure that the line is straight.
- Jointing and Compacting.
Spread kiln-dried sand over the block surface. Then sweep it into the joints with a soft brush. Now use a compacting tool and go over each block 4-6 times.
What Else Do I Need to Know about Laying Block Paving?
In some cases, you may need a permit for your project. In October 2008, the government changed the laws for planning permission throughout the country.
Therefore, any path or driveway covering an area equal to five square meters or greater requires a permit. Also, if you are using the traditional type of paving slabs that do not drain water properly, you will need permission. Finally, if you plan to direct rainfall and water overflow onto a lawn or border to drain, you will require a permit.
If you don’t wish to apply for a permit, make sure to use a permeable variety of block paving stones. Another option to avoid the hassle of applying to the Council is to direct the water to a certified form of drainage.
Remember, if you are uncertain, use the handy Planning Portal to make sure. You can also create an application there and estimate the associated costs.