The patio is the centre of the garden. It's where all the important stuff happens: barbecues, summer parties and relaxing with the paper on a Sunday afternoon.
Too often the patio is seen as a purely functional area. But with a little thought you can make it a striking garden feature.
If you're thinking of putting in a new patio, don't simply choose boring square slabs. Think about different styles, shapes and colours to create an attractive outdoor area.
The most common mistake people make with a new patio is to simply lay it against the back of the house. It might seem right, but you won’t necessarily get the most out of it.
Think about when you will use the patio most. If it's in the evening, like most of us, you need to know where the sunlight is at that time. Choose the sunniest spot, rather than the most obvious, or you might find yourself sitting out in deep shade.
How to lay a patio
Laying a new patio isn't as difficult as you might think – it's just a series of simple stages.
Dig out the base
Measure the area and peg it out with stakes and string so you know where you are working. Then remove turf and topsoil to a depth of 15cm to make room for the foundations. Use a wooden plank to level it off. Make sure to dig out think plant roots, as these may cause problems later on.
Consider the rainwater
Make sure to build in a slight slope to your patio so the rainwater doesn't pool. Direct the water runoff towards a flower bed or the lawn.
Lay the foundations
Put down a layer of hardcore to a depth of 7cm. This is crushed aggregate that will stop your patio sinking. You can pick it up from most garden centres, paving suppliers and builder's merchants. Rake it over to even out any bumps.
Add bedding mortar
Next add a layer of bedding mortar with a trowel. You can buy this ready-mixed or in bag form. Follow the instructions on the packet carefully to make sure the mixture will set properly. Start from the edge of the house, fence or other set feature as a guide and work backwards.
Lay the slabs
Now place the slabs directly on top of the wet mortar. Use a builder's square and a spirit level to position your slabs. Tap them down gently with a rubber mallet, not a hammer, so you don’t crack or chip the slabs.
Fill the gaps
After you have laid all the slabs, leave them for at least 24 hours before anybody walks on them. Then you need to fill the gaps between the slabs. Some people brush in a mixture of sand, cement and water and leave it to set. Or you can use a pointing trowel to push the sand and cement mixture in each gap.
Finally, if you don't feel comfortable laying your own patio, get an assured installer to put it in for you for extra peace of mind.