your own patio
by Julian Brandram
is a good place to chill out in the summer, somewhere to have a
barbecue or a place for small children to play. You can have flowerbeds
round it, stand plant pots on it, or even leave gaps in the paving
and plant creeping plants in them.
Imitation stone paving slabs are quite expensive but plain ones
can look good if you mix them with different sorts of materials.
You can space out the slabs by filling the gaps between them with
bricks or cobblestones. Waste material can be used to make patterns
– old tiles or crockery can be broken up and used, adding
colour. You can either lay them in a random way or plan a simple
design perhaps incorporating plants. Plastic bottles can be used
to make simple patterns, by cutting off the ends and sinking them
into cement or concrete before it sets.
It is important to have a firm surface to start with; this can be
created by having a layer of hardcore such as broken bricks, small
rocks or other rubble. On top of this you will need a thin layer
of grit sand or a sand and gravel mixture. This needs to be compacted
so that it does not settle once the slabs have been laid on top
of it. The best way to do this is to hire a machine called a ‘whacker
plate’ which you trundle all over the area and it vibrates
all the loose lumps down into a solid mass. Then you lay each individual
slab on five blobs of fairly sloppy mortar and tap gently to get
it level. Laying a patio is a bit more complicated than this but
there are some really useful free leaflets available from the DIY
stores, which will help you plan your project.
Once the hard landscaping is complete, then you can think about
plants to go round or in it. If you are only going to use it in
summer then perhaps things which flower then will be enough but
if you see it from the house in the winter than you could mix in
some winter flowering shrubs, heathers or evergreens. If you want
shelter from wind or privacy from the neighbours, you could erect
some trellis and grow climbing plants up it.
Before you lay a slab or mix any cement, remember that it is all
really hard work and can cause very painful back
injuries! So get help when lifting and use a concrete mixer instead
of doing it by hand.
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