Garden paving doesn’t have to be all squares and rectangles. With crazy paving you can have a more informal look in any shape you fancy, and you can use it on wall surfaces too.
Crazy paving is a versatile material that can be used as a resilient and attractive surface for patios, driveways, garden paths or steps, or as a decorative feature in an otherwise plain paving scheme.
It’s simply broken paving slabs and you can often buy it quite cheaply from your local council by the tonne. Slabs bought in this way will usually be a heavy duty variety used for pavements and have a rather dull grey colour and a relatively plain finish, but you can add interest in the way you lay the pieces. Local building contractors can often supply broken slabs of various textures in greens, pinks, reds and buff tones in sufficient quantities for use in paving. Natural stone can also be bought in irregular sizes to make up crazy paving.
When laying a path in crazy paving:.
– place the larger straight-sided slabs first as the path edging, if these are to be straight
– place the largest irregularly-shaped slabs down the centre of the path, fill in between the edging and centre slabs with small broken fragments.
Remember when laying crazy paving that the slabs might be of different thicknesses and you’ll have to accommodate these variations in the thickness of the mortar bed.
Planning crazy paving
Before you can begin to lay your paving, sketch out some ideas for its overall shape, size and, in the case of paths, its route through the garden. Transfer your final design to graph paper so that you can use this to estimate the total area to be covered and place an order for the correct quantity of paving. You can also use your plan as a blueprint for ordering and laying the slabs.
Because of its irregular profile crazy paving, unlike conventional square or rectangular slabs, can be used to form curves, such as a winding path, a decorative surround to a pond, or an unusual-shaped patio. Although you have a lot of freedom in your creative design you mustn’t allow the paving to appear out of place with its surroundings. If your garden is strictly formal, for instance, avoid complex curves or too ‘busy’ a surface texture — the mix of angles could clash. Small areas of random paving can, on the other hand, give a plain scheme a visual ‘lift’.
Although crazy paving has an overall random design, it must be placed with some precision to avoid an unbalanced look. The best way to plan out an area of paving when you’ve decided upon a basic site is to dry-lay it when the base is complete.
Separate the pieces that have one or more straight sides for use as edging and corners and lay these first, choosing only the largest pieces — small ones tend to break away.
You can lay the paving with a ragged outline to achieve an informal look, but you will still have to use the largest pieces for the edging. When plants have been introduced into the irregular edges and allowed to trail over the slabs you’ll find that your path soon assumes an established air.
It’s not important to make a regular joint width between the pieces — in fact, the paving will probably look much more natural if the joints vary. Fit the smaller inner pieces together like a jig-saw puzzle, mixing colours to best effect. When dry-laying the slabs avoid a continuous joint line across the path as this can be jarring to the eye and weakens the structure.
Laying the paving
The methods of laying crazy paving are similar to those using regular paving slabs — with a firm base being the first requirement.
To prepare the base remove the topsoil and compact the area using a roller or tamper. If the ground is soft or crumbly add a layer of hardcore and compact this into the surface. A blinding layer of sand added to the top accommodates any unevenness in the hardcore base and acts as a firm bed for the slabs.
Lay the slabs on generous mortar dabs under each corner or, with smaller pieces, on an overall mortar bed.
Work your way across the dry-laid surface, bedding each stone in turn and checking the level frequently using a builder’s level — don’t forget to incorporate a slight drainage fall to one side of a path or to the front of a patio or step treads. Tap the paving in place using the handle of your club hammer: as you do this some mortar will be squeezed up into the joints, which can be anything up to 25mm (1 in) wide. You needn’t scrape out this mortar from the joints: it actually makes for a stronger bond.
After you’ve laid the slabs point between them with mortar. Clad all the risers and treads, then point between the pieces. Clad low walls in the same way as step risers.
There are three ways to treat the joints between crazy paving:.
– Flush pointing — fill the joints with mortar flush with the tops of the slabs.
– Bevelled pointing — form bevels in the mortar about 9mm (3/sin) deep at each side of the joint to outline the shape of each slab.
– Soil joints — fill the joints with soil and plant low-growing plants or herbs to blend in the paving with the rest of the garden.
TIP: BREAKING LARGE SLABS
A delivery of crazy paving might include some pieces too large to lay. Break them by dropping them on any hard surface — easier than using a bolster chisel and club hammer. Use these tools for trimming smaller pieces.
Make a feature of the joints in crazy paving by colouring the mortar. Additives are available for adding to the mix but you should follow the maker’s instructions precisely — too great a proportion of colouring can upset the strength of the mortar.
There’s more to crazy paving than providing a surface for a driveway, path or a patio. It’s basically a decorative material and is versatile enough to make an excellent feature in the garden, especially if you use it as you would wall tiles, by ‘sticking’ the individual pieces with mortar onto a vertical surface such as a terrace or boundary wall, or even facing a barbecue or seating unit with them.
Crazy paving has been used imaginatively in this split-level garden to unify the scheme. Large slabs interspersed with smaller pieces form the lower patio and act as a contrast to the rectangular slabs used to surface the upper level.
An interesting focal point in the garden has been created between the two terraces by incorporating in the design an area for sitting or eating out. Dominated by an existing tree. Small-scale crazy paving was used to emphasise this shaded area while blending together the various parts of the garden. As cladding for the terrace wall that divides the two paved areas it gives a rich texture to the scheme; and it’s also been used as treads on the flight of steps that connects the levels to combine further the different elements.
The first stage of construction was to re-model the shape of the naturally sloping site to form two distinct levels; the second to lay the slabs for the top level and the crazy paving for the lower one. Different coloured paving was used to avoid a drab look.
The terrace wall was built and faced with crazy paving; seats were incorporated in the wall, leaving the tree standing on a ‘catwalk’, the sides of which were clad with small-scale paving. Crazy paving comes in various thicknesses: the thinnest was chosen as cladding so that the pieces would be easier to mortar securely to vertical surfaces.