Paths need to be functional but they should also contribute to the overall appearance of their surroundings. Brick and concrete pavers come in a variety of natural colours and can be laid in patterns to suit your style of garden.
When you want to build a path with a small-scale pattern you can use bricks or concrete block paving. They can also be used to break up the larger scale pattern of a slab path. Because they are small units you can lay them to gently rolling levels and in restricted spaces where it would be awkward to lay larger slab materials.
Buying bricks and blocks
These materials should be obtainable from a good builders’ merchant but, with such a variety on the market, they may have to be ordered. If you live near a brickmaker who makes paving bricks it may be worthwhile enquiring direct – be sure to make it clear you want bricks of paving quality.
Clay brick pavers are produced in a variety of colours from dark red through buff to dark blue/black and a range of finishes both smooth and textured. Calcium silicate and concrete bricks are less varied than clay bricks but there is a good range of light to mid-toned colours with smooth and textured surfaces. Concrete paving blocks tend to be light in tone – colours include buffs, greys and light reds.
Planning the path
As with paths made from other types of materials, a path of brick or concrete pavers needs to meet functional and design requirements so it will serve its purpose and be an attractive feature of the garden.
Draw up a scale plan of the garden and work out where the path will go. You can also use this to assist you in working out the quantities of materials you will need. Work out patterns that will avoid unnecessary cutting of the pavers. For dry-laid paving, interlocking is an important feature and patterns which avoid continuous straight joint lines are preferable.
When deciding on your design remember that these small units of paving can be used on their own. You may feel, for example, that the bond pattern, colour and textural patterns of clay bricks give sufficient surface interest without recourse to mixing brick types – you might, in fact, find laying rather difficult if bricks were intermingled.
Lines. To work out slopes and levels you will need a length of straight-edged timber and a builder’s level.
The sub-base should consist of hardcore, Preparing the base The foundations on which the paving is laid must be properly prepared to ensure a long-lasting path. You will have to dig out grass, soil and roots – since there will be a granular sub-base topped with a bed of sand plus a layer of bricks and blocks, you should dig down to at least 225mm (9in) below the finished level to allow for the thickness of construction.
When you are calculating the depth, re-member that if the path runs next to your house the finished level should ideally be two courses of brickwork below the dpc (damp proof course) in the wall. If it’s alongside a lawn, make sure its surface is below that of the grass for convenient mowing. Don’t forget that on a level path you will have to allow for a drainage fall to one side of the path. Where the path adjoins a wall, the slope should be away from the wall.
To set out the levels, slopes and edge lines you can use timber pegs and stringwhich is available through sand and gravel suppliers or builders’ merchants. The levels and gradients should be formed in this material so the bed of sand in which the blocks or bricks are laid can be spread evenly over the whole area.
Brick pavers are made in a variety of sizes up to 225mm (9in) square and up to 65mm (2’/2in) thick. Some are shaped to interlock; other have chamfered edges to reduce chipping.
Clay building bricks must be paving quality (frost-resistant when saturated). Standard size is 215 x 102 x 65mm (about8’/2x4x21/2in).
Calcium silicate building bricks are the same size as standard clay bricks.
Concrete paving blocks are usually rectangular – size 200 x 100 x 65mm (8 x 4 x 21/;>in) – and edges of face side are chamfered. Special interlocking shapes are about the same size overall.
Dry-laid (without mortar) is best for interlocking brick and concrete pavers. Needs sub-base of hardcore 100mm (4in) thick and 50mm (2in) thick bed of sharp sand.
For 1 sq metre you’ll need.
– 45 bricks (laid flat).
– 66 bricks (laid on edge).
– 50 concrete blocks
Mortar bed and jointed technique can be used for standard bricks. Needs a 75mm (3in) compacted hardcore sub-base, a blinding layer of sand or fine ash under 50mm (2in) thick mortar bed (1:4 cement and sand) with 10mm (3/»in) mortar joints. To lay and point 3 sq metres (120 bricks laid flat) you’ll need.
– 50kg bag of cement.
– 12V-? buckets (14 litre/3 gallon size) damp sand TIPS: STOPPING WEED GROWTH.
– under bricks place plastic sheeting on top of the hardcore
– under concrete use a long-term weedkiller
Laying paving dry
For an even, firm path you must take care when you lay the sand base to ensure consistent compaction and perfect level. To give a regular finished surface the sand should be exactly the same throughout the work so allow it to drain before use. Cover it over during storage to minimise variation in moisture content.
You’ll also have to include edge restraints for dry-laid paving at both sides of the path. These can be of creosoted or preservative- treated timber, or of bricks or kerb stones set in mortar.
The base should be no less than 50mm (2in) thick. When the finished surface is bedded in some of the sand will be forced up into the joints from below so the depth of the sand layer will be effectively reduced. And to complicate matters, moist sand ‘bulks’ in volume – the moisture acts on the sand particles to give them a fluffy texture – so the thickness of the sand may seem more than it will, in fact, be when the bricks or blocks are firmly bedded down in place. In this case you may have too little sand and will have to compensate. However, you can have too much sand – a layer which is too thick may cause surface undulation.
It’s a good idea to add an extra 6mm (1/4in) to 15mm (5/8in) of sand to the 50mm (2in) thickness to accommodate any uneven-ness. After you have levelled the first few metres of sand you can check to find out if you have added too much or too little and compensate if necessary. You should check again at frequent intervals as you continue levelling.
You will need a stout timber straight-edged board with notched ends to level the sand surface. The ends fit over the existing edge restraint and you draw the board along over the sand so that it is evenly spread over the area to be paved. This also ensures that the surface is properly compacted.
You should find laying the paving units quite simple provided you take care with positioning the first few bricks or blocks. Each paver should be placed so it touches its neighbour – be sure not to knock a laid brick or block out of place – accidental and unnoticed displacement will have a multiplying effect. Similarly, don’t tilt any of the laid pavers by kneeling or standing on them as the depressed edge will distort the level of the sand.
Where whole bricks or blocks do not fit at the edges, fill the spaces by cutting whole units to the required size. Gulley entries and manholes can also be dealt with by cutting bricks or blocks to fit. Alternatively, very small areas with a dimension of less than 40mm (1 1/2in) can be filled with a 1:4 cement:sand mortar.
When all the bricks or blocks are in place you will have to bed them securely in the sand. For this you can use a stout timber straight-edge and a club hammer or, par-ticularly useful where you are paving a large area, you can hire a mechanical plate vibrator. Once the bricks or blocks are bedded, you brush fine sand over the paving and again go over the surface with the machine to vibrate sand into the joints or re-tamp the surface with the straight-edge to ensure settlement. Once all the joints are filled you can brush the surplus sand away. The path will be ready for immediate use.
Laying bricks on mortar
This method of laying bricks is more permanent than using a sand bed, and no edge restraint is needed. Again, when you are digging out the trench, remember to allow for the drainage fall and the level of the path in relation to the dpc or lawn, and dig down deep enough to allow for the thickness of construction.
The sub-base should be a layer of hardcore which is tamped down or rolled to provide a firm foundation for the path and topped with a blinding layer of fine sand or ash. The bricks are bedded in a fairly dry, crumbly mortar mix and with spaces between them to allow for grouting. Dry mortar is brushed into the joints and then the whole path is sprayed with water. With this method, you should not use the path until a week has passed after laying the pavers. In hot, dry weather the paving should be protected against drying out prematurely by covering it with polythene sheets or damp sacking.