Roads, pavements, courtyards

Nowadays, due to the huge increase in construction costs, many newly built houses do not come with proper routes, but it is worth noting that well-built houses can increase the value of the property. This also applies to older homes – in this case, it may be a good idea to look at builders’ traders for the slabs that meet your walls – their choice is usually different. Even if you are not thinking of selling in the near future, a well-constructed trail will greatly improve the overall appearance.

It is best to do this in dry weather. You can use a speed, pickaxe, peg, wire, spirit level, 2 m (6 ft) long wooden (straight path), rack, brush, wheel barrow, club hammer or rubber malt to test your level. Bolster, and a Berkeley troll will be needed. You may want to use an angle grinder and a slab splitter, both of which can be obtained cheaply. Square slabs can be obtained in sizes from 200mm (8in) to 600mm (24in), and you can also get other shapes, such as tall or hexagonal. For lighter weight routes, faster sand is the best type to use – your builder trader should be able to advise you.

Maybe, if you’re like me, you’ll want to see the results of your handwork as soon as possible, but I’d suggest a little patience. The key to smoothing over is to make sure you have a good, equal, strong foundation. If not, the finished work will not only look dirty, but will be a danger to everyone who walks on it.

Mark the area you are going to level with pegs and wire, and dig at least 150 millimeters (6 inches) of soil. Remove the string, and check with your level and straight edge that you have dug slopes a short distance from the house – a slope of about 1:50. This is definitely for any water to flow out of the house. In a situation where the path is sloping towards the house, leave a strip of gravel or chips 150mm (6in) along the wall to drain the water. If a path is just above the wall, remember that it must be at least 150mm (6in) below the moisture proofing course.

Lay a good base of cutter (broken bricks, ear chips, or concrete) in the trench, and press it down well, trying to keep it fairly even. Cover it with sharp sand using the rack. Use the straight length of the wood to keep it level, don’t forget to use the spirit level to make sure you have a slight slope in it. When you start laying slabs, it is a good idea to use ply spacers between them, so that there is a difference of the same size for filling. Tap the slabs down with a rubber malt or whatever I use, my club hammer and a wooden block. Make sure there is no movement in the slab – if any, pick it up, identify the problem, fix it, and re-lay the slab. Brush the sand all the way through, and work it well in pairs. You may need to do this a few times to make sure the space is full.

If you have to cut a slab, you can use any of the following methods. If it’s a nice, compressed stone chip slab, a hammer and a bolster are enough. Mark a line where you need to cut it. Stick lightly along the line with the bolster, not heavier than the hammer! You will eventually find out that it falls apart, hopefully where you wanted it. If you have something to cut, a slab splitter can be hired. Angle grinder is the best option if you want to form a slab around any obstacle. You have to be careful with this tool, because it can be very dangerous. Be sure to wear goggles, gloves and a dust mask whenever you are cutting a slab.

If you are going to cover a large area, such as a yard, make sure you think and plan ahead. You can find gardening landscaping sites on the Internet, print some of them, compare them and create your own plan from there. There is a huge selection of smooth materials these days, so it is wise to think about what works best for you. If you’re new to the game, it’s best to stick to a simple pattern, such as a regular grid – a square slab in which the corners of the 4 slabs meet, a running bond – paired to look something. They stumble halfway. Such as brickwork, and herringbone designs – made with rectangular pavers or slabs. If you feel more confident, you can try a random pattern, made using broken stones, slabs or slates. It will take more time, and patience! If you have weird shapes between the slabs, you can use gravel or small ear chips to fill in the gaps, although they tend to disintegrate after a while. With large hard areas, it is probably best to hire a plate vibrator for a few hours, as this does a better job of leveling the pores, and binds the sand between the joints more firmly.

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