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How To Lay Block Paving

How to lay your own block paving on a driveway, patio or other type of hard standing surface area.

Ultimate Guide: How to Lay Block Paving for Longevity

Laying block paving is a surefire way to enhance your property’s kerb appeal and functionality. Whether it’s a driveway, patio, or garden path, the right approach can transform your outdoor space. But it’s not just about aesthetics; a well-executed block paving job can boost your property’s value too.

They say a good start is half the battle, and that’s certainly true when it comes to laying block paving. With the right preparation and materials, you’ll be on your way to creating a durable and attractive surface. This project can be tackled by DIY enthusiasts with a bit of guidance or by professionals for a polished finish.

Before diving into the process, it’s crucial to understand the steps involved. Each stage is key to achieving a high-quality result, from choosing the right blocks to the final jointing sand. So let’s begin the journey to laying the perfect block paving for your home.

Choosing the right blocks

When it comes to paving, the selection of blocks is paramount for both the aesthetic appeal and longevity of the surface. Homeowners should consider the type of material that fits their vision and the project’s functional requirements. Many options are available, including concrete, clay, and natural stone blocks, each offering its unique texture, colour, and durability.

Concrete blocks are a popular choice due to their versatility and cost-effectiveness. They come in various colours and finishes, allowing for various design options. On the other hand, clay blocks provide a classic look that tends to improve with age. They’re known for their rich colours and have a reputation for being incredibly hard-wearing. For a more premium finish, natural stone pavers such as granite or sandstone provide a distinctive and elegant touch to any property.

Apart from aesthetics, the functional aspects like the area’s traffic volume and exposure to the elements should influence the choice. Heavier traffic areas may require stronger materials like concrete or natural stone, whereas lighter traffic areas could suffice with any block.

The sustainability of the materials is another aspect that’s gaining traction. Eco-friendly options include permeable block paving that allows water to seep through, reducing the risk of flooding and ensuring a more sustainable drainage solution.

Here are some considerations when selecting paving blocks:

  • Durability: Assess the expected wear and tear based on the location’s usage.
  • Maintenance: Some materials may require more upkeep than others.
  • Cost: Work out a budget, including initial costs and long-term maintenance.
  • Compliance: Ensure the blocks meet the local planning regulations.

Researching and comparing these factors can significantly affect the success of your block paving project. It’s worth noting that high-quality blocks might come at a higher initial cost but can offer significant savings in maintenance and longevity. Prioritize your needs, and don’t rush the decision—the right blocks will be a foundation for your property’s charm and functionality for years to come.

Preparing the area

Before laying block paving, site preparation is imperative to ensure a long-lasting, stable surface. As a primary step, clearing the area of any debris, plants, or old paving materials is essential. This prevents future growth that could disrupt the blocks and provides a clean base to start from. The cleared area must be dug to the required depth, typically around 150-200mm below the intended finished level. This includes a sub-base, sand layer, and the blocks while accounting for adequate drainage.

Upon digging, it’s time to create a solid foundation. A sub-base of crushed stone provides the strength needed to support the surface. The MOT Type 1 aggregate is a popular choice for sub-base material. This layer must be evenly spread and compactly compressed to prevent future settlement. Professionals often use a vibrating plate compactor to ensure a firm base.

Edging stones play a significant role by framing the block paving and should be laid next. Not only do they enhance the visual appeal, but they also restrain the blocks and maintain alignment. It is important to set the edgings on a concrete bed and haunch them in place for added stability.

The next layer above the sub-base is sharp sand. This should be accurately levelled to a consistent depth, providing a smooth bed for the paving blocks. Proper levelling tools, such as screeding bars, ensure the surface is flat and true. A slight gradient should be incorporated into the sand layer to facilitate water runoff, thereby preventing water pooling on the surface.

With the area fully primed, the positioning of the blocks can commence. It’s integral that each block is laid carefully and tightly against the others. This method reduces the chances of future movement and helps maintain the finished pavement’s integrity.

Laying the base

Laying a stable base is critical for block paving. This layer will support the blocks and distribute weight evenly, preventing sinking and shifting over time. The process involves several steps to ensure a long-lasting foundation for the paving stones.

First, they’ll need to dig to the required depth after clearing the site. This is typically around 150-200mm below the planned surface level to accommodate the sub-base and sand layer. The depth may vary depending on soil type and intended use of the paved area. For driveways, a depth of at least 200mm is recommended to support the weight of vehicles.

Next comes the selection and installation of the sub-base material. A common choice is Type 1 MOT, a crushed stone compacted in layers to create a solid foundation. Each layer should be around 50mm thick and thoroughly compacted using a plate compactor. Adequate compaction is key to prevent future settlement.

Layer Average Thickness Material
Sub-base 100-150mm Type 1 MOT
Sand 30-50mm Sharp sand

They must ensure the base is level. For drainage purposes, a slight gradient (about 1:80) should be incorporated. Any error in these initial stages could lead to a mismatched or unlevel final surface.

Following the base preparation, a thin layer of sharp sand is applied to facilitate fine adjustments in the levelling. The sand is screeded to achieve an even surface, removing or adding sand where necessary.

Once the base is laid, they can set the edge restraints. These are installed around the perimeter to hold the pavers in place. Edging stones or kerbs are sunk into a concrete bed and set at the correct height relative to the final paving level. Edge restraints play a crucial role in the structural integrity of block paving surfaces.

Now, all that’s left is to inspect the base for accuracy before the block laying begins. It must be stable and without any dips or bumps that could compromise the finished look. With a firm, level base, the paving blocks will fit snugly and maintain their position for years.

Setting the blocks

Once the base is properly prepared and levelled, the next critical phase is Setting the blocks. This step requires precision and patience, as the paving’s aesthetic appeal and durability largely hinge on this stage.

First, they should begin laying blocks at one corner or edge, working across the block paved area. It’s crucial to lay the blocks in the planned pattern and orientation. Depending on the project requirements, this might be a simple herringbone or a more complex motif. Consistency in block placement will ensure a professional finish.

They should use a rubber mallet to guarantee that each block is set accurately and firmly into the sand. A light tap will seat the pavers while allowing for minor adjustments if necessary. Regular checks with a spirit level across the blocks will confirm that they remain level with one another. Should any block sit higher or lower, they can adjust the sand base accordingly, making fine alterations to maintain an even surface.

As they progress, they’ll need to cut some blocks to fit the edges and around obstacles like drainage covers or borders. A block splitter or a disc cutter is generally used to ensure the cuts are clean and precise, which is vital for a tidy border and professional look.

  • Start from a corner or edge.
  • Follow the predetermined pattern
  • Use a rubber mallet for adjustments
  • Regularly check leveling with a spirit level
  • Cut blocks as needed for edges and obstacles

They must refrain from walking on the newly laid blocks. Instead, they should work from the laid paving onto the unset sand. This prevents any premature shifting or settling that could disrupt the level surface they strive to achieve.

Throughout this process, they should be mindful of the need for proper drainage. The blocks should be laid with a slight slope away from buildings and towards drainage points. This will prevent water from pooling on the surface, avert potential slipping hazards, and protect the integrity of the paving.

By moving systematically and paying close attention to detail, they can lay the blocks to create a durable and visually pleasing pavement surface. With the correct laying technique, the block paving will enhance the property’s appearance and functionality for years to come.

Cutting and shaping

As the laying process for block paving continues, Cutting and shaping blocks become imperative for a perfect fit along edges, corners, and around obstacles. This intricate task requires a clear understanding and the tools to ensure a professional finish.

Measuring and Marking Blocks
Before making any cuts, measuring and marking the blocks accurately is essential. To avoid material waste, they should opt for a measure twice, cut once approach. Using a chalk line or builder’s pencil provides visibility and precision, facilitating straight and clean cuts.

Choosing the Right Tools
The selection of cutting tools can greatly influence the efficiency of the project. They have several options:

  • Block splitters are ideal for a quick and clean break.
  • Power saws with diamond blades ensure a fine cut but demand safety measures like eye protection and dust suppression.
  • Manual saws work well for minor adjustments or where precision is non-negotiable.

Cutting Technique
When cutting blocks, they should maintain a steady hand and apply uniform pressure to achieve a smooth edge. If they’re using a power saw, it’s important to let the tool do the work without forcing it, which could result in a jagged finish or damage to the block. Always follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.

Smoothing and Finishing
Once the blocks are cut, edges may require smoothing. A simple hand file or sanding block is sufficient to remove any roughness, ensuring that the laid blocks will not only fit snugly but also be safe for pedestrian traffic.

Cutting and shaping may seem tedious, but its importance in the block paving process is pivotal. The precision of cuts will directly impact the overall appearance and structural integrity of the paved area. Focusing on accuracy during this phase rewards the project with a seamless and professional-looking surface.

Filling the joints

After the blocks are carefully cut and positioned, Filling the joints is a critical next step to solidify the structure and prevent weed growth. When filling joints, kiln-dried sand is the go-to choice for most projects. The granularity of this sand provides an optimal balance that allows it to trickle into the smallest crevices, locking the blocks in place.

The process begins by spreading the sand over the surface with a broom. Sweeping should be thorough, ensuring the sand works its way into all joints. At this stage, it’s imperative to cover the entirety of the paving, leaving no joint unfilled.

Once an even spread is achieved, a vibration plate compactor is the next tool in line. Running the compactor over the surface helps the sand settle more deeply into the joints. This process might reveal the need for more sand as it compacts, so additional sand is applied and compacted until the joints are filled.

Subsequent to the initial compacting, brushing over the surface once more is essential. This secondary sweep pushes the remaining loose sand into joints. Over time, traffic and natural elements will settle the joints further, so it’s crucial to top up the jointing sand in the following days or weeks to maintain a secure and level structure.

It’s noteworthy that weather conditions can affect joint filling. Ideally, jointing should be carried out on a dry day. Wet conditions can hamper the sand’s ability to flow freely into joints and may lead to uneven paving.

A periodic check is advised to preserve the block paving’s integrity. This enables early detection and remedy of any loosening in the joints, which could undermine the stability of the pavement over time. Regular maintenance ensures longevity, saving time and resources in the long run.

  • Use kiln-dried sand for optimal joint filling
  • Ensure thorough sweeping
  • Utilize a vibration plate compactor for a firm set
  • Conduct a final sweep and top up as necessary
  • Avoid jointing during wet conditions
  • Perform regular maintenance checks

Finishing touches

Once the joints between the block pavings are thoroughly filled, the next pivotal step is sealing the surface. Sealing block paving serves multiple functions: it enhances the colour, deters weed growth, and protects against various stains such as oil. When choosing a sealant, opting for a product compatible with the specific type of pavers used is crucial.

Sealant application should be carried out on a dry day following the complete settling of the sand into the joints. Applying sealant to damp paving might become cloudy once it dries. A long-handled roller or a low-pressure sprayer can be used for even distribution for the best results.

It’s also wise to address edge restraints as part of the finishing touches. Edge restraints prevent the blocks’ lateral movement and maintain the shape’s integrity over time. Concrete, metal, or plastic edging can be installed around the perimeter to secure the pavers. They’re particularly important in driveways or high-traffic areas with a higher risk of shifting.

After sealant application and edge restraint installation, the newly laid paving requires a settling period. During this time, avoid heavy foot traffic and any vehicular load to allow the surface to cure properly. This period will vary based on climatic conditions and the manufacturer’s specifications for the materials used.

Regular Maintenance Checks are recommended to detect any potential issues early. This care includes looking out for subsidence, which may suggest a compromised sub-base, or noting any loosening of the blocks. Early identification of such problems can lead to swift remedial action, reducing the risk of extensive and costly repairs in the future.


Laying block paving is a meticulous process that rewards attention to detail, particularly when filling the joints with kiln-dried sand and compacting them to lock the blocks firmly in place. Regular maintenance checks coupled with applying a suitable sealant will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also extend the pavement’s longevity.

It’s essential to allow for a proper settling period after the sealant application and to install edge restraints to preserve the pavement’s integrity. By following these steps, homeowners can enjoy a beautifully paved area that stands the test of time. Remember, the key to a successful block paving project lies in the care taken during installation and the ongoing commitment to its upkeep.