Home Life: Tips

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WHILE THE ground is soft, now is the perfect opportunity to build a patio before winter arrives.

1. Plan your patio to avoid having to cut slabs as slabs come in many shapes and sizes. Choose one you like the look of and can lift! If you need to cut a slab, ask your supplier to cut it or visit your local tool hire shop. Ask for advice on the best cutter and how to use it safely.

2. Measure out the shape of your patio and use string and pegs to mark out the area ready for digging.

3. Dig deep enough for the slab thickness and a further 5cm to make room for a bed of sand. On sand, clay or peat sub-soil you'll need to dig out a further 10cm and fill this with well-compacted hardcore. The hardcore can be made up of broken-up house bricks or stone and is used to improve the weight-bearing quality of the ground. You can buy hardcore fill material from builders' merchants.

4. Once the sand is down and levelled off with a rake, put down the slabs. Put down one or two to start with. Check they're going to fit at the correct level. If you're building the patio up to the lawn, make sure the slabs will be slightly below the level of the turf - or they might catch the lawn-mower blades!

5. If your patio is next to a building, make sure it

slopes gently away from the walls so that rainfall will not drain towards the brick-work. Most important of all, if your slabs are placed against the building then the top surface of the slabs must be at least 15cm below the damp-proof course. The 15cm is needed to stop the splash-back from heavy rainfall bouncing onto the wall above the damp-proof course and causing problems. Once the slabs are down you can brush some sand into any gaps between them and finish off any gaps around the edges with a line of gravel.