What you will need
Drain cover (if needed)
kiln dried sand
small whacker (vibrating) plate
a flat piece of wood for screeding
Good preparation is the key to success and you should start by setting out levels. Firstly, choose a direction for the water run-off. Your path will have a slight fall in one direction and be level in the other. You can choose to have your fall either along the length of the path or across its width depending on where you think the water should go to but always make sure you have a fall away from any buildings.
Having chosen your run, set up two string lines along either side of where the path will be and make sure, by laying a spirit level up to the string that you have the correct run. Then you need to dig down to the correct depth required.
You will create your path by building up layers of material and you should dig down to around 180mm below the finished height of the path to accommodate these layers. Once you have dug this out, you are ready for the next stage.
Building the Layers
The first layer to go down is the type one base. Spread a layer of type one along the whole length of the path. Start up the whacker plate (you can hire one of these from your local hire shop) and walk slowly across the type one, firming it down. Add another layer if you need to and fill out any bumps and dips until you have the whole base as level as possible. Whack it again and again until you are sure it is well firmed. This will prevent your path dipping after it is laid. Your height after firming the type one should be around 100mm from the finish height of the path.
Next, you put down a layer of firmed concreting sand - make sure you ask your builder's merchant for concreting sand and not building sand. Concreting sand is sharper than soft building sand and will usually be lighter in colour. Spread out a layer of sand and rake it level. Firm it down well with the whacker plate until you have reached a height that is 80mm from your finish height.
If you are going over a drain, as shown in the images, you will need a special drain cover that takes mono blocks. Set your drain cover over the drain so that it is level with the run of the path and the top of it is exactly at finish level.
Screeding the final layer
Set your scaffold poles on either side of the start of your path (scaffold poles are good because they don't warp or bend as easily as any other material). They should sit at least 100mm outside of the edges of the path. Make sure they are level with the finish height minus 40mm and that they exactly follow your chosen run. Working backwards, fill in between the poles with concreting sand. Only work on a section at a time.
Put your piece of wood across the poles and check again with the spirit level that your poles are running correctly. Pull the wood across the poles, to screed the sand, dragging the sand in front of it until you have a nice level surface.
Make sure you fill in any dips that appear while you are screeding and pull and push the wood across the area as many times as it takes until you have a completely level screed.
Gently slide back the poles and ensure they continue to follow the same run as you started with. Now, you are ready to lay your first section of block.
Laying the block
You need to start by laying the block against a solid surface. If you are laying right up against the house you can use the walls of the house or, if you are laying up to a patio, the patio. If the path is floating, you should make a surface to push against using a thick piece of wood set firmly into the ground. You will use this solid surface to firm up the blocks against each other as you go and also to keep the blocks running straight
You will be laying in a herringbone pattern with a soldier course on either side. A soldier course is a continuous run of block that finishes off the path and keep the whole thing running nice and straight.
Start laying the block as shown below, beginning with the first soldier course block. The block should sit around 10mm above the finish height because, when you whack the whole thing down, they should settle. Settlement varies depending on how dry the sand is so you should test the resistance in the sand by tapping down a block or two to see how far they drop when settled. Once you are satisfied you will reach your desired finish height, you can go ahead with the rest of the block. As you lay the block, tap it once down into the sand using another block and then tap gently (again using another block) in the direction of the arrows as shown below so that you are always straightening the block against your solid surface.
Cut half blocks with your block splitter and use them to fill in the gaps. Continue building up your pattern as shown below.
Carry on screeding and laying until the path is fully laid.
Now the path is laid, you need to secure it so that the blocks don't move and bow, particularly when you whack them down. You do this by haunching it up on all sides. Lay some 150mm damp proof course (DPC) against the outside of the soldier course and then, using gravel, sand and cement, mix up some concrete and mound it up against the soldier course until it is around halfway up the block. Press it firmly against the soldier course to prevent movement. You use bricklayers damp proof course between the soldier course and the haunching to stop the concrete sticking to the block when you go to whack it down. Once your path is secured with haunching all round, you need to leave it for at least 24 hours to set. If you have inserted a drain cover, you can go ahead and lay the blocks into the drain over sand. Whack these down by hand to ensure they are level with the finish height.
After the concrete has set, go over the path with the whacker plate several times to settle the block down. Next, spread kiln dried sand over the whole lot. Don't skimp by using ordinary sand, kiln dried sand is very fine and you need this to fill in the gaps between the blocks or you will get weeds and moss growing through. Pick a dry day for this or the wet sand won't settle to the bottom of the block. Brush the path over several times and then whack it again with the whacker plate to vibrate all the sand to the bottom.
Trim the DPC with a sharp blade and decorate your path with gravel and plants to soften it. Around a month after you have laid the path, brush in another lot of kiln dried sand to top it up and fill in the gaps where the sand has settled. To prevent weed growth in future, brush in more kiln dried sand once a year. Keep some blocks aside to replace any that get stained or broken.
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