A crazy paving path

Hard-wearing and easy to look after, crazy paving makes a neat, informal and attractive garden path.

Laying square or rectangular slabs for paths can he a problem if there are awkward shapes to cur and difficulties in dealing with curves. Crazy paving – a random pattern made up from pieces of stone of different shapes and sizes – is an ideal option. With crazy paving, it’s easy to lay a path whatever its shape, and straight paths can he greatly enhanced by the intricate patterns created.

Materials to use

Crazy paving is made from broken stone or concrete paving slabs. These may come second-hand or as damaged stock from a paving supplier. You can buy them from a local builder’s merchant, garden centre or stone merchant. It is even worth contacting your local authority, which often has quantities of unwanted pavement stone. York stone is the best quality but it is much more expensive.

Broken paving slabs are cheap and come in a range of natural-looking and dyed pastel and bright colours, and an equally wide variety of textures. Prices are usually per tonne – the metric tonne is about 16kg (35lb) lighter than the imperial ton, which is a lot less stone than you might imagine. Make sure that the prices quoted include delivery.

When buying crazy paving, you are unlikely to have much say over the type of slabs offered and you’ll probably get a mixture of textures, thicknesses and colours. If you want one particular type, such as reproduction stone slabs made from concrete set in a mould made from genuine stone, visit the supplier in person and carefully explain your requirements. You might have to pay more but the finished effect will be worth it.

If you live in an area where natural stone is quarried, check out the possibility of using this instead of broken paving stones. If your house or certain garden features are made of this stone, that is an added incentive. However, if local supplies are not available, the cost of delivery from another area could be high.

To work out how much paving to order, measure the area to be covered and reckon that a tonne of paving will cover about 8sq m (85sq ft), depending on the slab thickness. Double check this figure with the supplier before placing your order.

A dry run

When arranging crazy paving, try to aim for a random effect, with large, medium-sized and small stones or slabs tidily interlocking like a jigsaw puzzle, ideally with small gaps. Avoid continuous straight lines or joins running along or across the path.

Before constructing the path, carry out a dry run on a lawn or other level surface close to the site. Alternatively, dig the foundations and experiment in situ directly on the sand. Sort the stones into piles according to size – large, medium and small. Break up any stones too large to use with a brick bolster and clubhammer.

If the path has straight sides, select large stones with one straight edge for use along the perimeters: small stones are liable to break away, especially if laid on sand. If the path is curved, use stones with relatively short, straight sides for the edges; gentle, rather than tight curves, are more easily laid and more attractive.

Use more large (and medium-sized) stones in the centre of the path and, finally, fill in with the small ones.

Preparing the site Crazy paving is often laid on sharp sand over hardcore (broken bricks and stones). The stones are then laid in mortar on top of the sand. On well-compacted firm soil, however, you can lay the stones directly on sand with no underlying hardcore layer. This is an ideal base if you want to grow plants in the cracks between the slabs.

YOU WILL NEED

One part cement to five parts soft (building or bricklayer’s) sand: you can mix up your own mortar from the basic ingredients, but it is easier to buy dry pre-mixed bricklaying mortar to which you just add water. Small amounts can be mixed in a builder’s bucket; for larger amounts, use an old wooden board and a shovel.

Start by laying the larger pieces of stone along the edges of the path and then fill between them with more large pieces as well as smaller pieces. Add or remove mortar as necessary.

If pieces don’t fit together neatly enough, cut them to size. To do this, mark a cutting line on the surface of the stone with chalk. Rest the stone on sand or earth, and use a brick bolster (a cutting tool with a broad, splayed-out blade) and club hammer to cut along the line you’ve marked.

Don’t hit the stone too hard, or it may crack along the wrong line. Work along the line with a series of gentle taps and increase the force of the blow until the stone splits. Trim off any rough edges with the hammer. When you have completed all the bedding, allow the mortar to harden for 24 hours.

Pointing

Finish a path laid on a mortar foundation by ‘pointing’ the joints – filling them with mortar. This time, use a fairly dryish mix, so that any mortar which falls on the face of the stones will not stain. Trowel the mortar in between the stones, pressing it into place. Leave it to harden for at least 24 hours before walking on it. Cover with polythene sheeting if there is any chance of rain.

If the path surface has to be above ground level, add an additional mortar fillet (a triangular shaped strip) along the edges of the path to give the edge stones additional support.

Adding colour

You can use different coloured stones, or intersperse one colour among natural coloured paving stones, but be careful not to make the effect too garish. A range of pale, medium and dark greys is also effective. Another possibility is to edge the path with brick.

You can also add colour to the mortar mix, especially as newly-laid mortar is glaringly white. The pointing can be coloured to match the stone, or you could make a feature of the pointing by using a contrasting colour. Proprietary dyes are available from builders’ merchants. Mortar dye changes colour when it dries, so mix a small amount to test before deciding how much colouring to use.

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