Patios, paths and driveways require a firm base to function properly. Learn more about what you need to do before laying a pathway or patio.
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Just as walls require sound foundations for construction, surfaces such as patios, paths and driveways also require a firm base. Foundation depth and type is purely dependent on whether the area will be used only for walking on, or whether cars will be driving or parking on it. Other considerations include the need for adequate drainage, so that water is channeled away from the surface, and away from any walls and the house. As well as being functional, paths and patios have a role in garden design and are often made of decorative materials.
You may already have a clear idea of where you want a path to lead or a patio to be situated, but take time to consider your options. As well as taking into account the hard landscaping itself, think about how the layout and materials fit in with the overall design and style of your house and garden. If your garden has an informal style, consider including some areas for planting, and staggering paving materials to soften straight lines. For a more formal area, choose geometric shapes to carry on the theme.
Privacy is a key concern when planning a patio, because both you and your neighbors will probably prefer not to be overlooked. The exposure of a seating area is also important—a south- or west-facing area receives the most sun during the day and early evening.
You can use garden paths to lead the eye to a focal point and to create interest, or they can be purely for access. Your choice will influence your design—a decorative path might take a winding route, while an access route is more likely to follow a straight line. You can use a single material to create paths, or mix different surfaces. Consider laying slabs or pavers in different patterns.
Hard-landscaped areas are generally designed with some form of edging. If you are making a gravel path or using slabs or pavers laid dry on a sand bed, the edging will help prevent any lateral movement of the surface. Even if the slabs or pavers are bedded into mortar, an edge of some type provides the neatest finish. If a hard-landscaped area abuts a lawn, the edging should be lower than the lawn, so that you can mow over it. Treated lumber can be used or edging blocks bedded into a mortar strip. Treated lumber is the most straightforward to work with, does not require mortar and provides instant guidelines for leveling across a site.
Never seal over any utility covers or other access points to underground services with any kind of hard landscaping. Either build around them or, if they are set very low, create an easily removable and well-marked panel in the surface above or raise the cover itself on a course of bricks. Engineering bricks are ideal for building up the level of a utility cover because of their strength.
The top of an area of hard landscaping that abuts the house must be at least 4 inches below the damp-proof course in a masonry house wall. Any higher than this and splashes from falling rain can bridge the course and cause water problems inside.
Excerpted from Do It Yourself Home Improvement
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009