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Patio Maintenance

Skill Level: Beginner

Introduction

 

Patios and garden paths both need a little maintenance from time to time. Occasionally, paving slabs and blocks will crack or crumble, and will need repair; north facing gardens are a good breeding ground for algae, moss and lichen, and may require fairly frequent maintenance by pressure jet cleaning with a proprietary acid patio cleaner. Apart from looking unsightly if left neglected too long, damaged slabs or paving poses a very real risk to personal safety from trips or falls. Unless your patio or pathway is laid on a firm bed, it will eventually subside, and become uneven; also a risk to safety.

 

Grouting Patio Slabs

The joints between patio paving slabs can be a trap for dirt, debris, or seedlings, leading to unwanted weed growth. In addition to raking the joints out from time to time and re-grouting, it’s a good idea to keep your paving clear of fallen leaves; these too can become very slippery when wet. Whilst on the subject of leaves; if left piled up (above the damp proof course) against a house exterior wall, they can cause dampness to penetrate through to interior walls, causing damage to wall coverings and staining to paint work.
 
Following a good clean out, the joints between patio slabs can be re-grouted by filling with a dry soft sand and cement mix at a ratio of 3:1. Pack the filling material firmly into the joint crevice, compact down, and brush clear.

Removing a Broken Patio Slab

Whether it is a cracked patio slab or a slab that has moved and become uneven; the first thing to do is remove it. This is best done by first raking out the joints around the slab, and where this is a mortar (solid) joint; then you may need to chip it out using a cold chisel and club hammer.
 
If the slab is damaged and is to be replaced, then once the joints are cleaned out, you might find removal easier if you break the slab into smaller pieces. Always wear protective gloves and protective eye wear when doing this job. Broken slabs invariably have sharp edges, and can cause nasty cuts, or injury to the eyes.

Removing an Uneven Patio Slab

Where you wish to remove the slab in order to simply level things up a bit, follow the steps above for cleaning the joints, and once cleaned out, use a crowbar as a lever and lift one edge of the slab. Have a couple of bits of timber off cuts handy to wedge underneath the slab once you have lifted it slightly. This will enable you obtain a better grip when attempting to lift the slab out of position. If you have a pair of steel toe capped boots or shoes, now is the time to get them out. Paving slabs tend to be very heavy, and can be quite painful when dropped on unprotected feet.
 
Once the slab is removed it should be quite easy to see where the low, or high spots are, and where you need to add a little extra packing. This may take one or two attempts to get right, but with aid of a level or timber straight edge, and a mallet; it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Sand or Mortar

Patio slabs should not be laid straight onto a sand base. If you wish to simply level up an existing patio slab, and find they are laid on a sand only bed, then you are advised to consider re-laying the whole lot. Not necessarily all at the same time perhaps, but its going to need doing eventually. Meanwhile, be careful; they could become unstable and loose. Patio paving may be laid direct onto a dry sand and cement mix, loosely sprinkled with water before laying the slab. Most professionals prefer the wet mix method. When slabs are laid this way, they remain secure and stable for a long time.
 
Patio paving slabs should be laid on a sand mortar mix comprising; two parts sharp sand, two parts soft sand, and one part cement. Mix with water in a bucket or even a wheel barrow. A builders or plasters trowel is perfect for depositing the mortar mix and levelling the bed out.

Mortar Bedding

Mix thoroughly a sufficient amount of mortar to bed the slab. Where you are replacing a slab, deposit and spread the mortar mix to the required thickness and gently, and carefully, drop-in and position the new slab. Ensure there is an even gap all round.
 
Use a mallet and a straight length of timber, or a long spirit level, and tap down and check the slab for flushness.
 
When you are satisfied that all is well; flat and flush, with no edges sticking up to trip over, brush a dry pointing mix ( as described above) around and into the joint, and allow to set before walking on.

Setting Time

The longer you leave it, the better. That is to say, 48 hours is better than 24 hours, but this will be also dependent upon the weather.
 
Patio maintenance need not be a big, time consuming or costly job. Regular checks and minor adjustments will keep your patio looking good, keep it safe, and will ensure many years of good service and pleasure.

Tools you will need:
Faithfull 1.8Kg / 4Lb Fibreglass Handled Club Hammer
Faithfull 1.8Kg / 4Lb Fibreglass Handled Club Hammer
- Stanley 4-18-298 3 Piece Cold Chisel Set
Stanley 4-18-298 3 Piece Cold Chisel Set
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