Add garden lights to your patio

Garden lights installed into decking and sleeper wall

With the patio construction pretty much complete and now laid in the 3 major zones around the perimeter of the house (garage, kitchen/dining room, side return) it’s now time to start building the periphery parts of the hard landscaping.

Decorative stone was used to fill the voids around the guttering down pipes and down the gap between the paving slabs and the boundary fence that borders the side return.

Decorative stone in voids
Decorative stone in voids

With the sleeper wall already built in front of the garage patio area, to act as a retaining wall for the earth which forms the lawn part of the garden, the rest of the kitchen/dining room patio needs a boarder to edge the late slabs. To fulfil this requirement and to enhance the overall look of the garden a scheme was developed that involved laying some decking boards in two rows in front of the slabs on a wooden frame.

Frame for decking board patio edging
Frame for decking board patio edging

The frame for the decking boards was made up of 48mm x 74mm timber screwed to wooden piers that have been laid in concrete over a base of Type 1 and hardcore at 1200mm intervals. All the timber used is pressure treated and then painted with wood protection paint to extend the life of the timber. Flat timber screwed into the decking boards and laid on the patio was used to keep the frame in place while the concrete set around the wooden piers. Once the concrete had set the decking boards were screwed in place using stainless steel deck screws that would not rust and corrode over time with exposure to the elements.

Decking boards laid for patio edging
Decking boards laid for patio edging

Low voltage LED decking lights were installed in the deck boards and at the bottom of the sleeper wall.
It is also planned that spike lights will be installed under the trees at the bottom of the garden. This will help to create an inviting and chilled atmosphere for evening enjoyment in the garden.

GaGarden lights installed in sleeper wallrden lights installed in sleeper wall
Garden lights installed in sleeper wall

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #6

Grouting patio joints

One thing you don’t want when you’ve just grouted your patio is to have torrential rain in the next 24 hours which is exactly what we got. The grout had time to harden to a reasonable state but the excessive rain did cause what is known as effervescence where the salts bubble up to the surface and cause white staining on the grout. The grout is supposed to be a charcoal gray colour. We will have to let the grout harden fully for a few weeks and then deal with the discolouration by applying an acid effervescence cleaner to correct the problem.

Salts effervesce from grout
Salts bubble up and effervesce from grout due to heavy rain directly after application

Where the ground level had been graded and lowered below the concrete surrounding the fence posts this was structurally improved using bricks and a cement render made up of 3 parts sharp sand to I part cement and some SBR to aid the mixture sticking to the concrete.

That is the patio at the side of the house pretty much complete except for finishing and now it was time to move onto the patio round the back of the house.

The first job was to sort the frame that fits onto the foul sewer inspection chamber. This will have a slab insert in order to minimise the visual impact of the inspection chamber access cover. The inspection chamber in this instance is a Osma Drain 4D960 inspection chamber and the frame being used is a Clark Drain Recessed cover. The spigot on the Clark Drain allows for different internal diameters of inspection chamber but does not offer much adjustment up and down so the spigot from the old Osma Drain frame cover 4D961 was cut off and the first ring of the spigot from the Clark Drain was also sawn off. This allowed the spigot from the Osma Drain to fit inside the Clark Drain spigot and to be glued using PVC pipe weld adhesive giving a very strong and airtight seal and also allowing some vertical adjustment when setting the frame in place.

Spigot sawn off from Osma Inspection Chamber
Spigot sawn off from Osma Inspection Chamber
Osma Drain spogot glued into Clark Drain spigot
Osma Drain spogot glued into Clark Drain spigot

Next the riser for the inspection chamber needed to be cut down to allow for the height of the cover frame. The riser was marked round with tape to the correct height and then cut with an oscillating multitool. The burrs were cleaned up with a coarse emery cloth.
Inspection chamber riser marked ready to be cut
Inspection chamber riser marked ready to be cut

The height around the riser was built up with type 1 and tamped down then mortar was trowelled into place around the riser and the frame set in place to the correct height of the surrounding slabs and with a slight fall matching the rest of the patio. The slabs around the frame were cut using an electric tile cutter which had a water tray for the blade to suppress dust. Also water was dribbled onto the slab while it was being cut. The operators wore face guard, face mask and ear defenders. Type 1 was added around the frame and tamped down and then the slabs were set in place.
Inspection chamber access cover frame set in place
Inspection chamber access cover frame set in place

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #5

Slabs laid ready for grouting

With the ground levelled, falls going the right way around the property and the MoT type 1 spread over and compacted with a petrol plate the slab laying is now well under way.

Slab laying well under way
Slab laying well under way

The cement was mixed with a 4 to 1 sand to cement ratio and some plasticizer was added to aid workability and the whole mix was made up in an electric cement mixer.
Cement mixer setup under gazebo in case it rains
Cement mixer setup under gazebo in case it rains

When laying the slabs the mortar bed was built up a couple of centimetres above the height that was needed to allow for the slab to be levelled once put in place.
Cement mortar bed waiting for the slab to be laid
Cement mortar bed waiting for the slab to be laid

The slabs were set a few millimetres above the edge of the channel drain and because the slabs had a waney edge they were set back at least 10 millimetres from the drain itself.
Channel drains taped up ready for grouting
Channel drains taped up ready for grouting

A rubber mallet was used to tap the slabs down in order to level them and a spirit level was used to make sure the slab was level with the surrounding slabs and also that the fall on the slab was going in the right direction. The cement was checked to make sure that there were no voids under the slab. On the smaller slabs to borrow a phrase from the tiling world the slabs were “back buttered” with styrene butadiene copolymer or SBR for short to aid adhesion and stop them from popping up when trodden on although this will be mitigated by the grouting process.
Small slabs back buttered with SBR to aid adhesion
Small slabs back buttered with SBR to aid adhesion

Once the slabs were laid they were allowed to set for a couple of days. It was time to start the grouting process. The channel drains were taped up to protect them from the grouting process. A gunnable cement mortar grout mix was being used. The mortar being used has structural properties to give the overall patio strength once all the bedding mortar and grout have set fully after a few weeks. The mortar was mixed with the right amount of water in a bucket using a mixing paddle.
Mixing gunnable grout mortar using paddle mixer
Mixing gunnable grout mortar using paddle mixer

Once the grout mortar had been mixed properly it was placed into the mortar gun with a grout mortar piping bag having had the nozzle cut off to allow the mixture to flow easier. The mortar grout mixture in this case is fairly runny anyway and flows easily.
Grout piping bag
Using grout piping bag to fill grout gun

The grout was applied into the slab joints after well watering the joints and mopping up any standing water. The grout was allowed to set for a couple of minutes before being struck off with a grout strike. A sponge was used to wipe off the excess from the top of the slabs being careful not to rake out the grout from the joint.

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #4

Slate Tiles

With most of the below ground works finished it’s now time to start building the ground back up.
A green led laser level (more easily seen in daylight) was used to mark the highest point of the patio Then allowing for other factors like depth of service pipes below ground, slope of the lawn and distance of the slabs below the damp proof course (DPC) an amount of overall fall was calculated and then marked at the opposite end of the patio. In this case a fall of 40mm over 6 metres was achieved which is a little under the desirable gradient of 1 in 80.

Stakes were banged into the ground and string run between them to mark the top of the slabs from front to back. Allowing for the thickness of the slab, 40mm for the cement base and 80mm for the MoT type 1 subbase another string was run at the subbase level to show where the type 1 needed to be filled up to or ground shaved off to allow for the 80mm of type 1.

The ground was prepared with pickaxe and shovel to make it the right level for the Mot type 1. Excess spoil removed in the process was sieved through an automatic rotary soil sieve to create a pile of topsoil and another pile of stones which would be used as the first layer below the type 1 subbase. Any difficult areas of the old concrete patio base were broken up with a hex shank electric breaker using a wide flat chisel.

Once the ground was prepared the stones extracted from sieving the spoil were spread over the proposed patio area as far as they would go and then compacted using a petrol compactor plate (wacker plate). Then the rest of the required thickness was made up by the MoT type 1 and compacted using the plate.
The next step was to set the channel drain. This was installed 3mm below where the top of the patio slab would finish and laid in a bed of 4 to 1 sand and cement. End caps were put on at the highest ends using PVC pipe weld cement and the lengths were cut to clip into the 4 way corner unit which joins into the top of the soakaway pipe via the P trap through a double socket coupler joined to a piece of pipe. A gap of 10mm was left between the channel drain and the wall to allow gun injected patio mortar to be applied once the patio had been laid.

Now it was time to lay the first patio slab. The first slab required a cut to make it fit round the base of the concrete fence post. The cut was made with the combination of an angle grinder and an electric tile cutter using wet cut diamond blades. The electric tile cutter has a tray which you fill with water that the blade runs through to aid dust suppression. A facemask, face guard, protective goggles and ear defenders were used to protect the operators. Water was dribbled on to the slab while the slab was being cut to help the dust suppression process even more.

Type 1
Type 1 laid and pounded into flat surface.

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #3

New drainage pipe for channel drain

Round by the garage and the back door of the property the wall of the garage is built into the bank of the house next door. The gravel boards of the boundary fence also act as a retaining wall holding the earth back. Rainwater runoff from higher up the road runs into the patio area of the house and makes the external walls wet when it rains hard. There is a Damp Proof Course (DPC) which prevents water penetrating internally.

To alleviate the effects of the surface rainwater run off a channel drain will be installed against the kitchen wall and continued round at the bottom of the patio running parallel with a new retaining wall which will hold back the earth from the garden. The retaining wall is made of new sleepers of lengths 1.2 metres and 1.8 metres and widths 100mm x 150mm. A narrow trench was dug and filled with type 1 with a sand and cement base that the first lot of sleepers were laid on with haunching (cement support) applied to the back of the sleeper wall once the wall was finished.

Type 1 and cement base for sleeper wall
Type 1 and cement base for sleeper wall

The sleepers were staggered to match the height of the earth that would be retained behind the wall. They were cut and offered up dry to start with to make sure they fitted together properly. Holes were drilled in the sleepers to accept 1.2 metre long 20mm steel rods which were passed through the sleepers and hammered into the ground with 2 part polyester resin being used to glue the rods inside the sleepers. The sleepers were also glued in place with a quick setting Silyl Modified Polymer glue.

Sleeper wall partially built
Sleeper wall partially built

Once the wall was complete it was left for 24 hours to allow the adhesives to set properly.

Sleeper wall finished
Sleeper wall finished

The rainwater which comes off the garage roof is carried away by a gutter into a downpipe. An inspection pit was dug following the line of the downpipe from the gutter in order to trace where the water was draining to.

Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway
Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway. Main main foul water sewer pipe routed above.

The downpipe exited into a 110mm 90 degree bend by means of a flexible reducer pushed over the pvc pipe. The inspection pit revealed that the pipe went under the shared services foul water drainage pipe and continued into a soakaway. A trench was dug to run the pipe which would be teed off and run up to the channel drain.

Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway
Inspection pit to reveal drainage pipe leading to soakaway. Main main foul water sewer pipe routed above.

In order to carry away the water from the new channel drain it was proposed that the rainwater drainage pipe for the garage roof gutter would have a tee placed into it and a new trench would be dug for a pipe to be laid and run upto a P trap. The use of a P trap was just to stop any possible gases coming up from the soakaway and exiting into the atmosphere at ground level through the channel drain. The P trap has a downpipe that joins the bottom of the corner joint of the channel drain. Here the pipe is cut to accept the slip coupling and double socket branch.

Pipe cut ready to fit slip coupling
Pipe cut ready to fit slip coupling

Then the slip coupling is inserted with pipe lubricant …

Fitting slip coupling
Fitting slip coupling with joint lubricant to aid movement of coupling up and down pipe.

… and the double socket branch is inserted into the pipe.

Double socket branch tee fitting
Double socket branch tee fitted to facilitate installation of drainage pipe to channel drain.

Then a piece of straight pipe was inserted into the double socket outlet and 90 degree adjustable double socket bend was inserted into that which allowed a long piece of pipe to be run upto a 15 degree bend and into the P trap. The P trap was placed on type 1 and then a piece of broken patio slab to give a firm base. Once the P trap outlet was judged to be in the correct place to accept the channel drain outlet 10mm pea shingle gravel was shovelled into the trench to backfill the space around the pipes.

Trench backfilled with 10mm gravel pea shingle
Trench backfilled with 10mm gravel pea shingle

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #2

subbase collapse under patio

This is part 2 of the patio replacement project which we are starting for the summer. We have pulled up the old patio slabs revealing the thin sand base layer that the original house builders put down.

A pickaxe is useful for levering up the old slabs and breaking up the ground while an electric breaker is useful for any concreted areas.

Be careful when pulling up the slabs and using hand tools like a pickaxe or shovel or power tools such as a breaker to remove earth that you do not damage any underground services like water supply or waste pipes. It’s always a good idea to know where the services run and how close to the surface they are when digging out spoil.

Here you can see a drainpipe which is quite close to the surface where it exits the down pipe.

Be aware of existing service pipes
Be aware of existing service pipes

Round by the rear of the garage the slabs had sunken quite badly where they butted up to the garage wall. This was most prominent near the rain gutter down pipe which could highlight that there is a leak in the pipe below ground level which is washing out the substrate causing the slabs to sink.

To investigate this a large trench was dug in order to find out the state of the pipework.  A visual inspection revealed the pipework looked undamaged and pouring some water into the gutter showed that there were no leaks.

What digging down did reveal was that the garage had been built using a block and beam construction and the void under the floor had been left open underneath the outer most precast beam. Because the garage is single skin the wall had been built on top of the beam which meant there was no outer facing brickwork laid down to the concrete foundation footing level and therefore the void was open allowing the collapse of the patio substrate into the void.

Patio sub-base collapsed into block and beam void
Patio sub-base collapsed into block and beam void

In order to remedy this some pressure battens were glued to the brick and block piers and pressure treated gravel boards were screwed onto the battens underneath the outer most beam. This will stop the hardcore and type 1 that we put back into the trench from collapsing into the void underneath the block and beam garage floor.

Shuttering to block and beam void
Shuttering to block and beam void

Then the trench was back filled with pea shingle, hardcore and sharp sand.

Back fill of pea shingle, hardcore and sand put back in service trench
Back fill of pea shingle, hardcore and sand put back in service trench

Once the slabs had been pulled up and removed the next step was to workout how much spoil to remove in order to get the correct fall on the patio. This was done using a long spirit level and some stakes banged into the ground to mark the level of the top of the slab that would allow a fall of between 25mm per metre and 25mm per 2 metres. Then dig out enough of the ground to allow the required 100mm of type 1, 50mm of mortar and then the thickness of the slab.

Enhance your property by laying a new patio – part #1

Old uneven patio

Now that the summer is fast approaching it is time to start thinking about your outside spaces. This patio is twenty years old and is beginning to show its age. The patio slabs have sunken in places and have become uneven in high traffic areas. It’s time to pull up the old pavers and lay down a new patio.

When the original house builders laid the patio they put down a very thin sub base of hardcore and then laid a thin layer of sand on top without compacting the earth underneath. This has led to the slabs sinking and becoming uneven in places. See the picture below.

The first part of the project is to pull the slabs up and prepare the groundwork. This will involve taking off the old sand base layer and digging out the hardcore sub base and some of the earth below that to give enough depth for the sub base, base and slab layers. This will allow for a new sub base of 100mm of sub base Type 1 MoT. MoT stands for Ministry of Transport which is the specification for the type of hardcore used for sub base layers also known as DoT or Department of Transport. On top of the Type 1 will go a base layer of cement to a depth of 40mm. The base layer will be made up of 3 parts sharp sand and one part cement with the slabs being laid on top of the base layer. The depth of the slab should be taken into account as well to allow for a gap of 50mm if possible below the level of the damp proof course (DPC) so that the risk of water penetration into the brickwork from the splash back of droplets against the wall when it rains is minimised.

Landscaping Case Study – Planting Trees in Back Garden

New trees two years on

Just finished a project to plant four Extra-Heavy Standard trees to act as a screen in a back garden.

The trees chosen to plant were 2 Red Rob (Photinia) and 2 Holme Oaks (Quercus Ilex). Both these types of trees are evergreen to give screening all year round. The trees were supplied in containers – the Oaks in 600mm diameter pots and the Red Robins in 900mm diameter pots.

Red Robin in containers on Patio

Quercus Ilex in containers on Patio

Trees on patio surounded by trugs of dug-out earth

The tree pit was dug to twice the diameter of the containers and the sides and bottom well worked with a fork. A small mound was made at the bottom sprinkled with Mycorrhizal Fungi.The mound was made up of 75% soil taken from the original spoil of the tree pit and 25% Levington Tree and Shrub compost.

First hole dug

Prepared tree pit with Mycorrhizal Fungi

The root ball of the tree was winched into position on the mound so the top of the root ball was level with the top of the tree pit. The hole was then back-filled with the rest of the 75% soil / 25% compost mixture with a small amount of Fish Blood and Bone.

Winching the containers up the garden into the tree pits

Winch used to drag trees up garden

Frst Red Robin planted

First Quercus Ilex planted into newly dug tree-pit

To finish, some bark chippings were sprinkled over the root ball and rest of the back filled tree pit. The tree was well watered in and then the root ball and surrounding area were moderately watered every few days since. The 2 Ilex have been lightly staked as very high winds have been experienced since the trees were planted.

Newly planted trees from dining room window

Newly planted trees from bedroom window

Two years later, the trees are doing well and have put on a couple of feet. The screen they provide is very effective and I’m sure you’ll agree they look as beautiful as they are practical.

Trees two years on