Embarrassed by the state of your slate patio?

Slate patio after being fully refurbed

A new slate patio can look absolutely amazing in the beginning giving your garden that wow factor and makes a great platform to build an outdoor room around. The downside occurs when dirt and debris start to become ingrained into the slate and begins making that lovely deep slate colour look very dirty and discoloured. A good session with the trusty jet wash does make a bit of a difference but still doesn’t regain that gorgeous initial lustre that the slate had when it was first laid.

Have no fear though as re-invigorating the slate back to it’s original condition is not as an impossible task as you may think. There are products available on the market today that make the job of cleaning the patio a successful one albeit requiring a lot of time and effort being invested in order to reclaim the desired finish.

Slate patio before refurbishment
Slate patio before refurbishment

There are different cleaning agent manufacturers some provide multiple product systems which facilitate cleaning, stripping and then finally conditioning and sealing the tiles.

Below is a picture of the patio slabs before they have been refurbed and after they had a good jet wash. You can see that the patina of the tile is very dull and shows a mixture of ingrained dirt and the residue of previous conditioning products.

Slate Ppatio tile after initial jetwash
Slate patio tile after initial jetwash

The first products we applied using an every day sponge floor mop cleaned up the surface of the tile removing any loose dirt. The cleaning agent was jet washed off – the slates need to be completely dry before the next stage.  We then applied a stripping agent in the same way using the floor mop which had to be left on for an hour and kept wet by reapplying the agent while it penetrated the old coating. The stripping agent was agitated with a stiff bristle broom and then washed off with the jet wash and again let to fully dry.

The next and very important stage was to apply a neutralising agent in the same way as the other cleaners, this is important because if any chemicals remain on the slates, you will not get the desired effect from the sealant which would be very disappointing considering the effort put in up to this point.

Once the patio was completely dry, we then applied three coats of the conditioning and sealing agent using a paint pad, each coat was left for 10 minutes and then the excess sealant removed with micro clothes and then left for another 20-30 minutes before applying the next coat.  Once all three coats have been applied and left the required times, an electric machine polisher/buffer with a wool bonnet attachment was used all over to bring out the slate’s natural colour as shown in the image below. This brings out the really deep lustre of the slate and shows the full colour and patination.  The coating also provides a waterproof coating so water sits on top of the slates, if this effect is not achieved, another coat of sealant should be applied as this waterproofing will prolong the protection of your slates patio.

Convert your shady bare slope into a beautiful rockery

Finished Alpine Rockery

Do you have a bare slope on your property that is hidden by trees and partly in the shade. If so then you probably find its difficult to get plants to grow especially if you have trees growing on the slope.

Trees tend to drink a lot of water so any plants that are growing in and around them have to fight for the nutrients and the light that they need. The ground tends to become very hard and compact and the only things that seem to thrive in this environment are the weeds.

It can be really frustrating trying to maintain such a piece of ground so that it looks good all year round and doesn’t need constant attention.

We had a project to landscape just this sort of area and decided that a rockery was the ideal solution. We could infill the stones with alpine plants that would add all year-round interest to the space but wouldn’t need a huge amount of tender loving care in order to thrive.

The first stage of the project was to calculate how much material was required and place an order with the suppliers. The slope in question is approximately 25 square metres. Using an online aggregate estimation tool and adding a reasonable amount on for good measure I calculated that we would need around 3 tonnes of 40 millimetre slate chippings to cover the entire area. The supplier we used delivered the chipping in 3 formats, loose, palletised in one giant bag or in small 20 kilogramme bags also on a pallet. From personal experience it’s much easier humping aggregate when it’s delivered in small bags and can be easily lifted and wheel barrowed to its required destination. Shovelling loose slate from a pile into a barrow is back breaking work. In this instance we ordered 3 tonne of the large bulk bag as this was a bit cheaper than the multibag option.

Chippings shovelled into trugs
Chippings shovelled into trugs

No rockery would be complete without the large rockery stones themselves. The supplier that I was using for the slate chippings also did a 1 tonne caged pallet of large grey slate rockery stones. The order was placed and delivery set for 2 days from the date of the order.

For the retaining edging I decided to do it in treated 19 x 150 timber. A breathable and permeable membrane would be laid to help prevent weeds from growing. Because the slope is quite severe in places, I decided that in order to prevent the large rockery stones from rolling down the slope after they were placed in position that I would drill a hole in some stones and insert steel round bar which would be driven into the ground and hold the stone in place. The round bar I sourced as a 6 millimetre chromed threaded bar at a reasonable price from a well know trade counter along with a diamond tipped drill to put the holes in the stones. I also placed some of the 18 x 150 timber strategically along the slope to give the stones some support in particularly steep areas. 

The first job was to clear any existing weeds from the slope and then roughly place some of the large stones to get an idea of how they would look and make sure that the 1 tonne of stone was evenly distributed.

Roughly laying out rocks
Roughly laying out rocks

The next job was to cut and lay the membrane. Use a few stones to hold the membrane down or some long pins that can be purchased online.

Cutting membrane to fit slope
Cutting membrane to fit slope

Then it was time to start placing the large stones permanently. Any that were in a precarious position on the slope I drilled a hole in the bottom and inserted the round bar.

Diamond tipped drill being used to put hole in rock
Diamond tipped drill being used to put hole in rock

The round bar was then driven into the ground to support the stone and stop it running way down the slope. Other stones were then placed around the supported one to create a clump of stones.  

Round bar inserted into rock
Round bar inserted into rock
Rock placed with stabilising round bar driven into the ground
Rock placed with stabilising round bar driven into the ground

Once all the large stones were in place it was time to start spreading the chippings around. I started from the bottom up so that the chippings were supporting each other as they were applied further up the slope.

Chippings piled onto boards and shovelled onto final destination
Chippings piled onto boards and shovelled onto final destination

We also had some chippings that we had collected from clearing another project but these chippings had been laid for quite some time and were covered in earth, mulch and roots from other plants so we used an electric sieve to wash them down in order to prepare them for putting on the rockery. I

Sieve used to wash chippings
Sieve used to wash chippings

Once all the chippings had been spread over the slope we washed them down to get rid of the slurry that is made during manufacture.

The final stage was to insert some alpine plants into the crevices of the stones, we chose alpines that flowered at different times to give year round appeal with a mixture of different coloured flowers and bright green foliage to add contrast and made sure they were ideal for shady or partly shaded locations.

Rockery after stones have been washed
Rockery after stones have been washed

Cloak-room makeover

Corner sink basin

This cloak-room has remained the same since the house was built in 2000. It was uninspiring then with all the inlet and waste pipes unflatteringly on display below the wall hung corner basin. Now was the time to give the cloak-room a makeover and give it a more contemporary feel.

Old cloak-room in need of renovation
Old cloak-room in need of renovation

The first job was to pull up the old carpet and level the floor with a self leveling screed. The old toilet was unscrewed and removed (nb the toilet and corner basin were recycled on the freecycle website reducing waste costs and helping the environment at the same time!) making sure the waste pipe was taped up to stop waste gases coming out of the pipe and into the house. A long spirit level was used to show high points in the floor.

Cloak-room concrete floor
Cloak-room concrete floor

Once the floor was leveled it was time to lay some tiles. A dark gray square porcelain tile was chosen and laid in a square brickwork pattern with a 4 mm grout joint width.

Gray slate porcelain tile laid in square brickwork pat
Gray slate porcelain tile laid in square brickwork pattern

The tiles were laid with a rapid flexible adhesive that requires only three hours setting time before the grouting can be applied. A light gray grout was used and as always pulling the grout float at 45 degrees across the grout lines so as not to drag the grout out of the joints and then taking the excess off with a sponge before it dries hard on the tiles. The grout was left to harden for 24 hours before the tiles were then cleaned up with a grout remover using a non scratch scouring sponge and washed off with plenty of water.

Gray grout
Gray grout

Next job was to cut off the old overflow pipe and fill the remaining hole as the new toilet has an integral overflow outlet that vents into the pan and to re-position the water inlet pipe to accommodate the new back to the wall close coupled WC.

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Remove overflow and re-position inlet

To re-position the copper water inlet pipe the old elbow had to be removed and replaced with a new one at a different angle. First the water was turned off, the pipe was cut after the elbow and any water in the pipe was taken out. The paint around the joint was rubbed off with emery cloth and flux was brushed around the joint. Then to de-solder the elbow joint heat was applied to the elbow very carefully by placing a heat protecting soldering mat over the pipe to stop the flame from burning the wall. Map gas was used in the blow torch as this burns hotter than propane. Heat had to be applied to the joint for about a minute right in the hottest part of the flame about an inch from the torch nozzle before the soldered joint released itself and the elbow could be taken off.

Soldered copper elbow joint to be removed
Soldered copper elbow joint to be removed

Then a new elbow was soldered on making sure the pipe and elbow were cleaned up first with wire wool and flux was placed around the inside of the copper elbow and outside of the pipe. A new piece of pipe was soldered on the other end of the elbow and a 1/2 inch straight tap connector soldered onto that. This enabled a braided hose with an isolating ball valve to be screwed on the end to connect to the cistern inlet for the water supply.

Soldered copper pipe for cistern inlet
Soldered copper pipe for cistern inlet with elbow and isolating ball valve

Next the wall was painted and the new back to the wall toilet and cistern were connected and screwed down. With there being no gap behind the WC it does make connecting the waste pan connector and inlet water supply slightly tricky. A flexible pan connector and 500 mm braided hose for the water supply give enough play to allow the joints to be made without too much trouble. A tip for putting the pan connector on is to put washing up liquid over the exterior of the pan outlet pipe to aid sliding the pan connector on.

Back to the wall WC
Back to the wall WC

Next the sink was removed and the rest of the walls painted . The hot and cold water supply inlet copper pipes were cut to allow 1/2 inch straight tap connectors to be soldered on and isolating ball valves screwed on to those in order for the tap connectors to be attached later when the sink gets installed.

Isolation ball valves and tap connectors for sink
Isolation ball valves and tap connectors for sink

Next the vanity unit was altered with cutouts made in the shelves and carcass to allow it to fit around the pipework. The vanity unit was screwed to the wall at the top and bottom to make it stable.

Altered vanity unit carcass
Altered vanity unit carcass

With the vanity unit fitted the tap and clicker waste were installed in the sink with clear jointing compound placed around the joints of the clicker waste to help the seal and the sink was put in place with dobs of silicon placed around the top of the vanity unit carcass to keep the sink in place. The tap connectors were screwed on and the waste connected up with a flexible hose and the door put on the vanity unit. A tiled mosaic splash back was created around the sink using a contrasting tile of grays, greens and browns with a light gray grout to tie in with the grout used for the floor tiles. Then the skirting board was fitted and the fixtures and fittings put on the wall.

Cloak room makeover
Cloak-room makeover

Vanity unit in cloak-room makeover
Vanity unit in cloak-room makeover

Cloak-room makeover finished
Cloak-room makeover complete