aj mccormack and son

Flags & Slabs - Page 06
The Brew Cabin
flags and slabs


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Forum Question Laying over old concrete - Marcio - Feb 20th 2003
I am doing a new landscape for my garden. I am extending the patio and laying Stonemarket flags. The old patio is 4 inches of solid concrete about 30 years old, in good condition. I would like to know if I can lay the new flags on this old concrete base and lay a new one for the remaining part of the patio?
forum answer Tony McCormack - Feb 20th 2003
There's nowt to stop you laying the Stonemarket flags over the top of the existing concrete base, Marcio, but have you enough depth below your dpc? Remember: in an ideal world, the paving should be at least 150mm lower than the dpc. If your existing concrete patio is already 150mm below dpc, then laying a 40mm thick flags on a 40mm thick bedding layer will bring you dangerously close to the dpc, and that's just the sort of thing that Surveyors pick up on when/if you come to sell the property.

There's a couple of pages on the site that might be worth reading - the Laying over a Base page deals, primarily, with block paving, but the principles involved are the same. The DPC page outlines a few 'workarounds' that might be feasible in your situation.

Where you want to extend the patio, then laying a new concrete sub-base makes sense, and would be the best way to do it, assuming the dpc problem is resolved first.

Forum Question Low cost riven stone - Herbs - Feb 22nd 2003
I am looking to alter my 'bare' new lawned garden and have looked today at New Riven Yorkstone. I have planned for approx 65 sq m but I feel £2000 is a bit pricey, (Bannolds of Cambridge). Are there any 'cheaper' quality alternatives to the real stuff so I do not have to scale back my plans?

The work I shall carry out myself so I am only looking at raw materials.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Feb 23rd 2003
The imported Indian sandstone is probably what you've been quoted for, Herbs. The decent imported stuff is selling for 20-30 quid per square metre, so, with you after 65 m², the better, 'top of the range' stuff would come to summat like 1950 quid. Genuine Yorkstone, from the north of England (Lancs, Derbys, and/or Yorks) would cost more like 40 quid per square metre, and even decent reclaimed stone would be 30 quid or so per square metre.

So, you're left looking at either the cheaper imports, the stuff at 18-20 quid per square metre, or the concrete copies. The cheaper stone isn't as tough as the good stuff, but there are some bargains, if you're prepared to shop around. The concrete copies...well, you need to be spending 25 quid or so per square metre to get the ones that actually look like stone. There's plenty that look like imitation stone in the 15-20 quid per m² range, and there's real crappy ones at 8-15 quid per metre.

You have to decide what suits your plans. Even the very best concrete copies will look even more like concrete copies in 10 years, whereas the genuine stone will always look like genuine stone. Have a look at a few more merchants. Kent-Blaxill in Colchester have a superb range of genuine stone and the concrete copies, so it might be worth paying them a visit to see if there's owt a bit cheaper that catches your eye.

Or have you considered one of the tumbled block pavers? They can give you an olde worlde look and feel at a price under 20 quid per square metre.

Guest Poster
Jan 11th 2003
We at Rock Unique have in stock all of the hardest Indian sandstone in thick sections and five sizes at a flat price of £17.50m². Also sandstone, slate, limestone and Porphyry flagstones from Brazil prices from £24.00m² to £34m² for Porphyry
Forum Question Heritage over concrete - IanB - Feb 26th 2003
I currently have a concrete driveway, which is approx 20 yrs old, which I am thinking of paving over the top of. The concrete is sound, (I've had several skips full of land and concrete on it), but is old and weathered. I was looking at drilling drainage holes in the concrete and then putting down a base of sand over the top of the concrete and paving over the top with some paving flags, possibly the Marshalls patio paving flags (Heritage I think) and pointing between them. I would also be leaving a 100mm gap between the house wall and the paving to filled with decorative gravel so this does not affect the DPC.

Are these paving flags Ok for a driveway with frequent vehicle overrun?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Feb 26th 2003
Well, they are and they aren't. They can be used on a driveway, but they need to be bedded onto concrete, as, being only 40mm thick wet-cast products, they are NOT strong enough to take the weight of a car if laid on an unbound bed, such as sand.

So, if they are laid on concrete or mortar over the existing concrete, the rigid bedding makes them just about strong enough to take low speed traffic from family cars and small vans. However, as wet-cast concrete with a decorative riven effect, they wear relatively quickly compared to a pressed concrete paver such as BS Flags or Block Pavers, and with the typical driveway layout, where you're tracking up and down the same strip day in and day out, they wear even faster, creating two stripes of exposed concrete where the decorative texturing/moulding has been eroded by the regular trafficking.

Given the cost of these flags, I'd strongly recommend you look to use a pressed alternative, such as the Drivesett or Driveline, and use the existing concrete driveway as a 'sub-base'. Using a 50mm thick paver on a 40mm bed of sand builds up the paving level about the same as a 40mm wet-cast patio flag and a 40mm bed of concrete/mortar, so there's nowt lost in that respect, but the pavers tend to be slightly cheaper per square metre than the better quality patio flags.

Forum Question Unsatisfactory Workmanship? - Lumpy - Mar 3rd 2003
Two months ago, we had some paving re-laid by a landscaping company. It is an area of about 16 square metres, the paving slabs are Liscannor stone (various sizes, but all rectangular), and the base was about two thirds existing concrete path, the rest being earth/soil that had been lying under concrete paving slabs for several years. The original paving had been put down by someone who really didn't care about what they were doing (the slabs were laid on a dry mix and were far from level, they rocked, and he had smeared cement all over the edges of the stone while pointing - it was a mess).

The paving was re-laid on a wet mix during cold and damp weather and was pointed 2 days later (again while the weather was cold and damp). Initally it looked okay, although some of the gaps between the stone varied from about 5mm to 30mm, but once the weather started to clear up, we could see that the new pointing was on the stone as well as in the gaps (it spread over the stone by anything between 10mm and 20mm). We tried to brush it off with a wire brush, but we had very limited success for a lot of effort. We reported the problem to the landscaping company a couple of weeks later when they were back at work after Christmas, and by this time we had found that some of the slabs rocked too. Fortunately, we hadn't paid them a penny as yet because they had a few more bits of work to do for us. It tooks seven weeks of phone calls, plus a letter stating that we'd pay someone else to do the job properly, to get them to make an appointment to come back again.

On seeing the paving, they tried to argue that the pointing looked fine (they even claimed that the pointing was a dry mix that should not have stuck to the stone in the first place), but when we persisted they agreed to tackle it. They came back with an acid wash/rinse, which removed some of the pointing but not all (they claimed some of it could not be removed, but even as they demonstrated this by scraping at it with a trowel, some of it did come away). They also relaid some of the rocking slabs, but when pointing them (on the same day) they again spread the pointing over the stone edges. When we checked later, we again found some slabs that are certainly loose (when we stamp on them they seem to hit the underlying concrete and spring back up again) and others that appear to be loose (they dip at one corner when you stand on them).

We still have not paid them, although they are now pressing to be paid, so before I hand over any cash I'd really appreciate the advice of those that really know this area. To us it seems like the job was badly done, but we really don't know what qaulity of work we should expect as we are not familiar with the foibles of paving. Specifically:

  • - is it acceptable to have any pointing over the edge of the stone slabs? It looks messy, but is it even feasible/possible to avoid it?
  • - should the gaps between the stone slabs be a consistent size throughout the paved area, or is this expecting too much?
  • - some of the slabs are "at angles" to some of the others i.e. the edge of one slab dips downwards while the edge of the next slab dips upwards. The difference in height between the edges is no more than 4 or 5 mm, but should we expect the slabs to be more "level" relative to each other?
  • - there are two or three small pieces of stone (about 50mm square) used in various places, presumably to avoid extra cutting of the slabs around them - is this common practice or should they just have gone ahead with the extra cutting?
  • - for slabs that are laid on a wet mix, should any of the slab move when stood on i.e. if one corner of a slab dips by 1 or 2 mm when you stand on that corner (all other corners seem fine), should that slab be relaid?
  • - should slabs laid on a wet mix sound hollow when you tap them? If I put one hand on one corner of the stone, and tap the other corner with my other hand, I feel the vibration through the stone which suggests to me that the cement has not gripped the stone at all - in this case it would seem like the only thing holding the slab in place is the other slabs around it - is this normal? The landscapers claim that the slabs are bound to sound hollow as they are "laid on spots of cement".

Thanks in advance for any help that you can provide.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 3rd 2003

taking your questions one at a time...

- is it acceptable to have any pointing over the edge of the stone slabs? It looks messy, but is it even feasible/possible to avoid it?

It is NOT acceptable to have excessive mortar stains on the face of what are comparatively expensive flags. You employed what you took to be a professional paving contractor just to avoid this sort of problem. With some low-cost out-of-sight jobs, and, sadly, some public highways work, the flagger seems to get away with what we call 'slapdash' pointing, ie, the mortar is 'slapped' down on the empty joint and 'dashed' with the edge of the trowel to force it in. While this is sometimes acceptable to Local Authorties Highways Departments, who are more concerned with properly filled and tooled joints than with aesthetic, it is NOT the standard that can be reasonably expected on a residential patio using high-value flagstones.

poor pointing

This is some work I spotted on Regent St in London last year - personally, I would not have passed this work, but, obviously, some Highways Inspector in the Big Metropolis reckons that the volume of foot traffic will soon clear away the staining, and it will...eventually, but in the meantime, it looks like sloppy and careless work.  sulk

On a residential patio, you're just not going to get the numbers of pedestrians to erase the staining, and, quite frankly, you didn't pay all that money to see mortar slopped all over the place!

- should the gaps between the stone slabs be a consistent size throughout the paved area, or is this expecting too much?

With the Liscannor Flags, you can't always get a universal joint size, ie, every joint at exactly 12mm, but it is possible to get every joint somewhere in the 9-15mm range, if the flagger is prepared to put in the effort and re-space the flags to even out joint width as required prior to final pointing.

- some of the slabs are "at angles" to some of the others i.e. the edge of one slab dips downwards while the edge of the next slab dips upwards. The difference in height between the edges is no more than 4 or 5 mm, but should we expect the slabs to be more "level" relative to each other?

This can happen when paving is 'rolling over' or twisting to tie in with varying levels. It's often overcome by using diagonal cuts across the flags, allowing them to be 'folded over', as shown here....

mitre twist

...but again, this just would not be acceptable on a residential patio.

Any lip of more than 6mm is a hazard. It should be possible on most patios to lay the flags in such a way that 'lips' are eliminated or minimised so that they are not more than 3mm, unless you have an unnatural amount of twist on the patio.

- there are two or three small pieces of stone (about 50mm square) used in various places, presumably to avoid extra cutting of the slabs around them - is this common practice or should they just have gone ahead with the extra cutting?

Without seeing the work, I can't really say, but it does sound iffy. We always try to eliminate any pieces of flag that are less than one-third of a full flag, unless there is no other simple way of piecing-in.

- for slabs that are laid on a wet mix, should any of the slab move when stood on i.e. if one corner of a slab dips by 1 or 2 mm when you stand on that corner (all other corners seem fine), should that slab be relaid?

There should be no movement whatsoever. Not 1mm not 2mm, not 3mm, none, neamhni, nowt, buggerall. Those flags should be solid, and if they're not, then yes: they should be re-laid.

- should slabs laid on a wet mix sound hollow when you tap them?

Oh no!! The dreaded spot-bedding, beloved of TV makeover programs but despised by any professional contractor. It's amateur, despite what you might see in manufacturers' brochures, and it would get a contractor thrown off any reputable site. Flags should be laid on a full bed of sand or mortar/concrete, but NOT on spots of mortar for all the reasons listed on the Laying Flags page.

Overall, it sounds like a poor job and I'd suggest you put your concerns in writing to the contractor responsible and see what remedial action they propose. I'd start by asking for

  • all mortar stained flags to be removed from the site and replaced with new.
  • all joints to be evenly spaced prior to repointing
  • all pointing to be cut out and re-done without staining or smearing
  • elimination of all lips and trips
  • replacement of all small 'bits'
  • relaying of all flags exhibiting any movement. To be relaid on a full mortar bed. NOT SPOT BEDDING

Take photos of the existing work, using coins or a tape measure to indicate scale and put absolutely everything in writing. Don't rely on verbal promises - they're worth nowt, and any reputable contractor will not object to written agreements.

Let me know how you get on.  smile

Mar 4th 2003
Hi Tony,
Many thanks for your detailed reply. You have confirmed our fears about being taken for a ride which will prove a great help when tackling this problem. As it happens we had a visit from the owner of the company last night, wanting to collect his cash. Having read some of the (excellent) articles on your site regarding laying of stone and pointing, I put our concerns to him pretty strongly. He was extremely offended when I asked why they used spot-bedding and bascally ranted for a minute or so about his qualifications. My wife had to reassure him that we were not challenging him, merely trying to clarify things, before he calmed down. He stood his ground when it came to the quality of the work, even though he immediately agreed to getting his guys out to apply another acid rinse to the messy pointing.

Unfortunately, the paving stones which moved on Sunday night last (after a warm day), didn't move at all last night (after a wet day) so he wouldn't believe me when I told him of the movement in them. Can a day of wet weather have such an impact on a patio that was laid 2 months ago? I know that I wasn't imagining the movement in these stones on Sunday night, but that was the stance that he took. He made a few claims that I have serious doubts about and which he couldn't support, some of which were;

  • - all patios have some movement in them, "its the nature of them",
  • - the hollow sounding stones are not a concern, and will never crack because the "stone is so hard",
  • - the patio is not designed to be "jumped on" (I stamped my feet on some of the slabs when testing whether they rocked) and that this may cause the slabs to loosen, and he went back to this argument again and again (he wouldn't answer my question of whether they could lay the slabs on anything harder than concrete which could handle such stamping. I asked this because I couldn't believe what he had just said).

He effectively ignored my questions of why there were dips in some of the slabs, and why the pointing has been re-done so badly, presumably because he couldn't defend that work. He focused on the movement of the stone, or lack of movement to his mind. He did try to claim that the pointing could have been difficult because of the small joints between some of the slabs, but quickly dropped this when I pointed out that his guys made the joints that small where they were like that.

The outcome of last night's discussion is that he will get someone else (a third party, but someone that he knows) to look at the patio and give his opinion as to whether they did a good job, as his own stance is that the work is good and ours is that it is not. In the meantime I am going to investigate someone myself that may be able to offer a professional opinion that we'll be able to trust. I'll let you know how I get on.

Tony McCormack
Mar 4th 2003
More or less the response I could have predicted! Why do so many contractors take constructive criticism of their work so personally? If a customer is dis-satisfied, the contractor gettting 'shirty' with them, as they say around here, isn't likely to convice them that they have misjudged the standard of work all along, is it?

So: these qualifications your man has. What would they be? There is no longer a nationally recognised apprenticeship for paving, something which galls me to the core, and there hasn't been since the days of <spit> Thatcher. sulk

Strange as it may seem, damp or wet weather can make it seem that paving is no longer moving. The water gets into the joints, swells up the jointing material and thereby 'hides' slight movement. It won't hide severe movement, but if you're still worried, then get him back on a dry day.

As for the claim that "all patios have some movement in them, it's the nature of them", is complete and utter obllocks. If there is movement, why has he provided rigid (ie mortar) joints? If a pavement is flexible, then the jointing MUST be flexible, ie sand jointing or similar. Mortar is not flexible.

The fear of the 'stones' cracking is not the main concern with spot bedding. The voids beneath the paving can lead to settlement and they allow water to collect. And the claim that patios are not designed to be 'jumped upon'! Well, neither was my patio, but it can withstand the loads imposed by my 17 year old 15 stone eejit son launching himself from a ladder. Jumping would be considered a reasonable activity on any pavement - you try and stop kids from jumping (or adults, when they've had a few shandies at a summer bbq!!)

A 'mate' of his is unlikely to be impartial and allowing such an inspection to take place only undermines your case, as your man can argue that he even brought such-and-such-abody around and you still weren't convinced. You should choose an impartial inspector unknown to either party, but acceptable to both.

I repeat what I said last night. Put your concerns in writing so there is less chance for 'he said, she said' at some later stage, and everyone knows exactly which are the areas of dispute. It also helps ensure you get an answers to all your questions, not just the ones he feels he can bluster through.

Finally, be very, very careful with the acid wash. It can adversely affect the nature of those flags if it's not done properly.

Keep me informed.

Mar 6th 2003
Hi Tony,
We have arranged to have the paving work assessed by a third party this coming weekend. The third party is someone that our landscaping guy suggested, but we have had brief dealings with this particular guy before, as it turns out, and we think (hope) that he'll be fair. I have done some checking here (Ireland) and unfortunately there is no impartial body that we can turn to, at least none that this landscaping company is a member of. I may have sourced someone else that'll be able to come look at the work before the weekend though, to get what will hopefully be a guaranteed impartial opinion of the quality of the work.

As regards the movement of the slabs, following a couple of dry days they are very clearly moving again, so it does look like the rain has resulted in water getting in underneath the patio during the wet days and making the slabs appear more solid. (An interesting effect of the wet weather was that we had a couple of worms come up through the pointing. Either we house a hardcore family of worms complete with tunneling equipment, or else the solidity of the pointing is questionable too). If the weather holds up for the weekend, then there can be no debating that the slabs move, during the inspection, otherwise we'll have to reschedule the visit by the third party guy. In the meantime, we have opted to postpone the cleaning of the pointing using the acid wash so that the work can be assessed in all its current glory - the landscaping company were not happy about this, but we are not inclined to do them any favours by letting them tidy up some of their mess before it is seen by this external guy. Its a shame that it has got to this stage, as we would have been happy if they had just accepted that the work was bad and re-laid the stone, now they have pushed it to the point of laying the reputation of their company on the line by arrogantly standing over the bad work that they have done.

As regards putting our concerns in writing, we still have the original registered letter that we sent to them a few weeks ago, whic led them to come and re-lay some of the most obviously loose stone slabs, and the same issues still apply now as we described in that letter (pretty much exactly the same concerns). However, if their response to the inspection is unsatisfactory then we'll follow up with another registered letter describing the latest state of affairs.

I'll let you know how things go. Thanks again for the advice.

Tony McCormack
Mar 7th 2003
It's not just Ireland that lacks an impartial professional body for paving, there's none in the UK, either, and it galls me that anyone can set themselves up as a paving contractor, with no skills or training, and they're allowed to get away with it.

Interlay, the trade body for Block Paving contractors has one or two members in the north of Ireland, if I recall correctly, but for flags/slabs, the tarmac, PIC and all the other types of paving work, there's nothing.   sulk

I look forward to hearing what the 3rd Party Inspector has to say, once he's had a chance to review the work for himself. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

Apr 8th 2003
Hi Tony,
We have finally given up on our original landscaping company. The third party hasn't been able to come and view the work due to a combination of bad weather and him being too busy, apparently, but at this stage we have had enough. I have shown photos of the site to another professional - he is someone that I trust, but unfortunately he is based too far away for it to be feasible to come here just to inspect the site. Based on the photos, and the fact that there are lots of loose slabs (we discover more paving stones working loose each week practically), he certainly reckons that no-one could stand over that job. We have decided to cut our losses and have written to the landscaping company pointing out that they are in breach of contract, that we plan to have someone else re-do the paving, and that we wish to hear nothing more from them. We have already paid for a portion of the work , which more than generously covers some other bits of work that they did for us (planting trees, laying a few tonnes of top soil), so they can't feel aggrieved by this. As for us, we certainly do feel aggrieved, and partly out of pocket, but we don't fancy the prospect of taking legal action as the whole thing has been stressful enough already. If the company chooses to contest the current situation though, then at that stage we'll look at the legal options (a 5 minute site visit will leave no professional in any doubt about the lack of quality of the work, so they couldn't possibly hope to win any legal action).

Thanks a lot for your advice on this, as it has helped us a lot. I can't help wondering whether this landscaping company will still be around in a few years time. They seem to be very proud of their reputation, but another few jobs like this, on their part, will put paid to that. We certainly won't be recommending them to anyone.

Tony McCormack
Apr 13th 2003
It's disappointing to hear that you've had no luck with this job, but I suspect that 'cutting your losses' is the best you can expect when the company concerned have no guarantee policy, and the trade in general has no effective policing of standards or professional qualifications.

The reputation of this company is their most valuable asset - a good reputation takes a lifetime to earn and a moment to lose, so it's worth notifying Trading Standards of your dissatisfaction, or, if you're really 'aggrieved' (that's just a polite way of saying 'pissed off', isn't it! wink ) then you could follow the example of a householder in Warwickshire who, having suffered a similar fate as yourself, erected one of those A-frame double sided advertising boards outside their home, emblazoned with the legend "Crap Paving and Shoddy Landscaping by (such-and-such-a-body) - You've been warned!" - I thought that was quite clever.  smile

Forum Question Paving over uneven concrete - JJ - Mar 11th 2003
I have had an outside loo/shed knocked down just outside the back door and want to patio over the top. The house is a semi and the area to be covered is HUGE so I am intending to deck the half against the house (better for the damp proof course I thought??) and patio over the other half. The problem is that there are a few different levels now.... how do I go about levelling it off to patio over? Can I just put a deeper level of sharp sand to bring the levels up?

Oh and while I am here... I am right that decking would be better on the bit near the house, aren't I?

Thanks smile

forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 11th 2003
To prevent differential settlement with a patio (that's where one bit settles more than another bit and the whole lot ends up looking wonky), you need a bedding layer of a consistent depth. So, what I would suggest is that you build up the lower areas, using either compacted sub-base material or a cement-bound material, such as a 1:3:6 concrete, and get the area that's to be paved more or less level before laying the actual patio flags.

The type of paving you're planning to use for the patio will determine the best type of bedding to use, but for the usual patio flags, a 10:1 bedding mx, approximately 35-50mm thick, is a good option.

As for the <spit> decking, I wouldn't have it anywhere near my property. It's a nonsense in this soggy nation but then, there's no accounting for taste!   wink

Forum Question Terraced patio - Andy D - Mar 12th 2003
Hi Tony,

I'm planning to lay a terraced patio and would like to know how I should bed the flags at the edge of the terrace. The edge of the terrace will be a small step down into the garden.

I will be using flags similar to Marshall's Saxon range, any comments on other brands with a similar product will be appreciated.

Great Site by the way.


forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 17th 2003
Here's a simple drawing of a typical construction.

patio step

You can buy a 'saxon' type edging kerb, or you can make your own by sawing off-cuts of the bought-in flags. Alternatively, you could use a brick or some other unit to form the edging. The key point is that it is bedded on and haunched with a concrete to hold it firmly in place, and that the flag at the edge of the terrace overhangs the edging by 25-40mm or so. It is essential that this flag at the edge of the pavement is bedded on a Class II mortar over the edging kerb, so that it cannot slip off the edge nor can it be cantilevered out of place by stepping on its extreme edge. Although the sketch shows mortar bedding to the right hand edge only, it is often a better construction to lay the whole flag on a full mortar bed.

The size of the step down to the lawn is adjustable. but 75mm-150mm is a reasonable step. I always say that anything less than 75mm is not a step: it's a trip.

I hope this makes it a bit clearer for you.  smile

Andy D
Mar 19th 2003
Cheers Tony, I think I'll go for the full bed of mortar under the flag at the edge as you suggest.


Forum Question Interior Flagstones - Stuart - Mar 17th 2003
I have recently acquired a 17th C Listed Cottage and am considering using natural stone for the living area. The existing floors are bitumen or ceramic tiles on concrete. The bitumen floor will remain as is (it's never been overlayed) but the tiles will be removed.

I would appreciate advice from anyone who has done this before or who could recommend suitable type(s) and laying methods.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 19th 2003
Well, it's a full mortar bed you need, then. Something along the lines of an 8:1 or 10:1 mix of grit sand and cement, with little or no added water, so that it's what we call a semi-dry mix, for the bedding, and a Class II mortar (4:1, roughly) for the jointing.

It's a good idea to work out a laying plan in advance, so that you start in the far corner, and work your way out. If you know the sizes of the flags you'll be laying, it's easy enough to work out a plan similar to those shown on the Random Layouts page which will save a lot of head scratching and frustration when you're doing the actual laying.

Use a straightedge, at least 2.4m in length, to keep checking the floor for level. Unlike an external patio or pavement, there's no need for any fall, but, with stone flags, it's very easy to be misled, and what you think is 'level' is anything but. Trust your laying lines, the straightedge and the spirit level, rather than your eyes and intuition.

Have you thought about using a sealant once it's all laid?

Forum Question Bradstone Old Town - The Baggers - Mar 20th 2003
Does anyone have any comments - good or bad - on using Bradstone Old Town for patios?

Feedback would be much appreciated, many thanks.


forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 20th 2003
They are among the best wet cast replicas, similar to Chancery from Marshalls and Millstone from Stonemarket (Marshalls in disguise), but the price is a bit scary when you consider that you can get genuine stone from the Import Merchants for a similar price, or, in some cases, even less.

I was talking with an importer last week and he reckons he can sell his top quality range of imported sandstone to the average DIY'er for well under 18 quid per square metre, plus the dreaded VAT, of course. At the same Exhibition, Travis Perkins were promoting the Bradstone products and they quote a price of 24.17 quid (plus VAT) for a 900x600 Old Town flag, which is the equivalent of....sit down for this...a whopping 44.75 quid per square metre - 52.58 quid per m² once you've given the Vatman his wedge!!

Obviously, Travis Perkins offer a discount for larger orders and to their trade customers, but I know which product I'd go for, if the choice was mine!

The Baggers
Jan 11th 2003
Many thanks, Tony.

Your site is invaluable - but the more I learn the more I realise that you get what you pay for and despite knowing that the old reclaimed stuff is the stuff we should use (and want to use), we just cannot justify spending almost £1,000 for a patio and a bit of a path!!!

We're keeping our fingers crossed for a lottery win!

Love the site and once again thanks for your expert advice.

Kind regards.

Forum Question Dark Mortar Mix - Herbs - Mar 24th 2003
Tony, I am going to lay some Indian sandstone Flags (or slabs as the civilised southerners say) of about 40 sq M.

As your site says go for the 'darker' mortar, what mix/cement/sand do I use for this to make the mortar 'dark' (beginner)???

forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 25th 2003
To achieve a dark mortar, you have two options - you use either a dark sand (or PFA) or you use a dye. Dark sands are a bit of a rarity in Britain and Ireland, but PFA is readily available, if you have somewhere to put the minimum order of 20 tonnes. So, for most jobs, a dye is used, and the easiest colour to use is the black dye sold by most BMs, even in the wastelands and scrub of the southern counties, for around a fiver per kilo.

If you add the black dye to a yellow/buff building sand, you get a earthy brown tone. If added to a red building sand, you get a reddy-brown toned mortar, but, if you add it to a silver or white sand, then you get a grey or even a dark grey mortar. You can buy pre-packs of a definitely black lime mortar from the better BMs, and this is a good option for slightly larger jobs, as it guarantees shade consistency, which can be a bit hit and miss when you're relying on the very unscientific units of 'spoonfuls, spadefuls and bucketfuls' to mix a mortar on site.

Be warned: it takes a lot of black dye to make a very dark mortar and, if this is the route you choose, you need to be pretty accurate with your measuring. If you get too much or too little cement, or dye, then the shade of different batches of the cured mortar can be significantly different. And remember - a dyed mortar will typically get lighter as it cures - so, what looks a rich, deep colour in the wet, can look pale and pastel-like once set.

Forum Question Slate suppliers? - Deb H - Mar 25th 2003

I wonder if anyone knows what would be the most economical way for me to purchase some slate paving in Norfolk? I need 450mm x 450mm slabs in a blue slate. I suspect that the transport charges to East Anglia are going to rule it out, but in that case, has anyone any ideas for a cheaper substitute? The slabs must be the sizes above.

Thanks for any help

forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 25th 2003
Marshalls supply a slate paving in 300x300 and 300x450, but not in 450x450, for some reason. I'm not sure if Charcon still supply a slate paving, but your local BM would be able to tell you.

I suspect your best bet is a pecialist hard-landscaping supplier. Kent-Blaxill in Colchester (is that East Anglia??) have slate paving in various sizes, or there is Midland Slate & Tile in Wolverhampton who should be able to help.

Contact details for these companies are given on the Stone Paving Links page. Both companies will be delighted to hear that I referred you.  smile

Forum Question Sunflower pattern patio - Daz B - Mar 30th 2003
I am looking for a supplier for a design of patio flag that incorporates a Sunflower or a Star pattern where the 'petals' go out to a point design. It is made up of four or five points with a central circle and can be central to a square border. Any help will be welcome in sourcing this pattern or something similar in the Yorkshire area. Thanks.
forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 31st 2003
Bradstone do a 16-pointed 'star' feature in their concrete Old Town range. This is a picture I took last year...

star feature

...meanwhile, Stonemarket do a stone flag star feature as part of their Trustone range, of which I don't have a decent photies, so I scanned in this image from their catalogue...

trustone star

...I know that other manufacturers also knock out their own versions of these motifs. Bingley Stone Centre, in West Yorkshire, were making a custom-designed star motif in stone paving when I visited them last autumn, and the moulds for manufacturing the components in wet-cast concrete are now available via at least one of the largest suppliers, so I expect to see several more 'versions' on the market in the coming months.

Daz B
Apr 2nd 2003
Cheers Ton ,''you're a star''. By the way are the Bradstone and Stonemarket ranges available nationwide?
Tony McCormack
Apr 2nd 2003
Yes, you should be able to buy Bradstone at most of the larger, national BMs as it is one of the biggest selling brands, and Stonemarket, which used to be more or less targetted at the Garden Centre market, is much more widely available nowadays.
Forum Question Colour mix for dry grouting - Galley Rat - Apr 1st 2003
Morning Tony,

Spent the weekend laying a terrace of Stonemarket Millstone honey-gold flags, following your excellent guidelines for a semi-dry bedding mix. Intending to point them some time this week.

Horror of horrors..... after finishing the laying on Sunday evening and when, in a tired but self-congratulatory mood, I re-read your advice, I realised I'd not buttered the bl***y things with wet mortar. In fact, not a drop of water had been used throughout the entire operation! The word "berk" springs to mind, I know!

I think I will weep real salt tears if I have to take them all up again, so I now have to ask your advice on pointing.

Had originally intended to use a 4:1 dry mix, brushed into the joints.

Question:  If I brush out/vacuum as much as possible of the 10:1 weak mix from between the joints, can I still brush in a 4:1 dry mix? Was intending to use a half and half mixture of sharp and building sand, plus cement. The terrace only gets very light foot traffic crossing it.

Question: If so, will this avoid the grey colour that many mortars seem to take on? I'm in East Sussex, and the building sand is quite red. Or, can I add a dye in powder form to the dry mix and expect it to do the business? SWMBO doesn't want a very dark mortar, more of a light brown/gold.

Thanks for all the fine advice on your site. Pity that some of us amateurs still cock it up!


forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 1st 2003
Hi George,

Fear not: it's not the end of the world if you omit the buttering. That method works best if you're going to be filling the joints immediately after laying, but, in cases such as yours where there's a delay between laying and pointing, then it's not critical.

And the idea of vacuuming out the bit of loose bedding in the joints is a waste of time. Ignore it - it's doing no real harm. However, dry jointing of this type of flag is rarely 100% successful unless it's done on top of still-plastic buttering mortar. It tends not to 'set' properly, remaining crumbly, and it doesn't bond to the edges of the flags, so it cracks and disintegrates and comes loose over a year or so, which is why it's not one of my preferred methods.

So, how do you deal with it? Well, the old trick of dry-grouting then sprinkling on water via a fine rose on a watering can improves the situation, but we find that it also tends to splash dry mortar onto the surface of the flags, where it's immediately wetted and will stain, unless it's washed off straight away.

This method can work, but, as I say, you need to pay attention to any splashing and, very important, you must tool the joints, pressing the damped mortar into the joints and polishing it to a smooth finish. The work is best carried out in the late afternoon or early evening of a dry day when there is no chance of overnight frost. This allows the mortar to cure overnight at a steady pace, rather than be scorched dry by the heat of the day.

Other options would be to do a wet-grout, but this can be hard, if not impossible, to clean from the delicately textured surface of the riven replicas such as Millstone, or, and I know you don't want to hear this, the best solution of all is traditional hand pointing. Slow, laborious, back-breaking, but by far the best.

If you don't mind spending a few bob, then you could opt to use a polymeric sand, such as GeoFix, or even one of the pourable jointing compounds, such as Ultracrete Flowpoint from Instarmac, but this is probably a bit much for a domestic patio.

Your next question refers to colour. All you can do is experiment. Mix your sands and cement and see what colours you achieve. Whether you use grit sand or building sand doesn't really matter with these wider joints, but the end colour of the mortar is largely determined by the colour of the sands, so, if you have a buff or yellowish grit sand, mixing that with a red-building sand may give the shade your beloved requires. If not, then it's a matter of adding a dye, a brown or a marigold should give the sort of tone you;re after, but remember, the colour of a wet, plastic mortar is not the same as the colour of a cured mortar. Do a few trial mixes to determine exactly the shade you want before starting on the pointing.

It's worth noting that, if you choose to use the dry jointing method, then the colour of a dye is much harder to implement, as it needs to be forcibly mixed in the presence of water, to properly colour the mortar. This doesn't happen with the dry jointing method, and what you end up with is a streaked or spotty mortar. If a coloured joint is required, then you really do need to use a wet mortar, but if a simple jointing procedure is more important, forget the dye.

Galley Rat
Apr 2nd 2003
Thanks, Tony, for your reassuuring advice. Very relieved to know I haven't got to take them all up again.

Have decided on your advice to abandon ideas of dyeing mortar and will instead experiment with different 1:4 cement & building/sharp sand combinations to get reasonable colour. I'm afraid that it will have to be dry brushed in (once the rain stops for a few days) because I know my own limitations as far as wet pointing goes. Those Stonemarket flags are just too expensive for me to afford to ruin them all in a day with a small pointy trowel!

Once again, thanks for your response.


Tony McCormack
Apr 2nd 2003
You could do what Scott up the lane did, and use masking tape on all the edges. I think he spent more on bloody masking tape than he did on sand and cement, but it looks good!   wink
Galley Rat
Apr 2nd 2003
Good idea, and I like the notion of bringing the methods of one trade (painting and decorating) to the materials of another (paving and hard-landscaping). Shows adaptability and forward thinking. Now, if I can just find someone to replace my bitmac drive with a nice bit of laminate flooring, put in a dado rail and skirting along the garden wall, and carpet the garage, I'll have a very happy wife indeed . . . . . . . .
Tony McCormack
Apr 3rd 2003
If you like the idea of swapping skills between the trades, you should take on a certain employee we once had from Wigan, who took home a load of 3x2 'council' flags we'd taken up from a streetworks project in Aspull and used them to pave the floor of his bedroom - upstairs in a 2-Up-2-Down!
Forum Question Failed dry grouting - Keith - Apr 1st 2003

I have recently tried to joint a riven patio with a dry pointing mix but with poor results. It was done before Xmas and it may have been that the sand was not dry enough for this method.

My client has contacted me to ask if I could go back to repair the problem, which I have agreed to with out any hesitation.

What is my best approach for repointing? Should I rake out the joints totally, and if so how?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 1st 2003
See my reply to George (Galley Rat) in the above post - this is why I'm not a big fan of dry mortar jointing. It just doesn't work unless it's swept into joints that have just been buttered with a wet mortar.

A stick with a big nail in it will probably rake out the loose jointing, or you could use a roofer's hammer that has a pick end. A Nangle grinder will do it, too, but will spray the resulting dust everywhere and you'll spend as long cleaning up as you did cutting out.

Rake out as much as poss, sweep out as much of the loose material as is feasible, and then follow the advice given to George. I really do believe that traditional mortar pointing is the best jointing method for these riven patio flags, especially the ones with 'fettled' edges.

Forum Question Sub-base - Flashman - Apr 2nd 2003
I have started laying the base for a new patio measuring 7 x 4 m. Due to an new extension next to the site I was left with a hole 600mm deep over most of the site. This I have filled useing old brick, concrete, gravel etc, however I am still 300mm short of the final surface level. I intend to put either brick or block paving around the edge with Bradstone 'old riven' flags inside.

Question, what should I fill the rest of the hole in with? The local experts advise more rubble, scalpings, compacted grit.

Any thoughts would be welcomed.

Many thanks

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 3rd 2003
If the layer of fill that you've already laid is 'tight' (ie, no voids) and well compacted, then you could lay a 150mm layer of crusher run stone (what you call scalpings) and top that off with 150mm of DTp1 granular material. However, if the fill layer is patchy and 'open', then I'd put down a membrane of Terram 1000 or TDP115, and then do two 150mm thick layers of the DTp1. The membrane will help prevent the subsequent layers of DTp1 settling into the voids, which would lead to settlement on your eventual patio paving.
Apr 3rd 2003
Thanks very much for that. I have the latter, The old rubble has been 'wacked' a few times but still has largish gaps in between.

Not being into the 'technical' side of this what is TDP115 please? Is it available from any BM?

Tony McCormack
Apr 3rd 2003
TDP115 is just an alternative geo-membrane to Terram 1000 - in fact, I can't tell the diff, which may be because there isn't any!   wink

Any decent BM will stock one or t'other, or you can buy piddling 10 square metre 'mini-packs' online at the Terram Direct website.

Apr 10th 2003
Thanks again. Off to the BM tomorrow and see what they have.

In my part of the world we have 'CLAY' sub-grade. At the moment it is dry and hard and this weekend I will lay DTP1 150mm thick. Is it best to have the clay hard or is it better to have it wet and soft so the DTp will bed in better? If you compact it when dry and then it gets wet later will I end up with sagging?

You mention using a membrane, where should it go? In my case I have clay, broken concrete/rubble, scalpings and a top layer of grit. Where does the membrane go please?

Tony McCormack
Apr 13th 2003
The state of the clay isn't a big issue. It's easier (and a damn sight cleaner) to work on a dry clay, but it make little difference in the long term. Clay does expand slightly when wetted, but, to be honest, you'd need to be a geo-scientist to measure the diff on a typical driveway or patio job, so don't fret over it.   smile

Positioning the membrane seems to be a matter of opinion. There's a good case to be made for placing it between the sub-grade (ie, the clay) and the sub-base (what you might call 'hardcore'), as this will prevent the sub-base material sinking into the clay, but then, if you have an open-textured sub-base, as is often the case when relying on a non-DTp1 material such as your broken concrete and scalpings, then placing the membrane between the sub-base and the bedding layer (ie, the sand) will help prevent the sand being washed into any voids within the sub-base, which can lead to  settlement.

From what you have described so far, I suspect the clay is fairly firm and the sub-base material should be ok, so I'd probably go for a membrane on top of the sub-base. However, if you have more than enough, you could always double up, and use two membranes.   smile

Let me know how you get on and which option you go with.

Forum Question Path and step to front door - Buttjoint - Apr 9th 2003
I'm planning on relaying the path and re-building the step to my font door. Having never laid a flag in my life I wanted to ask a few questions.

1.   The soil here is very heavy clay and I was wondering if a sub-base of 40mm scalpings about 100mm deep and base of sharp sand about 50mm would be ok for laying the flags? I was planning on laying them directly onto the sand without a mortar bed and then pointing after. Would this be OK?

2.   I've also got to renew a manhole which is sited within the paving, Any pointers on how best to remove the old one and lay the new one?

3.   Whats the best way of building a step. I thought a concrete foundation, then make the risers from precast walling with brick supports inside and finally topping off with flags. Does this sound OK?

4.   Finally, whats the best order to do everything. I was thinking steps first, then new manhole then lay the flags up to everything else.

I'm begining to get quite daunted by it all so any advice would be very much appreciated.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 13th 2003
Your proposed construction sounds fine. Compact the sub-base before placing the bedding layer, and then just follow the advice give on the Laying Flags page and you'll be fine.

As for the manhole, if you've not already done it, you need to tell me what sort of manhole it is - a brick chamber? A round, plastic Inspection Chamber? Is it just the cover or is it the whole structure?

For your steps, take a look at the two pages that deal with building steps for small, domestic projects, that's the Steps page and the Steps for Block Paving page, which should give you some ideas.

Finally, your planned order of works sounds fine. I would probably do the manhole first, as that involves most disturbance to the sub-base, then the steps and then finish off with the actual paving, but, as I'm not familiar with the site, I'm only guessing and you should use your own judgement.

Hope that helps!

Apr 13th 2003
Thanks for the reply. The manhole is a round, plastic inspection chamber with a rectangular brick collar and the cover bedded on mortar. Today, I excavated round it and found the brick 'collar' to be very loose so I removed the lot down to the concrete base round the top of the round chamber. If you can advise on the rebuilding procedure it would help greatly. Do I need to get special bricks? as they'll be buried. I've got a rough idea of how to rebuild it by taking note of how the old one was constructed but it did seem very 'thrown together'. One thing I did forget to sort before starting to dig out was to hire a skip. Now I've got a great pile of dirt, sand, rubble and old flags on the front lawn which needs to be moved for a second time into a skip. A lesson learnt ther I think! One last question, any tips for soothing aching muscles and a knackered back? I don't know how people manage to do this for a living - I'm absolutely bolloxed.....
Tony McCormack
Apr 13th 2003
Have a look at the Recess Trays page to see how a circular IC is normally dealt with when a new cover is needed. If you need further guidance over and above what's shown on that page, just ask.   smile

Don't worry about 'special' bricks - as long as they are concrete blocks/bricks, engineering quality bricks, or even bits of broken flags/slabs, that will be ok. It's just some of the softer (ie, cheaper) facing bricks that can turn to mush when in permanent contact with the ground.

Never a good idea to start digging out when you've nowhere to dump the spoil: it just doubles the amount of work needed, and if you think you're aching now, just wait until you've loaded it all into a skip!!

And to soothe "those aches and pains that we all get from time to time", I usually recommend a bucket of Guinness, a warm bath, and a hot woman with a penchant for massage, but not nesser celery in that order. wink

Forum Question Paving rails? - Wayne - Apr 13th 2003
while surfing i found this site which offers rails that you sink into the grit sand. Are they any good?

As this will be my first time at laying some slabs to form a patio area, if these rails are no good which method would you choose for a first timer.
1. Lay 100 mm of rubble with 50mm of compacted grit sand then a second layer of grit sand which is then screeded. Then lay the slabs straight on top. Once all the slabs are laid then vibro plate them all.
2. Lay 100 mm of rubble with 50mm of compacted grit sand. Then proceed to fix the flags with 5 blobs of mortar?

Thanks for any advice

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 13th 2003
I've never used those yokes, Wayne, and, to be honest, I never would. They look a bit too gimmicky to me, and they do buggerall about compacting the flags/slabs to the correct level. I'd save me money, if it were me!

The method I prefer for both experts and novices is outlined on the Laying Flags page, and you certainly don't need any fancy 'rails'!

Neither of the methods you propose are any good at all, and I have to wonder whether it's a case of you not bothering to read the site, or if this is just a wind-up. If you put a Vib plate over flags/slabs, you'll smash them to pieces, and, if you lay on spot bedding, you're storing up trouble for next year.

Please read at least some of the site before asking for answers to questions that are already exhaustively covered within the site.

Forum Question Fall for a Shed Base - Melanie Wright - Jan 11th 2003
Hi Tony
We last spoke last year when i asked for some advise on laying a patio with Marshalls Timberstones. It held up through the winter & we got all excited when it poured down & there was no surface water, it all drained off.

I am now laying a base for a 6"x4" shed using some of those large grey slabs ( forgive me I can't remember there name).
Question - do I lay this base level, or does it still need a fall, if so won't the shed wobble?


forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 14th 2003
Hi again Melanie,

You got all excited over properly-laid paving? You're getting as bad as me!!  wink

You need a touch of fall on your shed base, just to ensure that surface water doesn't pond underneath and start to stink or cause problems, so 30mm or so should be plenty, but is not enough for you to notice that the shed is leaning slightly once erected. If you want a perfectly vertical (plumb) shed, then you can always adjust the bearers beneath the shed with small 'packs' to accommodate the gentle slope, but, at this stage, I'd say get the base laid with a modest amount of fall, and then worry about the shed itself. Any signs of 'wobble' are pretty easy to rectify.  smile

Forum Question Why do they rock? - Googlebot - Apr 14th 2003
I have just finished laying my new patio using Bradstone Wetherdale flags. For the biggest part everything is fine, the new drain I put in works a treat and there is no ponding or puddles and if I do say so myself it looks the mutts nutts. smile

However, on one or two slabs there is a slight rocking that is barely noticable, but still enough to crack the pointing in the joints. I laid them on a 10 to 1 mix of sharp sand and cement and there was no rocking when laid and I am pretty sure I hit them hard enough with me rubber hammer because at one point the head flew off like one of those power balls.

Number 1, are these slabs any good? (I hope so at nearly 7 quid for a 2 by 2, perhaps I should have asked before laying them).
Number 2, why are they rocking now and not before?
Number 3, am I going to have to get them up and re-lay the rockers, or is there a tip for fixing it without lifting it?

Again many thanks for the great website and any replies I might have?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 15th 2003
Hi Googlebot,

There's nowt wrong with the Bradstone Old Town flags, structurally speaking - they leave a lot to be desired in terms of colouring and price, but that's another discussion. They are no more prone to rocking than any other flag that's available. Rocking is a result of poorly compacted bedding rather than anything inherent in the flags themselves (most of the time!)

You wonder why they "suddenly" seem to have started rocking. The most likely explanation is that they were probably rocking very slightly before you pointed the joints, but, because the joints were empty, the very small degree of movement was much less noticeable, and it's only because the pointing mortar itself is now cracking that you're suddenly aware of the problem.

So: how to fix. Well, sometimes they can be held firm by raking out all of the old mortar and re-pointing with a strong (4:1 or Class II) mortar, but, for those exhibiting more of a wobble, then a favourite trick of mine is to make a wet mortar slurry (see Wet Grouting) and pour that into the emptied joint, then straddle the flag and shift your weight about, causing the flag to wobble, so that it draws in the mortar slurry to fill any voids or slack spots beneath it. Once the slurry has 'set', the flag should be 100% solid.

You may find that one or two awkward sods absolutely refuse to co-operate and continue to rock despite your best efforts, and then there is no alternative but to lift them and re-bed them. Scrape out 25mm or so of the original bedding and replace it with fresh, damp (NOT wet, just damp) 6:1 mortar, then re-lay the flag and tap down to level with your clonker. Point the joint immediately, and keep it free from any traffic (that includes pedestrians!) for at least 24 hours.

Good luck!

Apr 15th 2003
Many thanks for the info Tony, will try the wet grout trick.
Forum Question Stonemarket Trustone Paving - Ian Smith - Apr 23rd 2003

Can you offer me you opinion on Stonemarket's Trustone Paving, as I am considering them for my new patio.
Excellent site by the way.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 24th 2003
It's very nice stuff, backed by the largest paving manufacturer in the country, but there are equally good stone flags on the market at a better price. For example, Stoneflair's identical stone paving is readily available for a few bob under 20 quid per square metre (plus VAT), and some of the specialist importers, such as Kent-Blaxill, Rock Unique or Midlands Slate&Tile, are even cheaper.

However, if you've your heart set on a particular TruStone product, then there are no problems with it and it's just as good as any other imported stone on the market, with the advantage of being fairly readily available from a wide range of outlets.

Which particular 'TruStone' did you fancy?

Ian Smith
Apr 24th 2003
Cheers Tony for your prompt reply.

I am keen on the Glenmoor stone as they supply the edging in the same colour. I've been quoted (by MKM building supplies in Hull) £382.66+VAT for a 4 size mixed pack(12.8sqm). The area I'm laying is aprox. 30sqm, so it's going to cost me around a grand for the stone.

Tony McCormack
Apr 24th 2003
Compare and contrast with Glendale stone from Stoneflair - I'm not saying they're exactly the same stone, but they are remarkabaly similar in all aspects except for price, as the Glendale is about 10 quid a square metre cheaper!

Funnily enough, it also comes in 4 sizes and 12.8m² packs!   wink

Forum Question Sealants for slabs - Stevie - Apr 25th 2003
Hi everyone

With the help of we have just finished laying our brand new patio and I must say we're pretty chuffed with the results.

We've used some gorgeous reddish cream riven Indian sandstone flags, and laid in a "random" pattern.

We think that when the stone is wet it looks better than when its dry. There's two reasons:
1.  You can see the colours and texture of the stone better when they're wet.
2.  We just prefer them looking darker - they almost look "dusty" when dry.

My question is how can we achieve a wet look? I've read what this site has to say about sealers and I'm not convinced. Plus the Chester B&Q has some treated Bradstone concrete stone flags on display and they looked a bit plasticky.

Would oiling the stones make them look wet?

All suggestions gratefully received by a first time patio layer! Thanks in advance everybody.


forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 25th 2003
This subject of using sealants on stone flags is fast becoming a FAQ. There's hardly a day goes past without someone emailing me about it, and asking what product I would recommend. So, I've asked a number of sealant manufacturers to supply me with samples of their jollop so that I can try it out on various flags, photo the results, and post them to a page on the site. So far, one manufacturer has responded, which is a bit disappointing.

Anyway, what you mustn't do is use oil! It'll turn your lovely Indian stone into an Indian icerink and you'll be needing a season ticket for A&E!

There are different types of sealant. Some are glossy, some are 'low sheen', and some have no discernible effect on the appearance, but protect the surface from everyday stains (allegedly!) I guess that what you're looking for is one that's somewhere between low sheen and glossy, so you could try Resiblock "22" Ultra or the Hagesan Impregnating Sealer. However, you really need to test these out in a discreet corner or on an old offcut of your paving before committing yourself. It's not unknown for sealants to have 'peculiar' results on some types of natural stone.

If you can hang on until next weekend, I've a couple of meetings next week at The Stone Show in London Village when I hope to obtain samples and a fuller picture of just what's available, what it looks like when applied, how much it costs, where you can get it, along with what others in the stone trade reckon to be their personal choice.

Given the weather forecast, they'll have a natural 'wet look' for most of next week, anyway!

Apr 29th 2003
Thanks very much Tony

Yes I'll wait until you've looked into the various options after the show at the weekend. Really do appreciate any advice you can give.

First official "use" of the new patio occured last weekend - sat out there for a very brave and chilly breakfast on Saturday morning. Can't say we lingered over our cornflakes but now looking forward to the first barbie!

Thanks again for the good work.

Tony McCormack
May 1st 2003
I have returned with a bulging sack - full of info and conflicting advice on the use of all sorts of sealants. I'll try and summarise what I've learned into a single 'document' over the next day or so and post it here as soon as I've got my head around it. After that, I want to turn it into a page within the main site so that it's accessible to all   smile
May 2nd 2003
Thanks Tony

Look forward to hearing how you get on.

As a general rule, does stone paving weather to a darker or a lighter colour over time? I would guess it would darken with age.

Cheers and TIA

Tony McCormack
May 3rd 2003
Generally, stone paving darkens with age, due more to the accumulation of crud rather than any chemical reaction with the atmosphere, as is often the case with masonry (stone walls etc not subjected to trafficking).



I looked at a couple of sealants while I was at the Stone Show in London last week, and it came as no great surprise to be told by each of the manufacturers that their particular product was the best available, the most cost effective, the market leader and the only one I would ever need.

So, taking the various options in no particular order....

Delta: An Italian company that is relatively new to the UK market, but they promise an aggressive marketing strategy in the coming year.

Wet Seal - "Anti-Stain Wet-look finish for unpolished marble, granite and natural stone" - the bumf claims this jollop protects the stone from moisture and general stains while bringing out the vibrant colours and textures of natural stone. It claims to be long-lasting and then goes into some owld guff about being technologically advanced and protecting the stone from within. It does not create a film or plastic-laminate look, is UV resistant and allows vapour to escape.

2 coats recommended and expect a coverage rate of 8-10m² per litre and a cost of around 20 quid per litre!!!

More info - I spoke to Franco Harris and you can email via stonecarebydelta AT or call their Slough HQ on 01628 602325

Lithofin (Lye-tho-fin): A German outfit with many years of experience. Fairly well-established in the UK, but products can be hard to source. They promise to rectify this immediately, possibly in the light of Delta's marketing claims!

The MN range (catchy name, I know!) is aimed at natural stone and concrete products
MN Stain-Stop is a solvent-based silicon gunk that is absorbed by the stone but does not alter its appearance, for which you need another MN product, the MN Colour Intensifier. Stain-stop covers 6-8m² per litre on a typical sandstone, as does the Colour Intensifier, and prices are around the 30 quid mark for a litre. For those with an aversion to solvent-based sealants, there is a water-based alternative, StainStop W, which has a slightly better coverage rate, 8-12m² per litre, but, if it's owt like other water-based sealants, it won't last anywhere near as long.

More info - I don't know who it was I spoke to, except that he seemed to think I should pay for the privilege of featuring his products on my website - I put him right on that!   wink
The UK operation is based in Alresford in Hampshire and run by CASDRON Enterprises (their capitalisation, not mine!) tel: 01962 732126 or email sales AT

Other products:
These items were not at the Stone Show but I've discussed their products with them on previous occasions....

HG Hagesan - a Dutch crowd with a good reputation and decent distributor network via Topps Tiles. Their most suitable product for stone flags outdoors is probably the Impregnating Sealer, a non-silicon based protection system.

The UK HQ is in Colchester - Tel: 01206 795200 and their Website offers more info.


LTP International - A British company with a basic range of products aimed primarily at Terracotta tiles, but also suitable for stone and/or concrete flags, they say. The products I've seen do not give a wet-look, although they seem to have a more extensive range which includes wet-look sealants.

Tel: 01823 666213

Web - Website


Then there are the companies listed on the Sealants Links page. Resiblock can't be faulted but their products are aimed more at concrete rather than natural stone. Ronseal/Thomsons are the 'Jack of all Trades' and I've seen some terrible varnish-look pavements that have been daubed with Water-seal, and Hexham haven't supplied me with any info on the suitability or otherwise of their stuff on stone paving.

Speaking with other professionals in the stone paving trade, most are loathe to use sealants on natural stone, but know that it's becoming popular for patios and so, like me, have been trying to establish what's what and what's shite. I suspect that quite a few suppliers will start to recommend certain products later this year or for next season, but, I'm stil confused. I'd really like to try out some of these products for myself, on natural stone flags and setts of various types, so I'll try and arrange a mass testing trial later this summer with a view to putting up pictures and comments in time for next year.

May 6th 2003
Bloody Hell Tony talk about comprehensive!

I'll chew on all that and let you know how I get on.


Tony McCormack
May 7th 2003
I told you it needed a page to itself, which I get done later this year, if I get a bit of co-operation from the manufacturers.   smile
May 11th 2003
Hi Steve
I've used a number of sealants over the years including some of the big company ones and I've found that Techcon Supaseal is better than most.

I advise you to use the matt version not gloss as this keeps the paving looking more natural but still darkens it bringing out the colours. On Indian sandstone it looks fantastic.

I do advise you though before using it that you MUST make sure you have adequate drainage as you do not want pools of water on your pride and joy.

Techcon's phone number is...01384 566533

Good Luck

Dak UK
May 20th 2003

I've used Thompsons blockpaving sealer on blocks and flags, it's just what your looking for. All Builder's Merchants sell it, Focus, B&Q, etc. It's about £15 ish you need 2 coats very easy to apply. I think you get 5ltrs
Good luck

May 27th 2003
Thanks Krismac, Tony and Dak

Techon only supply in 25 litre drums but they have given me the number of a local customer who apparently uses a lot of their Supaseal matt. I'll try to get a jamjar of the stuff from them and test it on a small area first.

cheers guys


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