aj mccormack and son

Other Pavings - Page 01
The Brew Cabin
other pavings


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Forum Question Grass Paving Systems - John Morris - Jan 17th 2001
First of all congratulations on an excellent web site, askjeeves found you. Is it possible / advisable in practice to lay plastic grass paving (such as turf guard etc) directly onto compacted soil ie without using a hard core sub-base. Also having laid the structure is it possible / advisable to lay turf on top or do you have to seed it.
forum answer Tony McCormack - Jan 17th 2001
It's really not advisable to lay any of the proprietary grass systems on compacted earth. They really do need a sub-base if you intend to traffic them, otherwise they'll sink or break.

Also, you should follow the manufacturers recommendations for filling with top-soil and the grass mixture. Ordinary turf could cause problems, especially if laid directly over the system units. All the grass paving systems rely on carefully designed components, which includes the sub-base, the rootzone and even the seed mix. You can't afford to cut corners, otherwise you compromise the system integrity.

Forum Question Laying Terracotta Tiles - John House - Feb 8th 2001
The path in my garden is covered in red terracotta tiles each about 5" square and 1" thick. I guess that they're about the same age as the house (Victorian) and in places they've lifted up and some have cracked.

I'd like to re-lay them, but am not sure what sort of bedding layer to use? Should I treat them like patio flags or follow a different technique. The current base looks like some sort of concrete mix.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Feb 8th 2001
They need to be treated as tiles rather than flags/slabs, John. Take them up, clean them off and set them to one side. Break out the old concrete bed and dispose before laying a new concrete base for the tiles, keeping it around 12-20mm low. Once the concrete has set, they can be relaid using a mortar bed or one of the special outdoor/quarry tile adhesives sold at most Builders' Merchants.

They are lovely old things, those tiles, and well worth keeping hold of. Good luck! smiley

Forum Question Shed Base - Ivan - Mar 5th 2001
I need to lay a base for a timber shed. 2m by 2.5m. I have been told by my farther not worry about digging out the ground and setting a sub base of ballast/hardcore etc. but to lay the concrete direct on the earth - will this work?
forum answer Tony McCormack - Mar 5th 2001
Depends what the existing ground is like, Ivan. There's no need to go to loads of effort for a shed base; if you're planning on having a concrete base, then I'd suggest digging down 150mm, blinding the sub-grade with 50mm or so of DTp1 or grit sand, covering that with a sheet of 1200 gauge visqueen and then your 100mm concrete.

If the existing ground is suspect in anyway, then it might be worth putting in a decent sub-base to bear the weight of the concrete and the shed, plus all its inevitable paraphernalia, but in 99 cases out of 100, the above will be more than adequate.

Forum Question Cobbles by the sheet - Alan Arnett - Apr 6th 2001
Recently (in a magazine I now can't find) I seem to recall seeing that someone is manufacturing small cobble or sett type products on a 'backing sheet or net' so that you could lay them more easily, rather like the way you can buy mosaic tiles. Anyone have any ideas who and where I can look at some?
forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 9th 2001
The product to which you refer is probably 'Carpet Stones'. There are contact details in the Links section of my site, annd you might be able to see them 'in the flesh' at your local B&Q Warehouse. Be warned, though, they are bloody pricey!!
Forum Question PIC Steps facing - Lennie - Apr 21st 2001
hi there u have replied to two of my queries and i have now agreed a price,seen the work of etc. for the job

now the problem - has anyone seen steps in pic (pattern inprinted concrete) and if so what was used for the facing, brick in a blended colour is the only suggestion from the contactor OR heavens forbid paint the concrete in a similar colour.

p.s. thanks for the site without it i would have given up some time ago

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 22nd 2001
Hi Lenny,

from what I've seen of PIC jobs, they tend to use the block paving kerb units to form the riser of steps, and then use the PIC to form the tread. You could use almost anything, from engineering brick, stone cobbles/setts, edging kerbs or walling stone, depending on which pattern and colour scheme you have chosen

Forum Question Slate paving in the garden - Jill Turner - May 2nd 2001
What are the pros and cons for using slate paving for patio and path in the garden? Will Aquaseal prevent staining, and how often does it need to be applied?
forum answer Tony McCormack - May 3rd 2001
Hi Jill,
it all depends on the type of slate and how you lay it. Laid flat on a cementitious bed, it's very attractive and quite simple to do, but care needs to be taken with the mortar when pointing otherwise it will look like a right mess. for some reason I've never been able to put my finger on, slate shows up poor/sloppy pointing more than any other form of paving. Using a black or dark brown mortar will help minimise any adverse looks, but then, a plain 'white' mortar shows up the individual elements better - it's all a matter of taste.

Some slate can be slippery when wet, but cleaved slate (as opposed to sawn slate) is usually less so. Also, you may find that unsealed slate becomes colonised by mosses and algaes in shady, untrafficked spots.

There's been a surge of interest in slate laid on-edge over the past few years, but this is a challenge to do and to get to look right, not something I'd recommend for those with limited patience, but it is very, very attractive as an edge detail or in smaller areas.

Aquaseal is not something I would use on slate; I'd use a high quality sealant, something like Resiblock 22, which I would expect to last at least 4 years, whereas the Aqualseal, being acrylic and not primarily developed for paved surfaces, could well turn out to be an annual task.

Good luck!

Forum Question - Jill Turner - May 10th 2001
Many thanks for reply, yours is a brilliant site!I am still fretting, am putting down 75mm of aggregate on hardish soil/tarmac mess as substrate, then what sort of concrete mix do you recommend and how thick? I want to lay tiles a few at a time, shall I leave 5mm between them? and then point with thin mix (how thin?) what ratio sand and cement? The slate tiles are about 300mm square by 12mm thick and they are called chinese lilac.Have got an impregnating sealer which has been recommended by supplier who is generally not very helpful sadly. They have assured me that they are ok for outside but i am nervous as they cost a lot of money for me. All info gratefully received.

Thanks again, Jill

forum answer Tony McCormack - May 10th 2001
Hi again Jill,

use a 75mm thick bed of Class E concrete (that's approximately a 1:3:6 mix of cement/sand/gravels). That should be fine for foot traffic. Keep the added water to an absolute minimum; the mix needs only be damp, not sopping wet. This will make laying the tiles that much easier and also reduce the amount of staining.

Jointing should be 6-10mm, I'd guess, and pointed with a 1:4 mortar.

forum answer Jill Turner - May 12th 2001
Many thanks Tony,did check after on site, cements and mortars bit. Would love to send you pix. most worried about drainage incline, but im sure will be able to sort it out thanx to your pages but am just worrying, when you've spent that much money and done all that research etc etc.

Thanx for interest, info etc. yours jill

Forum Question PAVING OR CONCRETE - TREVOR HUGHES - May 2nd 2001
forum answer Tony McCormack - May 3rd 2001
Hi Trevor,
paving and/or new concrete can be laid over old concrete but there are a couple of important caveats. Firstly, you must ensure that the new surface is not going to compromise the damp proof course (dpc) of your property; that is, the new surface must be at least 150mm below the dpc.

Also, if the old concrete is cracked, these cracks can propagate through the new paving/concrete and make an unwelcome appearance in the new surface in as little as 6 months in severe cases.This is because the concrete beneath the new paving will continue to shift/settle over time. In some cases the added load/weight of the new paving actually accelerates the movement.

My usual recommendation in these cases is to rtip out the old concrete and start afresh. It's one of those things that might take you a day or so extra labour and a couple of hundred quid to sort out, but if you take the easy option and hope for the best, you won't half be pizdov if it does move! ;~)

PS - using all capital letters is the 'net equivalent of SHOUTING! - Do us a favour and make sure caps lock is off before typing. Good man! smiley

Forum Question Fan pattern - Lesley Brady - May 8th 2001
My Husband has spent all bank holiday weekend laying cobbles in the fan pattern - it looks great but there are quite a lot of large spaces now he has been over the cobbles with the machine (I cant remember what its called) to level them out. He is very concerned about the gaps - obviously there were gaps before are the pattern is curved and the cobbles are square, but now they seem worse in place - it spoils the pattern a bit and also the weeks are going to grow like mad in the gaps - has anyone got any ideas - I really want to keep the pattern.
forum answer Steve Stiansen - May 9th 2001
Not sure what you mean by 'fan' pattern, but will take a guess and say maybe he will need to rent a concrete saw (if he hasn't already) and start cutting custom pieces to fill the gaps.

How large are the gaps? If over a half inch, they could be a trip hazard in the near future. Sand will not fill gaps for very long if they are that large, as if will wash out quickly.

I would suggest cutting as the best solution. You may have to pull a few sections up and actually cut a row or two of the cobbles to maintain the pattern. (i mean you may need to trim a few down in a row so that you don't have to just stick one little sliver in)

Lot of good info on the saws here at the site if you look in the tools section. Should be able to rent one, but the blade will be pricy as they charge you for wear.

forum answer Tony McCormack - May 9th 2001
Hi Lesley,

the joints need to be sealed in some way. My preferred method is to use pitch, as described on the site, but you could use a high-strength mortar, preferably one enhanced with SBR, an additive you can buy from Builders' Merchants. Also, a dark coloured or black mortar looks much better with cobbles/setts.

I recently sealed a fan-pattern driveway for a reader of this site and will be putting up some pictures in the near future. I used pitch, for the traditional look and the finished job now looks wonderful, even if I say so myself. smiley

Forum Question Reinforced grass paving - William Allen - May 14th 2001
Currently I have a driveway going through my back yard that takes up a considerable portion of the usable space. I would like to replace the paving with some sort of reinforced grass system that will prevent ruts yet still allow childern to play on it. the drive currently has 4 crossings per day and occasionally short term parking by guests. Any help as far as experiance with these products or places to go to get information would be helpful. So far your site has the most information I have been able to find on the subject. Also the grade of the drive is 1% so it is relitivly flat.
forum answer Tony McCormack - May 15th 2001
Hi Bill,
Grass paving systems are quite expensive for domestic applications, so it's usually a matter of shoppinbg around to find a supplier or stockist with the right product for your project at the right price.

However, you mention that the 'grade' of your drive is only 1% which makes me suspect you are not UK-based, as 'grade' is not a term we use in that context; it's far more common in N America.

If that is the case, there's not much I can do to advise you, as I have no knowldege of the the paving market on the left hand side of the pond. You could try some of the links featured on my site to grass paving companies and see if they have outlets in your neck of the woods, but beyond that, there's really very little I can say.

Meanwhile, if I've completely misread the situation and you are stuck in these soggy islands like me, I'd suggest you contact Cooper Clarke in Bolton (address on Links page) and ask them about their EcoGrid range - that has often proved to be the most cost-effective solution for smaller, residential grass paving projects (ie, less than 500m²)

Forum Question Which surface for a drive? - Norman Williamson -Jul 13th 2001
I am planning to resurface my driveway (@300 yards length). At present it is tarmac which has been satisfactory for the last 16 years. The surface wearing course is now loose due to vehicle turning etc and remedial work is necessary. I have considered block paving but all established local paved drives seem to suffer badly from weed and moss growth between the blocks. I know you can seal the blocks and joints with a sealant but is it really a long term solution?

Alternately, I could resurface the drive with tarmac. Is there a simple surface sealing coat that can be applied or must the old topping be removed and completely relaid? (The base is fine, no movement etc) What are my options?

Third and last question (thanks for the patience) could I use one of the new epoxy coated finishes or would it scrub off with turning vehicles?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Jul 16th 2001
Norman asked....

I know you can seal the blocks and joints with a sealant but is it really a long term solution?

Yes. When done properly, with a quality sealant, the weeds, mosses and other undesirables have no place to get a hold and so find it much more difficult to establish themselves. However, they will find a home in any detritus that accumulates on the surface, so you will still need to brush and/or power wash at regular intervals to dislodge this unavoidable surface crud.

Alternately, I could resurface the drive with tarmac. Is there a simple surfave sealing coat that ca be applied or must the old topping be removed and completely relaid? (The base is fine. no movement etc) What are my options?

Without being familiar with the drive itself, I would hazard a guess that you should be able to overlay the existing with a new wearing course, after all the loose material has been removed and a tack-coat applied. That will result in a significant cost saving to yourself.

Third and last question (thanks for the patience) could I use one of the new epoxy coated finishes or would it scrub off with turning vehicles?

You could, but you'll need deep pockets. Again, I'm not familiar with your particular drive, but, as a rough guide, an epoxy bonded surface will cost approcximately 3 times the price of a brand new bitmac drive.
Forum Question Heavy Clay bedding - Martin Wakeling - Jul 30th 2001
I wanted to lay a white gravel patio, but on digging up the previous concrete mess, I have discovered that the bedding is heavy clay with extremely poor drainage. I was hoping to be able to put down a couple of inches of sub-base and then put the gravel on top. Is this likely to be sufficient drainage or am I likely to need a more formal drainage system?
forum answer Tony McCormack - Jul 31st 2001
Hi Martin,
assuming there is no vehicle overrun of this patio, I'd suggest laying a length or two of 80mm diameter perforated land drain in channels cut into the clay (see land drainage pages) and backfilling with a clean pea-gravel. The land drain could be connected up to a convenient outfall or drainage point.

Then, I'd lay a strong geo-membrane, such as Terram 1000 over the clay and the land drainage, and place my sub-base material over that. the membrane will prevent the stone becoming mixed with the clay and will allow surface water to find its way to the drainage without washing away the sub-base or the decorative gravel.

Forum Question Self Binding Gravel - Denny - 11 Mar 2002
I am intending to lay a new driveway using scalpings with Coxwell self binding gravel (SBG) on the top.

I have 2 MHC's and was wondering if I can fit a recess cover and fill it with the SBG.

Unfortunantly one of them lies directly under the wheel tracks of the car.

Do you think it would be possible to fill the recess tray with a cement base and then 'stick' a layer of the SBG on the top of this to make it look like solid SBG?

The only thing I can think of about this solution is that the 'flex' in the recess tray will lead to severe cracking of the cement/SBG mix.

Any ideas peeps? I'd be very grateful. smiley

forum answer Tony McCormack - 11 Mar 2002
Hi Denny,

thanks for the comments in the Visitor Book, by the way. smiley

I wouldn't bother using a cement-bound material in the recess trays. Fill them to about 30mm below the top with DTp1, pack that down firmly, and then use the SBG (hoggin) as a top dressing. It might need topping up occasionally - it's always worth keeping a half agg-bag of the hoggin somewhere out of the way, as, when you come to top up the drive, as you will, you can never ever get a colour match!

If the tray flexes a lot when trafficked, you can get a strengthening brace welded to the base - we've done this on Recess Tray Covers that have been paved with tarmac.

Forum Question Setts suppliers - Matt Taylor - 29 May 2002

I was looking at your pages on setts and am very interested in using them for a patio. An office near my office has them in a courtyard and they look great.

However, I tried going to both Bradstone's and Marshall's websites to look for them without any joy. I found something that initially looked like what I wanted at Bradstone's but it turned out to be fake setts mounted on slabs -- no offense but YUCK!!

I am looking for fine picked ones -- bearing in mind one of your cons about this matter -- either 100x100x100 or 100x100x50. Could you recommend to me the names and details of some suppliers?


forum answer Tony McCormack - 29 May 2002
YUCK is a very polite term for what I think of those bloody monstrosities, Matt! I wouldn't use them under a shed, let alone on a patio!

Peversely, both Marshalls and Bradstone (in their Aggregate Industries outfit) actually supply genuine granite setts but they don't promote them much to the residential market, for some unknown reason. Bardon do a SlimSett (why do these companies always have to come up with a cheesy name for their products?) which is easy to work with, but hard to source in smaller quantities.

How many do you need? In square metres, that is? And whereabouts are you? Up here in t'north reclaimed granite cubes can be sourced from the salvage yards for around 60-90 quid per tonne, with each tonne covering 4-5 m², but darn sarff, they're a bit pricey, over 100 quid per tonne, I believe.

Matt Taylor
31 May 2002
Hi Tony,

thanks for your reply.

The area is approximately 24 square metres and it is "darn sarff".

You're right about the Marshall's site, it's not very diy/homeowner friendly. By coincidence, I solved the mystery of their site yesterday, finding all "the good stuff" in their professional site.

Setts or cubes, how should I decide? My feeling is that the 50mm thick ones would suit my needs fine. It also saves me 50 mm of height too as the footing for my house is VERY shallow. What other considerations should I keep in mind in making a decision?

Thanks again,

Tony McCormack
31 May 2002
Using the sawn gritstone setts from Marshalls or Farrars reduces the amount of labour and level of skill required to make a decent job of it. These sawn setts are laid in the same way as flexible block paving, with no need for individual bedding on a cement-bound medium, no need for complicated pointing or sealing with pitch, and you should be able to lay the lot in a single day - a weekend at most.

Laying granite cubes means preparing a concrete or mortar bed, tapping down each sett to level, checking alignment, pointing/jointing, knocking all the skin off your knuckles, struggling to cut oversize cubes with a toffee hammer and's a lot of work.

The end result is all that really matters, though. What look are you trying to achieve? Sawn setts look very clean and tidy, but cubes look much more olde-worlde and can be laid to fans or spirals much more readily.

Cost-wise - there's not much to choose. The reclaimed cubes are slightly cheaper to buy but more expensive to lay. Overall, both paving types work out at around 80-100 quid per m² for what is, relatively speaking, a small area (owt under 100m²).

Matt Taylor
3 Jun 2002
One final question about this matter: colour?

As I wrote above, I am in London and live in a late-Victorian terrace with a "yellow" stock brick exterior.

Of course, the word "yellow" there is a bit interesting, as it certainly doesn't look like any yellow I've ever seen. There is a brick wall along one boundary wall: blue engineering bricks at top and bottom and yellow stocks in the middle. On the other boundary wall there is an old picket fence (not mine).

Is that of any help in trying to suggest a sympathetic colour?

I just think it would be a real sin to put all this effort and money into such a project only to have it turn out jarring and out of place.

Thanks again,

P.S. And now, it's back to digging. sulk

Tony McCormack
I'm familiar with the brick you mention - it's sometimes known as 'buff'.

Colourwise, the yorkstone setts go well with it, as they are a buffy-browny-ochrey colour and quite sympathetic. Granite cubes, especially the greyish-silver granites are 'neutral' and work with almost any color scheme. In fact the only cubes/setts I'd avoid are the Shap/Aberdeen pinks/red, as I despise pink and yellow together - the Dolly Mixture look! sulk

The yorkstone will look pukka - trust me!

Forum Question Bird droppings - 2old4this - 24 July 2002
Anyone know how to go about removing it? And what about chewing gums and oil leaks

Many thanks

forum answer Tony McCormack - 24 July 2002
Bird shite can be scraped off and then washed down with hot, soapy water.

Chewing Gum is best scraped off and then left to the elements. There are gum removers that you can buy, but they are intended for town centres, shopping malls etc, and they ain't cheap; for one or two spots, it's not economic.
If you can freeze the gum, it comes up quite easily. I saw it done with dry ice(?) or something like that some years ago - the gum was sprayed from an aerosol with a liquid that rapidly turned to vapour, and then it literally flaked off the paving.

Oil - there's loads of so-called remedies. The ones that have been proven to work are listed on the Removing Stains page.

Forum Question Picture Imprinted Concrete - Paull - 16 September 2002
Super site!!

I'm thinking of having Patterned Concrete laid out to my driveway to replace the old and worn tarmac. I've read some of your thoughts/comments on PIC but feel it is worth pursuing to the next stage - getting 2 - 3 quotes.

Can you give me contacts for reputable contractors in the Middlesex (London) area? My drive is about 75 - 80 sq M.

Also, can you summarise the drawbacks or considerations before I committ - I think I understand the benefits (weed-free, does not sink, etc.)

Many thanks,

forum answer Tony McCormack - 16 September 2002
I have a policy of not recommending contractors unless I know them personally, and with Middlesex being so far off my patch, I can't say that I know any PIC contractors down there in the Styx.

There's a company based in the Midlands that has a very good reputation and do work Nationwide - Classic Impressions. Their MD is Noel Hand, and you can contact him on 01788 540333 during business hours. Tell him I referred you, as I was speaking with him only yesterday.

I'd still get another couple of quotes, though, just to be on the safe side - try contacting PICS in Newbury and they'll tell you who works your area and is relaible. Contact info on the Links page.

As for a summary, that's more or less given on the PIC page. PIC is sort-of weed-free, but it's NOT maintenance free - if you let crud build up in the joints, weeds will grow in the crud. Also, it doesn't sink, as long as it's laid properly - if it's laid badly or the control joints are omitted, it will sink/crack/settle.

Properly laid, it's a good surface, but it's not elemental: it's monolithic, which means big problems if anything goes wrong underneath, such as leaking gas service pipes or broken drains.

But, as I always say, it's you that has to live with this for the next god-knows-how-many years, not I, so the final choicce must be yours. If PIC sounds good to you, then give Noel a call and find out what it would cost, but also see if you can get a cost for, say, concrete block paving, over the same area, so you can compare overall costs.

Let us know how you get on. smiley

Paull - 30 September 2002 Thanks for the tips. I thought I'd let you know how I've got on...

Spoke briefly with Noel Hand - he was leaving for a weeks leave when I called (should be back now) so may get in touch again. I also got in touch with PICs who has passed my details on to a few contractors. These 'smaller' players appear to be a little cheaper than the 'bigger' boys (who, incidentely, are consistent in their pricing).

Should I be nervous about doing business with new/small firms who have been recommended by PICS?? These individuals tell me they were previously sub-contracting with the 'bigger boys' and have been laying concrete imprinting for 5-10 years.

Also, I'm considering PIC for my patio where there is a gradient - a 'soakaway' has been suggested under the lawn with outlets from a retaining wall to take the water away from the patio.  Is this effective?

Will probably need more advice/direction in the near future - hope you don't mind.

Thanks again.

Tony McCormack
30 September 2002
The advantage of the 'bigger' companies, is that their guarantee is much more likely to be honoured. Some (not all, but some ) of the smaller 'companies' only last a season and then they're gone, and, if you have any problems, you're stuck.

Only you can choose the best contractor. Who do you feel most confident with? Who has the best portfolio and offer the best after-sales service? Who offers an insurance backed guarantee? In an ideal world, you want at least 20 years life out of this paving, so, for me, it would be worth paying a few bob extra to get the quaklity and guaranrtees that will ensure I get 20-odd years, rather than saving a few quid and seeing the damned stuff fall apart in 2005

As for the soakaway - these only work in areas that are naturally well-drained. If you're on clay, soakaways generally don't work. Where does your existing SW system drain to?

Paull - 7 October 2002 Have now had several quotes. There is a significant cost difference (35%+) between the 'big' palyers and the 'small crews'. The difference between the two smaller companies is about £1,000 for 3 different jobs totalling some 175 sq. mtrs - the cheaper one is probably making it (the price) attractive because they are setting up a new company (and need references, etc.), the slightly dearer one has an established company but is still only offering a one year guarantee (5 years Insurance back gntee comes with an extra £500!!). Both teams have been subcontracting with the larger 'boys' (Town & Country, First Impression etc.) for over 10 years.

My next step is to see more of their work (in each case) and take a decision based on quality of work/price.

Any other factors to consider?

On reflection, will avoid the soakaway and will insist on an accodrain (?) from retaing wall back to the main gutters. By the way, is it okay to pipe (underground) the rain water from the patio/driveway to a manhole? They tell me that they'd ensure the smell would not 'leak' out with the connections via the accodrain!

I think the rain water is chanelled into a gulley which may then be connected to the main FW (but not sure).

Also, one other question on the PIC; it was suggested that if the base under my existing tarmac (on the driveway) is sound, then they would not add any further sub-base (MOT type 1). Furthermore, when asked what difference this might make to the price (because there is less digging and reduced cost for sub-base), I was told it doesn't change the price. So, firstly, should I insist on a 'fresh' sub-base regardless and second, is it right that the quote would not change if the job turns out to be easier and requires less materials?

Thanks again,

8 October 2002
I'd recommend streetprint pavement texturing,check my old posting at other pavings,contact BTM International for your nearest contractor and Streetprint for specs.


Tony McCormack
13 October 2002
Sorry for the delay in replying; I've been away for a few days.

With regard to the drainage issue - if the linear drain (ACO or other type) is to be connected to the existing sewers system, then it should be connected to the SW system, if at all possible. If this is not feasible, or it is a combined system, then the connection must be 'trapped' to prevent odours escaping from the Foul System.

Secondly, the re-use of existing sub-base. If it's sound, there's no point in replacing it - if it ain't broke, don't fix it! However, it may need regulating, which involves re-levelling and topping up as required. I'm at a loss as to why the contractor claims it has no bearing on the job price. Excavation for and supply of a suitable sub-base layer represents a major part of the cost of any pavement installation. So, while I would not insist on a new sub-base (unless the existing proves to be totally unsuitable) I would insist on a price reduction if no sub-base is installed.

Have you checked out their references yet?

Forum Question Bark Chippings - Keeley Stone - 30 Jul 2002
Could any body tell me where I can buy in bulk some decent bark chippings, for a childrens play area.

Many thanks,

forum answer Tony McCormack - 30 Jul 2002
Whereabouts are you and what sort of quantity are you after?
Keeley Stone
30 Jul 2002
I live in a small village called Whitley, which is between Selby and Doncaster and the amount would probly be a big truck load (not quite sure on size of the area will check)
Tony McCormack
31 Jul 2002
I reckon Woodgrow are your best bet - they're based in Derbyshire, but supply all over the north of England in full loads.

Telephone 01332 517600 or them. Their website may be useful to you.

Forum Question Circular setts - Rick Lobb - 9 Aug 2002
I'm intending to lay a 2m radius circular pattern (concentric rings), using 100mm granite setts (they are not very regular), laid following your flexible construction method and jointed using 2mm-to-dust.

About 75% of the perimeter of the circle is bounded by a circular garden wall, with the sett surface draining on a 1:60 fall to the 25% of the perimeter which is unbounded by any wall - to a yard gully (so the centre of the circle won't be at the high point).

My questions are:
1) what is the best method to help each ring of setts to be as circular as possible? Do I use a string around a centre point and draw lines as a guide in the bedding sand, working out one ring at a time?
2) any other tips for what (seems to me) is a fairly complicated 1st attempt at patio work?

Thanks very much - superb web site - one of the best I've seen.


forum answer Tony McCormack - 9 Aug 2002
Establish your centre point (the Origin ) of the circle, and drive in a steel pin or similar. Then, use a tape measure or length of non-stretchy string to act as a guide while laying the rings by maintaining a constanyt distance from the origin to the edge of the cube being laid. You could omit the centre stone and start with ring 1 working out, or, you could start with the outermost course and work your way in.

You might have to fettle the spacing to get a full number of courses, so I'd be tempted to work from the outside in, so that there's fewer cubes to re-position to get the spacing right as you reach the centre.

If you look at the Steps for Block Paving page, there's an animated guide to laying in arcs and circles that you might find useful.

Rick Lobb
9 Aug 2002

Thanks very much for your answer - much appreciated.


Forum Question Concrete Base - Droc - 14 Aug 2002
I am preparing myself a concrete base for a soon to be delivered shed and am amazed at the variety of advice from websites, DIY stores etc, ranging from 'just lay slabs onto grass, through to build retaining wall surround, then hardcore and concrete. I have just seen your web site and from my own research it ranks as the most comprehensive, thank you! Three questions if I may.

1) I am looking to construct 100mm high shuttering onto compacted clayish soil. I am excavating the 100mm depth (albeit into a slight R-L grade slope, approx. 1 in 15) I thought the 75mm or so soil on the lower level would be sufficient to hold. Your diagram under 'Concrete' shows a concrete base onto which a slim kerb stone is laid. Is this really necessary? Could I say sink a kerb stone into the soil (say 150 deep) as as retaining without further concreting, as I am hoping to receive a single delivery of pre-mixed and do without the hassle of mixers, bags of sand/cement etc...?

2) If I do need to construct a concrete pad onto which I mount the kerb stone, does this kerb become part of my shuttering. If not how should it work?

3) I am also looking to run an electric (PVC/SWA) cable into the shed through the floor. Do I need to tape between the membrane and plastic conduit? Are there any other special considerations (bar the trench depth, warning tape (already noted from your site) and electrical considerations, I'm fine on those!).

I hope these make sense and aren't too basic for the forum. I recognise I'll always be 'an apprentice' regarding building work but for the bit I do I'd like to get it 'right'.


forum answer Tony McCormack - 14 Aug 2002
Hi Droc,

Q1 - you don't have to use a kerb as a retainer. You could use a temporary timber shutter, as shown in the Formwork page, which is probably a better solution for a shed base.

Q2 - see above

Q3 - no really critical need to tape around the cable and the membrane, but it makes a better job if you do.

The purpose of the membrane is to prevent the sub-base/sub-grade sucking the water out from the concrete mix while it cures, and to protect the slab from groundwater and aggressive salts in the longer term. Although you'd not lose much mix water through the un-taped joint, it's always best to 'play safe'. smiley

Have you allowed for a sub-base or a 'blinding' beneath the membrtane to protect it from puncturing?

15 Aug 2002
Thanks for your prompt reply Tony.

The use of a kerb as a retainer was prompted by the diagram in your concrete section, which shows a concrete slab, cast adjacent an existing wall c/w deeper sand/cement channel on RHS with a kerb stone on top. It looks like (to me) some form of retaining post-concrete pour. Is this a necessary requirement to support (hold) a 4" concrete slab? If so does one dig the trench/fit the kerb stone after the concrete slab is poured or should it be dug around the formwork If the latter, I would be concerned that this trench may undermine the timber stakes supporting the shuttering. Your further valued input would be most welcome.

I had not allowed for a blinding beneath the membrane, thanks for that advice.

Regarding shuttering, I am proposing to use 4" × 2" timber, with 20 ish 2" × 2" × 12" wooden stakes to support the framework (therefore stakes will be sunk circa 8" into grade). Does this sound ok, could I use 4" × 1" timber instead of 4" × 2" or will the weight of the concrete demand the more sturdy material? I am also proposing butting and fixing corners using wood screws, is this ok?

Thanks once again for your help.


Tony McCormack
15 Aug 2002
The drawing shows an edging kerb merely as a decorative option. It's not required at all - the concrete, once cured, will support itself. I drew in the kerb to illustrate the sort of thing that is possible with concrete pathways, and how a pre-cast edging kerb can be used in place of temporary timber shuttering.

You can use 4" × 1" (100mm × 25mm) timber for the shuttering, with stakes at 500mm centres - this is plenty for a 100mm deep pour, as there's not a great deal of pressure, other than when placing and tamping the concrete. As soon as it starts to cure, the pressure reduces.

Forum Question Decorative Surface Chippings - Melanie Wright - 6 Oct 2002
Hi Tony

You may remember me, i spoke to you in June about laying a patio with Marshalls Timberstones.

This is now complete,not bad either for a first timer.

I would now like to finish it off with some decorative gravel of some kind (type not yet decided, any ideas as to what would work well) around the edges.

My 1st question is on two sides it will meet up to with the house (50cm from slabs) & conservatory (30cm from slabs). Does this gravel have to be 2 courses below the damp proof course like slabs would or doesn't it matter.

2nd question, at the slab end would i bring it up to the level of the slabs or just below to allow water drainage & to stop the gravel straying onto the slabs.

p.s this web site was invaluable when we were laying the slabs, they were a bit tricky to level as you had said but found it easier after the first ½ dozen.


forum answer Tony McCormack - 6 Oct 2002
Hi again, Melanie,

great to hear you got the Timberstone laid - what do your think of them? Are you pleased with the finished effect or are you underwhelmed, as some other Timberstone users have been?

Anyway - the gravel dressing should be 150mm below dpc, just like a solid surfacing would be. If you sneak up 10-20mm, it's not the end of the world, but, strictly speaking, it should be at least 150mm below dpc.

And to your second Q, I'd keep the gravel down a fraction from the top of the solid paving. As you seem to have guessed, if the gravel is put in quite generously, it spills over onto the paving, so keep it down 10mm or so. It will need topping up at some time, probably next spring, so if you're buying summat out of the ordinary for your gravel dressing, make sure you order a couple of spare bags that will keep you going for the next few years. smiley

Any pics?

Forum Question Cheapest Play Surfacing - tarmac? - Steve - 27 Feb 2002
We are convering the 'Garden' (wasteland) at church to a play area.

The area is approx 30m² and currently covered with 75mm of 40mm (to dust) scalpings. I needs proper leveling and kerbing on two sides, we don't need safety surface as we won't be having climbing frames etc, just small bikes, push along toys and so on.

We have got one quote for tarmac (4,000 quid inc kerbs and drainage) and are open to suggestions for other surfaces Something porous might be good as it would avoid the need for drainage works (but we do have a soakaway to connect to).

Any thoughts.

P.S. Excellent site.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 27 Feb 2002
4,000 quid for 30m² of bitmac is a touch expensive - there must be considerable drainage/kerbing works. Have you been given a breakdown of the price and a full specification? And have you had any prices for play surfacing?

I would think that a porous block pavement would work out more expensive than bitmac on a project such as this, as there is considerably more preparation work involved. Porous bitmac is probably not feasible on grounds of cost on a job of this size.

Normally, bitmac is one of the cheapest firm surfacings (along with plain concrete) but have you considered block paving? Given that you have an adequate sub-base, you might find that for 30m², you can get a keener price for concrete block paving than you have for bitmac.

However, the cheapest play surfacing is bark - far from ideal, but it is cheap and safe. It's just a pigging nightmare when it gets blown everywhere. smiley

I'd certainly get at least 2 more prices before making a decision.


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