aj mccormack and son

Other Pavings - Page 03
The Brew Cabin
other pavings


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Forum Question Resin-bonded Driveways - Dickie - 28 May 2002
I have recently been "entertained" by a company's salesman who offered to build me a resin-bonded drive (i.e. gravel mixed with araldite) at £49 per sq.m. He said it would need a 100mm concrete slab as a sub-base, at ²20 sq.m. (on top of clay). Does anyone have any experience of this technology and is the sub-base adequate??
forum answer Tony McCormack - 28 May 2002
It's a bit more than 'Araldite' Dickie, but that's not a bad analogy. wink

You need at least a 100mm concrete slab, and 20 quid per m² is pretty cheap - does that include excavation and cart away, damp proof membrane, jointing, formwork, vat and all other sundries? Because I doubt it can be done for that price. If a sub-base is needed, it definitely can't be done for that sort of money!

The other alternative is a bitmac base layer, which would need to be at least 50mm thick, over a 100mm sub-base, and would be even more expensive.

The price for the resin-bound aggs is there or thereabouts, depending on total area and type of gravel selected, but what sort of guarantee/warranty comes with it? Can you see previous work? How long have they been in business? Have they given you a written spec?

If you're keen on resin bound aggs, then I'd strongly recommend you get at least 2 other prices, just for your own peace of mind. I get the feeling this could be one of those, "Oh dear, we'll have to charge extra for...." jobs, and what was originally 70 quid per m² suddenly becomes 100 quid per m².

Caveat emptor, as my Latin master used to say when he was selling ciggies to us.  wink

30 May 2002
Thanks. You have confirmed my worries. The company has been in business for >10years, but they only offer a 1 year guarantee. The contract denies liability for "movement,expansion or contraction of subsoil or base due to changes in temperature, water or tree roots ....and no guarantee is given against cracking caused by these or related factors." !! That lets them off the hook for just about everything, I guess. I am interested 'cos the price is comparable to block paving, quotes have ranged from £85 to £140 (!) per m2. That's all-in, excavation, muck-away, etc.

I haven't come across any other co. offering resin-bonded paving in my area, so comparisons are difficult. I will have to tread very carefully with this one ( I need to on that sort of sub-base!)

PS - A great site, 10/10.

Tony McCormack
31 May 2002
A 1 year guarante isn't worth owt! Most block paving is now 'guaranteed' for 10 years, and is backed by an insurance policy that protects the client in case the contractor goes bust or ceases trading.

Be careful, Dickie!

David Callan
1 Jul 2002
I was looking into a resin bonded driveway as well bt was worried aboout shrinkage. how can i be sure this won't occur? And what other precautions must be in place to prevent cracking.
Tony McCormack
1 Jul 2002
It's all down to the quality of installation, David, and the use of top-notch materials. Resin doesn't actually shrink, or, at least, it shouldn't - there's summat seriously wrong if it does!

Cracking is usually symptomatic of bad preparation or shoddy materials. If you choose a good contractor (easier said than done, I know) then you minimise the risk. Thorough, meticulous preparation is essential. The substrate must be sound, free from any contaminants. There should be no cracks in the substrate that could propagate through to the resin-bound surfacing, and movement joints should be installed, if required.

Check out your contractor. Check previous work, talk to previous clients, make sure you get an insurance-backed written guarantee, and don't jump at the lowest price. You have to live with the surfacing for a long time, so an extra few days of sussing out should not be passed over.

Forum Question Taking up a Tarmac path - Mark Gillespie - 30 May 2002
I have attempted to take up a tarmac path leading to my front door as I have found a Victorian tiled path lays beneath. The original path looks in a good condition but I was finding I was damaging the tiles too easily while taking up tarmac.

Does anyone know the easiest way to take up the tarmac without damaging to what's underneath?

forum answer Tony McCormack - 30 May 2002
Very carefully, is the obvious answer. What tools are you using?
Mark Gillespie
30 May 2002
I was using a plasterers floor scraper to get between the tarmac and the tiles and then using a shovel pivoted on a piece of timber to pull lumps of the tarmac up. This worked to a point but whats left is stuck hard to the tiles and won't budge. I heard pouring deisel onto the tarmac might free it but haven't tried it yet. Someone else suggested waiting for a very hot day so it becomes more managable, but wouldn't that just make it more sticky?
Tony McCormack
31 May 2002
Oh yes - diesel will dissolve the binder, to some extent, but then how do you get the bloody diesel off the tiles, the ground, your clothes, boots, and off everything else?

And heat will make the tarmac more pliable, but also make it more tacky, so there's no real gain.

Try using a bolster and lump hammer to split the surfacing from the tiles. There's no way you will get a completely clean finish - life doesn't work that way, but use the bolster and hammer to remove as much bitmac as poss, and then you could consider immersing the salvaged tiles in a bath of diesel for 24 hours or so to loosen what's left.

Once they come out of the diesel bath, you'll need to wash them off with warm, soapy water to get shut of the diesel. It's a long, tedious process - how much have you got to do?

Mark Gillespie
31 May 2002
That was the answer I was dreading sulk

I was hoping for an easy answer but as you say, life never is.
I have about 8 square meters left to do.

Tony McCormack
31 May 2002
That's only 2 square metres a day over the next 4 days off work - Piece of pi....err, Cake! wink
Forum Question Imitation Tarmac - R Day - 3 Jun 2002
Great site, top man for sharing knowledge, since i found your site i totally addicted, and u could probably save my marriage

i've got a tarmac driveway (no probs, came with house) either side of it is a 2mx3m grass areas. i would like to replace them with black rough textured concrete, to look similar to tarmac. i will be experimenting on my back garden first. this is my idea, ((after dpm) total concrete 100mm as i have light weight transit to park on it eventually) 75mm of which is ordinary concrete, then before it dries lay a 25mm mixture of part sand/cement/ small black chipping/black pigment.
how does this sound,and what are the names and ratio needed?


forum answer Tony McCormack - 3 Jun 2002
You're going to struggle with this, I reckon. Colouring concrete is not an easy task unless you batch it all in one go, which means you need a large mixer or batch plant. Knocking it out in a DIY mixer gives little control over colour consistency as the volumes of sand, aggregate, cement, water, additives and dye have to be very, very consistent, or you end up with 84 different shades of grey.

Black is a swine of a colour, too. It takes a lot of dye to acheive a good depth of colour, and a light or silver coloured sand to acheive what is, at best, a deep grey. A true black, as in tarmac, is all but impossible with concrete; the best you could hope for would be a deep charcoal grey, and even that will fade in time.

If you're trying to create a black-looking concrete, consider doing an exposed aggregate concrete. Careful choice of aggregates, and blending of sands/aggs could give a reasonable finished effect, but it'll take some experimenting.

However, if you're just looking for a black/dark surface that will almost look a bit like tarmac to a blind man on a very fast galloping horse, then why not use charcoal block pavers? It's much easier and less likely to cause disappointment with the long-term results.

I'll be most interested to hear how you get on with this endeavour.

R Day
7 Jun 2002
i'm thinking of taking the easy way out, putting dark gravel down, either 6mm or 3/4" greyblue granite,or crushed slate, which do u think?

i'm getting my stuff from Builder Bulk as one of the contractors has an account there, but i cant find any thing to use as hardcore, any idea what else it may be called?


Tony McCormack
8 Jun 2002
Just use a standard DTp1 as the sub-base. Builder Center will know what it is, but may have it labelled as 'sub-base', MOT1 or even crusher run.

If you're going through a contractor, you should get a decent price from BC - they have a higher price list for diy'ers and non-account holders than that used for account holders.

R Day
8 Jun 2002
thanks,found it
  • CRUSHER RUN (TONNE) 15.28 perTonne
  • 40MM DOWN RUN CRUSHER 40.68 per Cubic Metre
  • 20MM DOWN RUN CRUSHER 40.68 per Cubic Metre
  • 28MM DOWN RUN CRUSHER 33.53 per Cubic Metre
  • 20MM CRUSHER RUN LIMESTONE (TONNE) 12.60 per Tonne
  • 40MM CRUSHER RUN LIMESTONE (TONNE) 26.10 per Tonne

One of the contractors i work for has a trade account,and i dont have to pay the vat

thanks man

Tony McCormack
9 Jun 2002
I have an account with BC, dating back over 15 years to before they were BC, and those prices are nothing like the prices I've been quoted - they are almost double, in some cases!

I wonder if they have a regional pricing policy (which would make sense) and charge you, in London, considerable more than us in the north?

R Day
9 Jun 2002
probably the price for living in london.
could u tell me if my caculations look kinda right, 150mm x29metre sq plus 100mm x 4metre sq needs about 9 or 10 tonnes of crusher run .
and how many tonnes r there in those big bags that gets lifted of the back of those trucks

thanks rday

Tony McCormack
10 Jun 2002
0.15m × 29m² = 4.35m³
0.10m ×   4m² = 0.40m³

Total                     4.75m³ @ 1.9 t/m³ = 9 Tonnes 10T will be plenty. In fact, in some parts of the country, you can get 10T delivered as a single load on a wagon rather than in a load of separate agg bags. It's worth asking BC to do it that way, as you should pay less.

Now, agg bags (or IBCs as they are properly known), seem to be a bloody law unto themselves. There are 3 suppliers I use fairly regularly:

Supplier #1 is a large national BM chain and they reckon each agg bag = 1m³ = 1.9 T approx. Yet their Hiab crane off-load is only plated for a 1200kg lift!

Supplier #2 is a small local BM and he reckons each agg bag = 1.2 Tonne

Supplier 3 is a certain DIY Shed and they claim each agg bag is 1 tonne on some days and 1m³ on other days!

One day, when I'm really bored, I might actually weigh one on the weighbridge and see who is telling the truth - my money is on Supplier#2.

See if you can get your contractor to arrange a single bulk drop - it's a lot easier and you know what youre getting as it is sold by weight rather than by the bag.

R Day
10 Jun 2002
thanks tony
what do u think the scores going to be wed morning?
i think it might be 2-1 to us

thanks again

Tony McCormack
10 Jun 2002
"We", Mick McCarthy's boys in green, play on Tuesday, and "we" are going to whup those Saudis! mean that other team...the one with thingy, the one that's wed to a Space Girl...Engerlund....I don't hold out much hope for those amateurs! wink

Forum Question Decorative asphalt - John Sullivan - 6 Jul 2002
I've heard of a new form of decorative asphalt, where the surface is imprinted with a block paving pattern and then colour coated, wondering if you may have any info on this product?

thanks, john sullivan.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 6 Jul 2002
There's some basic info on the Pattern Imprinting page, but, as this type of surface isn't generally available in the UK/RoI, I haven't given it much coverage. It is becoming more popular with some Local Authorities for streetworks, but it's not cost-efficient for most residential work.

Imprint/Prismo are one of the biggest contractors using this sytem - follow the link from the Links section for more info on them.

John Sullivan
7 Jul 2002
i'm getting confused,as the link on your site to btm features a product called streetprint while the link to prismo offers a resin type product called imprint.

the streetprint product, i think, is the one i'm looking for, there appear to be contractors offering this streetprint product in my area, have you any info on this?


Tony McCormack
8 Jul 2002
I have info on the Streetprint - what do you want to know? It's not a product I'd normally recommend for residential use.
John Sullivan
8 Jul 2002
hi tony, i've found an american website called, it appears to be suitable for large residential jobs, judging by the photos.

i have a large driveway, approx 250 sq.m,currently asphalt which is solid, but is looking a bit tatty, i'm looking for something a bit different, to tidy it up.

the choices are either a fresh layer of asphalt, mono block or possibly this streetprint.

you've certainly provided enough info on your site, to form an idea of what i want for the first two products, what in your opinion would be the drawbacks of the streetprint option?


Tony McCormack
9 Jul 2002
What they do in the US is not always the same as what is done in the UK, John. I have serious reservations about using imprinted asphalt on a UK driveway, even one of 250m², but if you're dead keen, email me via with your location and a 'phone number and I'll get a rep to contact you.

Make sure you're sat down when they tell you the price! wink

As for drawbacks - crap colours, limited choice of patterns, looks very 'commercial' and could make a large driveway look more like a supermarket car park.

John Sullivan
9 Jul 2002
after further web searching, i've found a link on your site listing the u.k streetprint contractors, luckily there's one covering the birmingham area.
i spoke to one of their reps and he's given me some addresses of driveways they've done using the streetprint process.
if i like what i see, i'll get a price from them. he says its possible to overlay the existing surface with 40mm of asphalt, then streetprint the new surface with a stacked brick, herringbone, cobble,or european fan pattern and then colour coat the surface.
it should be interesting to see what the price is!
i'll let you know.


Tony McCormack
9 Jul 2002
I'd be interested in the price, too!

Be aware that it is a monotone colour - that means it's all one colour, not multicoloured like much of the block paving or PIC that you see.

Let me know how you get on.

John Sullivan
11 Jul 2002
i'm waiting on two prices, one for streetprint and one for block paving, its a bit of a minefield trying to find a quality block paver, as theres so many of them out there, so i've chosen one who's work i've seen.

the standard of streetprint jobs i've seen has been very good.
the streetprint contractor has been laying asphalt around these parts for many years and has just recently started laying streetprint, which he says has been very sucessfully received by his customers.

apparently streetprint has become the no.1 paving system in the states and has only been in the u.k for the last two years.

i like the idea of it being weed and maintenance free, i'm not sure yet of the monotone colour issue, i'll have to discuss this with him later, but at the end of the day, price will be the major issue, although he did say that he would be able to machine lay the asphalt thus cutting down on labour costs.

Tony McCormack
12 Jul 2002
I'd get at least 2, preferably 3 prices for the block paving. There's a lot of competition, which keeps prices reasonably keen, but, if a contractor knows they are the only ones being considered, you're not likely to get their best price.

I don't believe the claim that Streetprint is the "No 1 paving sytem" in the US. How have they come to that conclusion? No 1 in terms of m² laid per year? It's not. No.1 in number of projects undertaken per year? It's not. Or No.1 in their eyes? wink

I'd ask them to verify that claim, as I know for a fact that imprinted asphalt is not the most popular choice, nor the biggest seller for paving work in the US.

John Sullivan
4 Sep 2002
hi tony, eventually bit the bullet and now have a new driveway. it was an amusing tender process between the two companies, one a fairly respectable local block paver and the other, the local asphalt/streetprint contractor.

both prices were very similair-around the £32 per sq.m mark. i chose the streetprint option, based on the fact that it is weed free and designed for heavy vehicles. its been laid in a herringbone pattern with a dark brown colour coating to blend in with the stonework of the house. i'm very pleased with it, no puddles and everyone can't believe that its not brick and is actually black tarmac! obviously the trained eye can tell the difference, but from a distance even yourself would think its blocks!

the boys said there not hugely keen on doing small driveways, there looking for the big town centre jobs, but as streetprint is such a new product in the u.k, they're trying to lay as much as possible, so people can see it. it's certainly been a big talking point in the neighbourhood and i've had to put up with a stream of cars stopping in front of the house in the evenings, probably some of them block pavers worrying about losing work to the "boys from the blackstuff" i've always liked something different and luckily this time i think i've made the right choice!


Tony McCormack
5 Sep 2002
Send me some pictures, if you can, along with the name/contact details of the contractor, just in case anyone else wants to try something similar. smiley
Forum Question DIY - Wearing Coat - Annie - 8 Jul 2002
Hi Tony

We are presently converting our front garden and path into a tarmac driveway/pathway. For commercial reasons, getting the professionals in is not an option. The area is 50m² in total and we have followed the advice of my husband's work colleagues who have done it before themselves. On their advice we have:
Dug out 200mm soil, added hardcore up to 100mm below finish, wacked 10 tonne of type one material to approx 20mm below finish and are hopefully now ready for the wearing coat. However it seems to be proving an impossible task to get anyone to supply 2-3 tonnes of wearing coat as they consider it too small an order.

My questions are:
1. From the above have we made the correct preparations?
2. Do you have any suggestions on who to contact for wearing coat (we have exhausted yellow pages and local papers)?
3. How much wearing coat do we need for 50m²?
4. We have been advised that we can rake the coat over the area and then use a vibrating roller - will my husband need help with this or can this be done on his own?
5. What should I ask for if I want the very black wearing coat - I saw on your site one called hardstone - will people understand what I mean by that or do I have to give a depth/measurement e.g.Hardstone 6mm? & lastly.......
6. How much does wearing coat cost?

Sorry for so many questions Tony but I would be grateful if you can help in any way.

Many thanks & rgds

forum answer Tony McCormack - 9 Jul 2002
You need to lay a base course before laying the wearing course (not "coat" )

Simply laying a 20mm wearing course will result in the car sinking straight through it the first time it is trafficked. For a residential driveway, the minimum I recommend is 50mm of base course plus 25mm of wearing course, giving 75mm of bitmac. This means your current level of 20mm below finished paving level is too high and will need to be re-graded.

For a 50m² driveway, using the thicknesses recommended above, you'd need around 5 Tonnes of base plus 3 tonnes of wearing course. You might be able to buy this in what is known as a split load, but, if the batch plant think it's a DIY job, they will probably not want to supply, as, in their eyes, you're more trouble than your job is worth. It's unlikely that a DIY'er could handle 8T of bitmac in the standing time allowed; it's a one-off job (unless you're planning to go into the Blacktop trade!) with no repeat business for them; and when the problems start, such as it getting too cold to lay or it's not rolled properly, they worry your first port of complaint will be them.

To handle 8T of blacktop in no more than an hour, you will need two barrow hands, a rake-hand and a roller operator. This really isn't the sort of job that can be handled by anyone who isn't skilled and supremely fit. The blacktop has to be laid while it's hot and you're continually working against the clock.
You need at least one tarmac rake, a couple of shovels, a couple of barrows, diesel to keep the tools clean, a firebox to keep the rake hot, plus gloves, boots, I putting you off yet?

With a split load, you have 30 mins maximum to get first the base course from the wagon and spread out over the driveway, then get it raked level to within 15mm, and rolled solid, which will then give you maybe 30 mins to lay the wearing course, to an accuracy of +/- 6mm.

And there's no second chance. Once it's cold, you've had it. If it's not right first time, it never will be right and your only option will be to rip it up and start again.

If you still reckon you can DIY this, then tell me whereabouts you are and I'll see if I can find a batch plant that would be prepared to sell to you, but I can't promise anything, and you can't say you weren't warned!

Sorry to put the mockers on your plan in this matter, but laying tarmac is possibly the least DIY-friendly surface in the paving trade, and I don't want to mislead you.

Forum Question Cement stains on tarmac - mctimney - 19 Jul 2002
I have laid a paving slab patio at the back of my house, I mixed the mortar etc in a mixer on the front tarmac drive. There are a number of splashes and spills and am wondering what is the best way of cleaning these off. Someone has suggested a brick cleaner, but from your notes on cleaning I'm not sure this is a good idea.
forum answer Tony McCormack - 20 Jul 2002
Read the notes on cement stains. Take off the worst with a wire brush and/or a scraper, and then use the brick cleaning acid as sparingly as possible. Test it on a discreet corner first to make sure it doesn't frazzle the binder of the bitmac, but, in 99 cases out of 100, it will be fine.

Make sure to wash off with plenty of clean water, and be prepared to do several treatments, if required.

Let me know if it works. smiley

Forum Question Dents and scuffs on my tarmac driveway - Fobbed - 22 Jul 2002
I have a new tarmac driveway, and it has been dug out by over 7 iches. Then about 3 to 4 inches of hardcore went down, followed by a layer of tarmac with big stones in it, then a thinner layer of tarmac with stones about 6mm in it.

I went on it with my 4 cars about 2 days later on a very warm day.

As I turned my steering wheel on the spot, it made scuffs on the surface.

When I left my car on the surface after coming home from work, again it was very warm, I found I had made little dents in the surface.

I contacted the company involved and they came out the same day, and said they would be back to re-surface the driveway, and use a half tonne diesel powered roller on it, which they did.

They told me not to spin the steering wheel, or brake or turn too sharply and at speed, as this could mark the surface in future, and they will not re-surface next time for free.

Are they being unfair, and is it true what they are telling me?

forum answer Tony McCormack - 22 Jul 2002
I think they have been exceedingly fair with you. Many driveway tarmac gangs would not have resurfaced at all without putting up a fight!

If this was hand-laid bitmac, it's likely that it was treated with 'Pen Oil' which keeps the bitmac workable for longer at lower temperatures, but has the side-effect of causing the surface to take longer to 'set' completely. It's similar to 'thinners' in paint, and is used throughout the industry, so no need to worry that you've been 'conned'.

Take your time with the car for the next 2-4 weeks. Avoid sudden braking, wheel spins, turning on the spot, parking motorbikes on their support stands etc, as all these will damage the still fresh surface. In a month or so, the Pen Oil will have completely evaporated and the bitmac will be much more resilient.

Which company did the surfacing? If you prefer not to mention them publicly, you can email me via - I ask only so that I know to put them on my 'trusted' list. smiley

Forum Question Tarmac Drive Prices - P Chambers - 29 Jul 2002
I am thinking of having a tarmac driveway (red tarmac) instead of my concrete driveway which is approx 2.5 meters wide and 16 meteres long and was wondering what the going price is from start to finnish to get someone to do it for me, or is it a good idea to prepare the base myself then get someone to lay the tarmac on my base?? and what would be a good price for this??

Also what would I need to do to prepare the base myself and what tools would i need?

P Chambers

forum answer Tony McCormack - 30 Jul 2002
Should you prepare the base yourself, many contractors will not guarantee against settlement. If you still want to prepare the base, then read the sub-bases page. It's not a job for the faint-hearted - you need at 100mm of sub-base, plus you need to allow for around 60-75mm of bitmac, giving a total construction depth of 160-175mm or more. And then you need to think about edge restraints, kerbs, drainage, falls etc.

I can't give you a guide on price, as, with less than 50m² in total, your driveway has to be priced individually, as a one-off unique job, and I'd need to evaluate the site, know your location, consider access, see what other work we have on the book for red mac, etc., before giving a price. However, I wouldn't be surpised to hear prices in the region of £1,000-£2,000 for the surfacing work alone.

21 Aug 2002
I have a driveway that is about 115 Sq m. and I currently have red tarmac on it but it is very old and has a lot patches (holes) in extensively used areas. I am thinking of getting it resurfaced with red tarmac again or getting block paving. Although I am not sure about the price, but I think block paving would probably cost a lot more(but probably last longer).

Please can you give me your opinion on what I should do and the total prices I should expect if I got a contractor.

I saw Suki's post, but unfortunately I don't live in West Midlands, I live near London. Is there anyone that you can recommend?


Tony McCormack
21 Aug 2002
Red bitmac ain't particularly cheap. At 115m², you'd need around 7-8 Tonnes to do a decent overlay, and that would cost something like 1200-2000 quid to have done, depending on just how keen the contractor is to take on residential work. Many of the better tarmac contractors aren't really interested in doing residential driveways and that's why the John Wayne Appreciation Society tend to get a lot of that work, so, get at least 3 quotes, in writing, and make sure they have a real telephone line, and not just a mobile number.

If you were to opt for block paving, then it's quite possible that the existing sub-base beneath the tarmac could be re-used, although it might well need a bit of tittivating or regulating. Going with a standard 200x100 concrete block paver, then I'd expect a price somewhere around 20-30 quid per m², provided the sub-base is usable. Add another 20 quid per m² if it's not.

I would say that it's well worth getting prices for both the tarmac and the block paving options, and then deciding what suits your taste and your pocket. Personally, I'd have the block paving every time, as I believe it's a much better surfacing, with a longer lifespan and is more attractive.

I'll email you the name and address of a contractor that works London. I can't guarantee they'll be interested, or that they'll be the cheapest, but they have a very good reputation and have a laid the paving to a number of jobs that I've designed.

Forum Question Dry sandstone patio - Depuy - 30 Jul 2002
Hi Tony,

Many thanks for your great forum. I've never seen one like this!

I'm writing from the mountains of North West New Mexico, where I'm doing a little job laying sandstone for a lady.
The ground around her house is sandy and rocky.
The surface I'm working on is about 15 meters along the south side of the house, the width about 3 meters, going out from the concrete foundation.
I'm using gravel (about 8mm) as a base, 5 cm thick.
No concrete or mortar.
The sandstone is 3 to 5 cm thick, up to 1 meter in surface for one piece.
I've pretty much kept the pitch going down and away from the wall. About 1/8 th of an inch per foot going down.
What I'm doing is laying the sandstone on the gravel, levelling, adjusting, and filling in the 1 to 4 inch cracks with gravel.
As the lady wants to grow something like thyme or sedum in some of the cracks , I am also putting some dirt in between.
Weather is very dry most of the year here, but it will pour in July august, and snow and get cold in winter, but the snow melts quite fast.
How does this all sound to you, knowing that these aren't the typical British conditions, I still believe your feedback or opinion would help, as I am more of a jack of all trades out here.
The person I am working for wants to keep a natural look to it all, and doesn't want cement, although I have advised here to sprinkle a mixture of cement and sand in the cracks between the sandstones.
I have laid rocks and sandstone around my cabin, directly into the red sandy soil I have here, and it holds well, however, since her land is harder to work, I opted for the gravel layer.

Thanks for any comments.
A cowboy paver who would like to do a good job.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 30 Jul 2002
It all sounds good to me. A bit of sand wouldn't go amiss in the bedding and the joints, as that will help bind together the gravel and prevent the flagstones from slipping and/or settling, but I don't think it's essential.

I wouldn't bother with any cement, it only complicates matter when you're going for the natural look. Just make sure the bedding is well-compacted and the flags firmly bedded and it should survive the rigours of you local weather patterns.

I'd love to see pictures, if you get the chance. I don't get to see much stone paving from N.America, as everything on the web seems to be imprinted or etched concrete!

30 Jul 2002

Thank you for your reassuring reply.
I'll go ahead.
Sure, I'll send you some pictures, in particular the rock work around here, and if I get to a big city (Albuquerque, or Santa Fe) I'll remember.


Tony McCormack
30 Jul 2002
You can with them if you wish, Marc.
Forum Question HELP - a gravel nightmare! - Barry - 30 Jul 2002
Hi there,

I've spent the last two weeks laying a gravel drive at a local nursing home. The total area is around 550 square metres, which made the cost of tarmac, block paving or concrete prohibitive for them, even though gravel is not ideal.

We've laid a very substantial hardcore base bounded by Council-style kerbs throughout. This has been wackered down using a Bomag 71E vibrating roller. We then added Type I sub-base to a compacted depth of 125mm, and finished with a couple of inches of 20mm gravel.

Now, this is where it's gone wrong ! When we graded the Type I level across the site, there was an accumulation of large pieces (no dust in with it) in the middle of the site. Like a moron, I ignored this and hoped it would compact in. We then added the shingle on top, and at this point, once again like a moron, I added about 3 inches on the principle that more = better!

Anyway, just after we'd done this, a chap with a Pow-Wow water van drove across this area. Of course, he sank in to a depth of about 5 " - down to where the dusty compacted part of the scalpings is, and we had to pull him out with the JCB.

So, I've spent the afternoon digging off the surplus shingle and these big bits of sub-base down to where the compacted dust is, and then adding just 1 inch or so of gravel.

This seems a lot better, and we'll have to go over the whole site making sure that the layering is uniform.

A question...

The recommended depth in all the books I've got for gravel is 35mm. But at 35mm, the roller tends to distribute, rather than compact, the gravel, and cars make bloody great ruts in it. It doesn't help that visitors to the site come flying onto the gravel at 30mph and then attempt to practice their wheelspins ! Have we done something wrong ? Do I need a bigger roller?


forum answer Tony McCormack - 31 Jul 2002
35mm depth of gravel is right. It's stated at that depth so that there's sufficient depth to cover the sub-base completely, and to allow for some loss as it gradually beds in.

Gravel is always a bloody nightmare when first laid - it's loose, it kicks everywhere, it's like walking/driving through treacle - but 6 months from now, it will be much better. It needs to acquire a quantity of fines that will help bed it in. This can be accelerated by adding a quantity of grit sand or rock fines to the gravel, but, even then, it's not going to be ideal: that's something that comes with time.

Depending on your deal with the client, it's sometimes better to prepare a really good sub-base, and dress that with 20-25mm, allow it to be trafficked for a month or so, then add another covering; leave it for a month, add another covering; and so on for 4-6 months until you eventually end up with a relatively sound, solid surface that has the gravel well-embedded into it and a loose surface dressing of 10-20mm.

If the client wanted a sound running surface immediately, they should have opted for another type of surfacing.

31 Jul 2002
Thanks Tony.

That's put my mind at rest a little - I do tend to worry about these things unduly, but I think it's worth getting the job right first time. The last thing I want is the clients unhappy.

I should say that my main business is actually as a Freeholder's agent, mostly dealing with maintenance and repairs to established properties. Most gravel drives that we've worked on are very well-established, so it's just a case of repairing areas of damaged base and sub-base, compacting and topping up. The bone dry weather has made this new drive even more lively than it might otherwise be, and it gave me a bit of a fright!

We've only branched out into 'private' work recently, as there seems to be a real demand around here for polite workmen who do decent work to the the correct specs. Some of the horror stories we've heard about quite well-known local firms are mind-boggling...

Thanks again,

Tony McCormack
31 Jul 2002
I wonder sometimes whether the paving trade is plagued with more cowboys than other building trades, such as brickies or the Double Glazing Guys.

There seems to be 2 or 3 decent contractors in most large towns, along with a bunch of well-intentioned amateurs, and then an opportunistic cowboy club, always looking for a chance.

Do you not use much Hoggin down your end, then? It always seems to be a popular request from folk in the South, looking for a cheap'n'cheerful driveway. I know it can be a bloody nightmare at times, but I get more emails about hoggin and where to get it, than about gravel.

31 Jul 2002
Hi Tony,

I haven't seen a hoggin driveway around these parts, but I'm sure they must exist!

We generally see DTp Type 1 granular sub-bases with various surface dressings.

The people we use for aggregates are a company called Days based in Purley, Surrey. They have always been very good with regard to decent drivers and tipping procedures, and are also very prompt - a few hours notice for several 20 tonne loads is no problem at all. I wonder if they carry hoggin?...

Thanks again,

Forum Question Edging for gravel drive - Cookster - 31 Jul 2002
Apologies if any of the following are stupid questions, but I'm only a beginner at this! smiley

I'm planning to lay a gravel driveway, and I'm thinking of having a line of blocks along each side to retain the gravel. I'd like to use paving blocks, laid end-on to the driveway, with 'rope edging' next to it on the one side (where there is a large garden border).

I've read about the depth of concrete I need underneath, but I would be grateful for clarification regarding pointing. If the blocks are laid on a bed of mortar (and haunched at the sides), does this mean that it won't be necessary to 'point' inbetween the blocks with cement?

Assuming this is the case, I take it that I'll have to brush sand into the gaps between the blocks - should I expect this to escape with time, or is there an effective method of sealing it in?

Also, there is a flight of steps leading down from one side of the driveway. If I rebuild the top step using paving blocks to tie in with the driveway edging, is this likely to be a problem (as I'll only be able to put the haunching on the drive side of the step)?

forum answer Tony McCormack - 31 Jul 2002
If you lay the edging blocks on a bed of concrete, there's absolutely no need to fill the joints with sand - this is only done on larger block pavements, not on single edge bands that are just one or two bricks wide.

The step - if you lay the tread blocks on a wet concrete, so that they stick to the bed, that will be fine. There's not a lot of pressure on these blocks, especially with it only being a gravelled area.

31 Jul 2002
Cheers Tony. I wonder if you could help with a couple of other queries which I forgot to mention - I've been told I need an 'all-in' gravel so that it bonds together well once it's been whacked down. What sort of grade would be best for this? I phoned a couple of suppliers yesterday - one was offering '20mm to dust', whereas the other reckoned their stuff would be 10-14mm. Is the latter option likely to be too small?

The other thing I was wondering about was drainage. I'm planning to leave drainage holes in the concrete every couple of feet along the edging - do you think this will be sufficient? (The gravel is going to be laid about 2 inches deep on top of an existing base of chippings).

Thanks again for your help, and all the other info on the site - it's much appreciated!

Tony McCormack
31 Jul 2002
"All-in" gravel is one of those non-specific terms that can mean different things to different people. I understand it to mean a gravel containing an unspecified amount of dust and fines, your 20mm to dust would be what some might call an 'All-in". In some parts, they call it 'ballast', yet it really should be called a 20mm to dust, then everyone knows what we're talking about. smiley

The 14-10mm is a 'clean' gravel, because it has no dust or fines, and is ideal for pipe-bedding or land drains, rather than surface dressing. Assuming both are visually similar, I'd go for the 20mm down.

BUT....I wouldn't put down 50mm of it! See Barry's post about grave, above. Keep it to 25-35mm and make sure you've a decent sub-base underneath it. There's no real ned to leave a gap in the concrete - water will find it's own way out, either through the sub-base or between the dry gaps between the edging blocks.

31 Jul 2002
Well said.

Don't go too heavy on the gravel. It really is heartbreaking to put it all down and then find that you've made something which looks lovely but which doesn't serve the purpose. Keep it thin and it's fine.


31 Jul 2002
Thanks for that - I'll try to ensure a depth of no more than 35mm.

I suppose I was originally of the "more is better" viewpoint (as you put it in your earlier post). I'd seen plenty of other people with bald paches on their drive and a trail of gravel down the road, and assumed that it was because it was too thin...

Forum Question Gravel drive subbase - John Hardt - 12 Aug 2002
Am I glad I found this site now before I make mistakes.
I read about Barry's misfortune with the van sinking in the drive he laid and hope to avoid anything similar.

We have an old cottage on a site with 340 feet of road frontage that is 135 foot deep at one end and 70 feet at the other. The cottage is at the deeper end and the septic tank is about 110 feet from the house.

We are putting in an all weather access to the septic tank and vegetable plot from an existing gate. At this point the road is about 1'6" higher than ground level. Our long range plan is to make this our main drive once we extend and close off the existing main entrance near the cottage.

We have hand excavated an area 9" deep 14' wide by 40' long and installed concrete drain pipes under the access near the road. The subsoil is clayey and the garden becomes waterlogged during the winter so we are installing land drains along the drive (as well as elsewhere).

In developing our vegetable plot and rest of site we have accumulated a fair amount of rock and old concrete blocks. So my first question is can this material, with the blocks broken up, be placed in the bottom as a base with the dtp1 spread over it? We have already used a little bit of this material near the road so that the lorries can get in.

Second question. How wide should a driveway be where it meets the road? We have a thick hedgerow along the road the length of the property except in front of the cottage and the gate where we are putting in our access.

Third question. We will eventually want the first 30 feet or so of the drive to be level with the road. What features should we install now to make this easier down the road - poured concrete retaining wall is the only thing that came to my mind?

Thanks for your help.

All the best,

forum answer Tony McCormack - 13 Aug 2002
Sounds like quite an undertaking, John!

Q1 - use of 'hardcore' for base.
This is ok as long as you break up the rocks and concrete blocks to a reasonable size, no pieces bigger than around 150mm, and then spread as a layer around 150-200mm thick. Compact and then top with a material with plenty of fines to fill any voids. You can build up the layers, if you wish, but make sure each layer is really well compacted, preferably with a vibrating roller or a large plate  compacctor rather than a small 'block paving' plate compactor.
The last 150mm layer should be all quality material, ie, DTp1, but you can have as many sub-layers as are necessary to achieve the correct finished pavement levels.

Q2 - width of driveway at road.
This depends on what you think you'll need. A single width driveway should be not less than 3m in width, and then you might want to allow for a bell-mouth entrance, using a 3m radius, so the actual interface with the road would be 9m.
For a double driveway, look for 4.5m as the minimum width, and then again, allow for a bell-mouth of 3-4.5m radius.

Q3 - the first 40 feet
Without seeeing the site, it's not easy to say what would be best for this area at this particular stage, but the usual practice is to put in the kerbs/edgings along with a sub-base, and, possibly, a base of, say 50mm of bitmac to act as a temporary running surface. You should install at least a couple of 100 or 150mm ducts, with draw ropes, just to make it easier to get services in at a later date.

Forum Question Steeply sloping gravel driveway - als - 21 Aug 2002
Hi Tony

Have you got any suggestions, besides lifting and laying pavers etc ,on how to "secure" decorative gravel on a driveway that has a relatively steep incline?

forum answer Tony McCormack - 21 Aug 2002
The best option is not to use it, but I don't suppose that's feasible, or you wouldn't be asking!

So, you have a few options - you could 'glue' it in place, using one of the resin bond systems. Deep pockets required, I'm afraid.

Or, you could use one of thge cellular plastic grass paving systems, such as Versaweb or Ritter, and fill that with the gravel rather than with grass. I think this would be my preferred option, but, without seeing the site, it's not really possible for me to say what would be best.

Finally, there's the age-old method of transverse bands - you lay bands of firm paving, such as flags or block pavers, running across the driveway at regular interval, say every couple of metres or so, and rely on them to 'arrest' the inevitable downhill migration of the gravel. The bands must be laid on concrete, and they are not 100% effective, but they do reduce the amount of migration.... a bit.

Is that any help?

21 Aug 2002
Thanks for the quick reply, Tony.
The versaweb or ritter sounds good, any more info or links for them.
Tony McCormack
I only have a telephone number for Versiweb (my mistake, calling it versAweb ) - 01582 414171 - but give me a couple of hours or so and I'll dig out a bit more info from my Library.


Cellular Plastic geocells....

Ecoblock by Cooper Clarke in Bolton - 01204 862222
Recyfix by Hauraton Kaskade, Herts., - 01923 285601
NetPave50 by Netlon, Blackburn - 01254 262431
Golpla by Hoofmark, Tyne&Wear -
Geoblock Grassway by WT Burdens (nationwide) - 0117 986 1766

...for some reason, the manufacturers of these systems are sadly lacking in the website departments.

The Geoblock is a simple and cost-effective system, and, because WT Burdens are a nationwide chain of Civil Engineering Suppliers, it might be easier to source via them for a small, domestic project.

6 Sep 2002
Once again you've came up with the goods Tony, got the Geo blocks from Burdens and it worked a treat.
Many thanks
Jonathan Graham
5 Jan 2003
Or cheapest is from Polypipe Civils - available through most big builders merchants
Forum Question Recessed Tray Manhole Covers - Raptorsss - 22 Aug 2002
Where can I find a place to order one of the Recessed Tray Manhole Covers that you show on your site? I am having a driveway poured next week, and I would prefer to cover the manhole with such an item.


forum answer Tony McCormack - 22 Aug 2002
Most Builders Merchants stock them, or, at least, they stock the 450x600mm size and some have the 600x600mm size. If you wanted a different size, you'd have to order through someone like or Cooper Clarke in Bolton - contact details on the Drainage Links page.
Forum Question Pipes and gravel - Heavyweight - 17 Sep 2002
Hi Tony.

I currently have a tarmc drive which is rough and needs replacing - I'm considering pulling up the tarmac and replacing with 20mm sea washed cobbles as these are a bit more attrctive than normal crushed stone (IMHO)

The problem I have is the sewarage pipes x 3 that run from the bungalow to a manhole - these pipes are not very deep approx I believe they are approx 2-3 inches below the surface of the hardcore with another 2-3 inches of tarmac.

My question is what do I have to do to protect the pipes if I lay the stone? what about re-inforcing mesh steel laid over the hardcore above the pipes? is there something better I could do? or is stone totally out of the question with pipes this high in some areas.

I could move the pipes to go around the edge of the bungalow - I'm wary to do this as this would create more 180 bends - with a low fall already I would guess this could create blocking problems.

Anyway sorry to hit you with such a long one - any help would be much appreciated.

Regards Paul

forum answer Tony McCormack - 17 Sep 2002
I have a feeling you'll come to regret those rounded gravels (20mm sea-washed pebbles ). They'll be spewed everywhere by the cars; they'll be kicked up by the wheels; the lack of fines will mean they never properly bed-in...Mmmm, needs thinking about! Have you considered using a cellular system to hold the gravel in place?

As for the drains, they need at least 450mm of cover. the way you have them at the moment, they are way too shallow and the only effective protection is to encase the lot in concrete, at least 100mm of it, which is not really possible, I guess.

If you do decide to re-lay the pipes, you can avoid 90 degree bends (180 degree is a mistake, I think! ) by doing a 45° bend, then 600mm or so of straight and then another 45°, but, there really shouldn't be a problem, as long as the falls are sufficient.

If you're going to be digging up the entire driveway, it's probably the best opportunity you'll get to re-do the drainage. For the deco-gravel surfacing, I'd recommend a sub-base of at least 100mm DTp1, and then one of the plastic cellular grids to contain the gravel and give a traffickable surface. Loose gravel is more trouble than it's worth!

Forum Question Tarmac Driveways - Winelight - 21 Sep 2002
We have probably 2km of tarmac driveways on this site and obviously need to have stretches repaired from time to time. What sort of price should we expect to pay per sq m?

Also, what sort of materials and techniques should we specify?

Wear varies - some stretches take a few dozen vehicle movements a day, other stretches take hundreds, espeically in summer.

If it makes a difference to what equipment can be brought on site, the driveways are quite narrow in places - 8ft wide maximum.

We are in SW Herts so would also appreciate recommendations on local contractors.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 21 Sep 2002
With that amount of surfacing to maintain, it might be worth investigating a maintenance contract that specifies a set rate for repairs. Several of our clients in the past preferred this sort of arrangements.

However, you need to be offering work to a contractor on a 6-monthly basis at least, and if you can't do that, then you may be stuck with asking a few local contractors to price the work as and when it comes available. The prices will reflect the quantity of work, the materials to be used, the ease of access, the type of laying etc, so it's simply not possible to quote a 'standard' rate for that type of work.

Similarly with the specification - the surfacing taking a lot of hammer might need a 70mm base, whereas the light-use areas could get away with a 50mm base, but it would not be professional of me to suggest a 'standard' spec that would be suitable for your site without me having surveyed the site beforehand.

24 Sep 2002
Many thanks for your detailed reply.

I did telephone a local contractor from the Yellow Pages, and they indicated prices ranging from £10-£15 per square metre, which will, as you say, vary depending on the quantity of work carried out at a time, and the thickness required. They suggested that £10 might apply if we have a minimum of 100sq m done at a time, and only needing a thinner layer - they described this as "top coat only" - with the price increasing to £15 where more work needs doing ("top coat plus base coat", in their words).

Does this sound reasonable?

Andrew Ward

Tony McCormack
24 Sep 2002
It sounds reasonable enough for the actual surfacing work, but I would guess that they have not allowed for any excavation and cart away that might be required in replacing sections of surfacing, or re-grading of sub-base, re-alignment of kerbs, re-fixing ironwork, etc.
26 Sep 2002
Fortunately we have no kerbs or ironwork - the driveways are literally just a strip of tarmac - but I take your point about the other works.

Many thanks for your help.

Forum Question Concrete bays - Heavyweight - 29 Sep 2002
Hi again Tony - superb site.

My question is regarding concrete bays.

What depth of concrete would you reccomend for a driveway used for cars only.... the drive is 96ft long by 13ft wide.

My second question is what is the maximum sized bay I can lay? I was thinking of laying bays of 8ft x 10ft by 4 inch thick after the edging is taken into account.
Does this sound OK or do I need to change the dimensions anywhere?

Question 3.
I was thinking of laying block paviors as spacer joints to break the concrete up - would I have to seperate the concrete bays completely with the paviors i.e 2 paviors deep.

Thanks in advance Tony....once again excellent site

forum answer Tony McCormack - 29 Sep 2002
Hi again,

Q1 - you need at least 100mm thickness. Anything less will just fall apart.

Q2 - 13ft wide is roughly 4m, which is fine for a bay width, and then for the length, 96ft (I can't work in imperial, it's too bloody complicated! ) is roughly 30m, so I'd split it every 6m (that's about 20 of them feet thingies)

Q3 - using block pavers as you propose will create a weak spot in the concrete, which is what you want, so that it, effectively, acts as a crack control joint. Just how you get the blocks to stay put if you're doing a continous pour, though, is another matter!

If it were me, I'd consider laying block pavers to all the edges, so that they act as the shuttering, and are a decorative finish. Lay them on 50-100mm of concrete a couple of days or so before doing the actual main pour, and don't forget to haunch them, too! I'd also place the transverse break courses in before doing the actual concrete pour. You can cover the pavers with the dpm to keep them clean during the concrete placement, and then trim it down a day or so later.

No shuttering to strike, and decent-looking professional finish to the job. smiley

Heavyweight - 30 Sep 2002 Thanks Tony.

Sorry about the measurements being in old money - i'll use metric in future. wink

The bays will work out well as you suggest and using paviors as shuttering makes sense as long as I am gentle when pouring the concrete.

When you say using the paviors as suggested do you mean stacking them 2 high on a concrete bed or just bed a single brick on 50mm to 100mm of concrete.

Thanks again

Tony McCormack
30 Sep 2002
No - just a single brick depth, laid on and haunched with concrete, as shown in the Laying Soldier Edgings section of the site. If the blocks are laid 3-7 days before the concrete is placed, they will be more than capable of withstanding any placement pressure, as long as they are reasonably well haunched.
Forum Question Fibredec - Winelight - 2 Oct 2002
One contractor is pressing us to try Fibredec instead of traditional tarmac relaying. The price seems very cheap - he is quoting £6 per square yard (not metre, oddly) and says it has an 8 year guarantee. This seems too good to be true (and if something seems too good to be true, that usually means it is).

Doesn't Fibredec need specialist equipment to apply it? What's better - to use it as surface dressing or a stress absorbing interlayer?

forum answer Tony McCormack
Fibredec is a mix of bitumen binders, glass fibres and special aggregates. It has never really taken off for residential driveways, mostly because only licensed contractors can install it and they tend to aim their services at larger projects. It's a popular choice for light-use public footpaths, disabled access paths in rural areas and cycleways, but I'm not sure just how well it would perform on a residential driveway, as it's not something we've ever done.

The manufacturer is Colas and you can read more about Fibredec on their website. I'd check with Colas about suitability before committing myself.

Winelight - 2 Oct 2002 Many thanks for the reply. I'll contact Colas for further advice and to obtain details of licensed contractors.
Forum Question Cost effective sub-base? - amb - 8 Oct 2002
Hi there,

Firstly, I wanted to congratulate you on a superb website! - excellent Thank you!

I am at the start of a barn conversion in Suffolk which is in the middle of a field with no driveway so this is one of the first priorities to be able to access the site. The driveway needs to run approx 500 metres to road with a width of 3.7m wide (building regs.). The sub-grade is clay. This effectively works out at 1850sq m - Gulp! what is the most cost effective way of constructing the driveway? Cement lorries etc will need to use driveway so it needs to withstand 20 ton lorries during barn conversion but once complete just a car.

I was thinking about 150mm sub-base DTp1 until I received some quotes £12+VAT per ton (and I need approx 500 tons). I noted your comments about a good sub-base and how essential this is but wondered if there is a cheaper alternative to DTp1 without compromising the quality/strength of the sub-base?

Would a geotextile laid before sub-base be necessary?

WRT compacting, I presume a roller would be more appropriate than a wacker?

Finally, what depth of gravel would you recommend as a finishing layer?

Any suggestions or advise you can offer would be greatly appreciated. The finished effect needs to look more like a farm track from a conservation and planning point of view.

Best regards

forum answer Tony McCormack - 13 Oct 2002
Hi - apologies for the delay, but I've been away for a few days.

Given thay you've a lot of building work to do yet, I'd go for a simple access track approach. Strip off the topsoil and stoire on site; get down tho a decent sub-grade of clay, and then lay a proper geo-membrane, such as Terram 1000 (not a landscape fabric! ) and overlay that with 150-200mm of DTp2 depending on the depth of excavation.

You can get away with using all Type 2 at this stage, as it's a temporary access, and then, once all the construction work is finished and you're ready to install the final surfacing, you'll need to strip off the top 50mm or so of contaminated sub-base material and replace it with decent material, probably a Type 1.

Yes, compact it with a roller when first lad, as it's quicker than using a Vibrating Plate, but the site traffic will consolidate it much better than any roller could, so, by the time you come to install the finsihing layer, it will be well solid. smiley

12 quid a tonne sounds a bit expensive, especially given you're taking 500+ tonnes. I'd shop around and see what else is available. You should be able to get a crushed brick/concrete DTp2 material for less than 8 quid per tonne.

Forum Question Gravel Drive Construction - ScottC20 - 28 Oct 2002
I am currently contemplating constructing a gravel drive at my house but have a few questions about drainage (The drive partly will run along side the house). It is my understanding that the top layer of the drive must 150mm below that of the damp course. However does there need to be a gap between the drive edge and the house itself?? If so what??

I was also wondering whether a membrane is required between the compacted type 1 and the gravel layer in order to prevent the two mixing??  Any help is greatly appreciated.


forum answer Tony McCormack - 28 Oct 2002
Hi Scott,

the drive can be laid right up to the house, as long a sits surface is at least 150mm below then damp course. So: no need for a gap or owt like that.

When it comes to using geo-membranes, I'd only recommend their use if the sub-grade is suspect in some way, and then it should be laid between the sub-grade and the sub-base, rather than between the sub-base and the gravel surface dressing. This prevents the sub-base mixuing into the earth below - the potential problem of the gravel mixing with the sub-base material is a very, very minor issue and a membrane between sub-base and surface layer would actually make it worse, not better!

And if you do opt for a geo-membrane, invest in a proper geo-membrane such as Terram 1000 or TDP115, rather than a landscape fabric such as Plantex.


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