Imported flagstones have become incredibly popular over recent years, but the "weak point" in the sales strategy has always been design. Some manufacturers offer basic plans that create a simple rectangular layout , but how many patios and/or driveways are 3m x 3.6m rectangles? Alternativeley, some suppliers provide what we refer to as pseudo-random or cluster layouts, that aren't really random at all, so buyers end up with the same pattern as the neighbour. Most distributors and retailers seem to adopt the gloriously unhelpful "what's it got to do with us" attitude. They're quite happy to take your money but they don't want to help with any laying guidance or design advice.
Pavingexpert develop bespoke random layouts to order and work with the widest possible range of materials, creating truly unique and time-saving layout plans in as little as 24 hours.
Due to the level of interest and enquiries from readers of the website, Pavingexpert now offers a custom paving layout design service. This is the same design system we used when contracting. In fact, many professional contractors in Britain and Ireland rely on us to develop layout plans on their behalf so that when they arrive on site, the 'brain work' is done for them; the client has already been able to see and approve the plan, and the correct quantities of material are all to hand. No wasting time scratching the head wondering whether it's a 900x600 or a 450x600 next - it's all there on the plan: all they have to do is lay the damned things!
The design service is available for any type of paving materials, from any manufacturer, distributor or importer, and for any size and shape of area. We can design using a free mix of sizes or using project packs . Unlike every other design tool, the Pavingexpert system can cope with any mix of manufacturers or materials, with any shape whether it's geometric or not, and with any number of level changes (steps, terraces, ramps, etc.)
Any materials or combination of materials:
- Flags - Setts - Cobbles - Brick Paviors - Kerbs - Edgings
- Stone or Concrete: Riven or sawn: pressed or wet-cast
Any manufacturer; any distributor; any retailer; any combination:
- Marshalls' Flags with Bradstone Edgings? No problem!
- Rock Unique's Raj Flagstone with Pavestone's Granite setts? No problem
Any shape or size:
- Patios, paths, driveways, courtyards, terraces
- 10m² to 10,000m² - it doesn't matter to us
- Squares, rectangles, circles, arcs, curves, diamonds, abstract or completely made-up
Any mix of unit sizes:
- Use every size in the range or use just the largest/smallest sizes
- Free sizes or project packs
- Stockist out of one particular size? No problem - we design using only the sizes you specify!
The system used is unique: each and every design is individually created by a certified real human being!
It would be nice to think that it was simply a matter of pressing a button and letting a computer arrange the flags and other paving units, but with over 30 years of experience in developing these layouts, we find that the only way to get an aesthetically-pleasing layout with minimal wastage is to rely on that experience and draw each plan individually.
So: how does it work?
The Site Plan:
We don't expect (or need) a work-of-art site layout plan: we prefer to keep it simple.
If the site is a simple rectangle, then send us the dimensions (length and width) - no need for a sketch.
However, for more intricately shaped sites, all that's needed is a simple sketch with dimensions. This can be done in any graphics program and saved as a GIF, JPG, PNG or just about any type of file you care to mention. Should you have the right software, you can use a CAD program and send it as .dwg, .dxf or .tcw files. If you prefer, a simple pencil and paper sketch of the area will do, and you can scan it or send it via the snail mail.
Mark on any pertinent features, such as manholes, gullies, walls, etc, and try to provide measurements in metric, to the nearest 50mm.
Please indicate which are "hard edges" and which are "soft edges". Hard edges are those that cannot be moved for whatever reason - they might be a wall, a fence, a boundary line or any other line or fixture that simply cannot be altered. Soft edges are those that have a degree of flexibility, such as flower beds and lawns.
When we come to draw up the design, we may find it more economical to allow the paving to extend a few centimetres beyond a soft edge, but we will be aware that we have no such leeway with "hard edges".
If you can't " do metric ", don't worry - it's not difficult to convert, but if you simply must have a plan in olde-worlde imperial units (feet and inches), please make that clear when you send in your plan.
Your sketch is plotted into the CAD system on arrival and we'll be in touch if there are any glaring errors. Don't worry: we never proceed with the layout design until we're confident your layout is correct. It's much easier to make changes on paper than it is on the ground!
We need written confirmation (email is fine) of the paving to be used.
This is essential because some clients have sworn blind that their flags are 600mm units , and then when the flags arrive on site, they turn out to be 560mm modules and the client expects us to re-design for free.
It's the client's responsibility to check the flags that will be used and to provide us with written confirmation of the sizes that will be used. If the client doesn't want to use one or more particular size within a given range (some people really don't like the BIG 1200x600mm units that are available), the design can drawn up accordingly, as long as we are told in advance.
See also the warning on this page about flags claiming to have dimensions of 285mm, 570mm or 855mm.
Getting the information to us:
Sketches can be scanned and attached to an email, or you can send the output file(s) from almost any graphics program. If you prefer, send the sketch as a PDF: in fact, we can accept just about any popular format, including Word, Excel, PhotoShop, AutoCad and dozens more. Should you prefer to send information via the snail mail, the address for correspondence is...
32 Newchurch Lane
Sorry, we don't accept faxes (bloody thing kept going off in the middle of the night, so I binned it!) but you can telephone Monday to Friday between 10am and 3pm on +44 (0)1925 762034
What you get:
The designs are individually created within a CAD system developed specifically for this type of work.
As you can see from the examples, each size of unit is given an individual colour, making it much easier to identify which goes where.
The full-colour print-outs are either A4 or A3 sized, and are usually scaled at 1:50, which we find is ideal for a working drawing. Other scales are available on request.
One copy of the design drawing is laminated so that it can be used outdoors or blu-tacked to the conservatory windows without fear or it being ruined by rain or stray coffee. A second copy of the drawing is provided so that it can be annotated or amended if required. Each drawing includes a plan (Bird's Eye View) of the proposed paving along with any relevant cross-sections.
Each design also includes a "Run List", which details exactly how many of what size are required, along with a recommendation for how many to allow for wastage.
There's also a calculation illustrating what quantity of laying course sand and cement is required for the bedding, and a separate calculation for the jointing, with options to use standard sand/cement mortar or a resin material .
Click on the image to the right to open a full size sample run-list.
The full document set comprises two copies of the drawing, one of which is laminated, plus the run-list. The main drawing includes a cross-section drawing showing typical recommended constructions. Some details, such as steps, walls, or fences, may be illustrated in separate A4 sized drawings.
All the documents are carefully packed within an A4 envelope or, for larger drawings, a distinctive green postal tube, to ensure they arrive in pristine condition with no creases or folds, and mailed out first class as soon as payment is received.
Client Andy Platt commented,
Just wanted to say thanks for your help and design and thought you may like to see how it turned out - we didn't have to cut a single slab on the design :-)
How long does it take?
We aim to 'turnaround' each design within 24-48 hours. However, there is a strict policy of not releasing designs until payment is received. As soon as payment is made, the drawing and all other documentation is sent out by first class post.
Clients are welcome to have a PDF of the drawing emailed to them, if they so wish. Bear in mind that these emailed versions will not be anywhere near as good a quality as the actual drawing, but should be good enough to allow work to commence, if you're in a hurry or working to a deadline.
What does it cost?
I held prices at the same rate from 2018, but I've been forced to revise them for the 2022 season thanks to the so-called cost-of-living crisis. I really wish this wasn't necessary, but the previous fees no longer adequately covered the time taken to create professional, bespoke designs.
With even a basic riven stone paving now costing around £40* (€50) for anything of quality, the price of a typical 40m² design is still less than the cost of couple of metres of paving, and most of my clients will tell you that is a sound investment: a good design for a 40m² may well save more than a couple of metres of wasted paving, so a bespoke design could easily pay for itself.
* Yes: I know you can get it cheaper, but I'm talking about good quality, ethically sourced, won't-crumble-in-3-years flagstones, not the crap bargain basement stuff!
There is a minimum fee of £30 or €35. Most designs are priced according to the area that has to be covered. Random layouts for modular flag paving cost as follows...
Features such as circles, steps, contrasting edge courses, paving laid at a non-orthogonal angle (eg: not 90° or 180°) and similar will incur a small additional charge, but clients are always advised of this before any design work is undertaken.
There is also a surcharge of 30p per 1m² (or part thereof) for working with pre-determined quantities ( project or patio packs and the like). This compensates for the additional time it takes to develop a design that makes best use of the flags available.
A number of the more enlightened distributors have an arrangement with Pavingexpert whereby we develop bespoke designs to suit the customers' need, and the team at Rock Unique actually subsidise the cost of design work as part of their customer-driven service. If you are buying your paving through Rock Unique, they will provide you with an order number that will need to be quoted to us to qualify for your discount.
How To Pay:
Email for details - firstname.lastname@example.org
PLEASE: Do NOT calculate a cost, bundle up everything, and send payment or a cheque without first making contact. The exact price for any design has to be verified before payment is requested.
The Technical Stuff:
Our random flag designs assume a standard 9-15mm wide joint for riven and similar flagstones, for setts, and for cubes and cobbles. Butt-jointed or close-jointed paving is designed allowing a 2-5mm joint. If you require joint widths outside these parameters, you must let us know before we start to design.
We design to ensure that the paving will always meet up with any hard edges (unless instructed otherwise). For soft edges, we aim to finish the paving at the full unit closest to the edge line. If you prefer the paving to extend beyond, rather than fall short of any such soft edge, please let us know.
We do not design falls unless a site survey with spot levels has been provided. However, we can include features such as gullies and linear channels within the paved areas and indicate the general direction of fall, if so required.
We endeavour to minimise wastage whenever and wherever possible, and we aim to reduce the amount of cutting-in required as far as is reasonably possible.