A professional start for a professional finish

Planning a garden makeover? The key to a great looking and long-lasting finish is all in the preparation. And when you're talking about Paving, it couldn't be more important.

Whether you’re undertaking a complete outdoor overhaul, or simply updating an area of your garden, taking some time to get the basics properly in place will make sure that your project stays on track, and the outcome is as you envisioned it.

With this in mind, we explore some of the basics of making sure a garden design goes to plan.

Planning your garden project

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail. This often-used quote holds very true when it comes to your garden plans.

When developing your garden design, the first consideration is what type of garden do you want? Are you looking for outdoor space that’s ideal for entertaining? Do you want to incorporate a wildflower style garden? Have you got pets that are going to add muddy pawprints to even the most carefully laid surface?

By starting with how you wish to use your garden, you can then design the space accordingly. This doesn’t mean that your garden needs to be just “one thing”. You can create a mixture of zones which are dedicated to spaces which have different needs.

On a practical level, when planning a garden project be sure to do your research about the best time to start. For example, trying to lay a patio when you have two weeks of rain forecast isn’t generally a good idea. If you are considering growing plants or veg, ensure that you choose the area of the garden for them to flourish.

Cost out your project

Once you have an idea of exactly what you want in mind, it’s time to consider the costs. 

For a paving project, you will want to keep longevity in mind, along with a style that compliments your space. For all garden projects it's worth taking a moment to write down all the “big ticket” items you want. This could be anything from the patio paving to a swing for the kids.

Be sure to take into account the quality of the materials. It’s often the case with any material which is designed to stay outside. that paying a little more in the short term will actually save money in replacement in the long run.

And don’t forget the incidentals. From needing buckets and line markers to skip hire, it’s often the miscellaneous items that take a garden project over the estimated budget so accounting for it all upfront is worth the time. 

While buying some items such as a wheelbarrow or gloves is a good long-term investment, as you may need to use them again, it’s also worth considering whether some items can be hired just for the job. At Alsford Timber, we have HSS tool hire in a number of our branches with a range of equipment available to hire for landscaping jobs.

Prepare your garden

One of the most important, yet often overlooked part of a perfect finish is preparing your garden for work.

For laying paving it’s essential to make sure that the ground is ready. If you're doing it yourself you'll need to prepare a solid sub-base - a layer of crushed aggregate that will provide strength and give load-bearing capacity.

How deep your paving foundation will need to be, will depend on the ground conditions and intended use - light usage such as a walkway, will be able to use a shallower depth than a heavy use path, intended for mowers or to support raised beds. Take advice from your paving supplier as to the right preparation for your paving selection.

Cutting and pointing

For a big job like paving, you'll likely purchase a paving pack.

For natural paving styles, these packs will contain paving slabs of multiple sizes giving you coverage of an area up to 20.7m2.

Square slab paving is a common alternative to natual paving. Square slabs are a low cost way of paving, laid in a standard line pattern to cover a basic patio area. 

If the area you've selected for a patio or paving isn't perfectly aligned with your paving slabs - which is unfortunately quite likely - you will need to cut them. Cutting paving is a task to approach with caution, wearing protective equipment such as goggles and gloves, and a specialist cropper is the recommended equipment to hire, alternately Slab & Block splitters can offer clean cuts and are suitable for cutting concrete paving.

Pointing your patio is a key stage, and you should not leave your paving unpointed for more than a few days. A standard cement mortar mix is normally enough to point your slabs, and using a jointing tool will make the job a whole lot easier. Some paving suppliers offer specific jointing compounds with a colour match to their products and the benefit of a carefully prepared mix that is purposely designed for your paving.

Hiring a tradesperson?

Depending on the complexity of your project, you might wish to get a professional onboard to help with either the entire design and implementation, or just an element of your garden makeover.

For projects that involve more complex activities such as laying a new patio, it can be best to get an expert involved, to both save you time, and make sure the finish is excellent.

If you’re considering using a professional to help with your garden, get several quotes and be sure to add this into your budget. By taking some additional time to get your project perfectly planned, you can help to save time and money in the long run.

Completing the job

There's nothing more satisfying than completing a bit of DIY, or watching someone else complete it for you. 

In the end, what makes the difference is the materials, if you approach your job with a professional finish in mind, you'll be much more likely to be happy with the outcome.

For advice on paving options contact your local Alsford branch.