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26/01/2013 at 17:43


We have a small garden at the rear and a small garden at the front of our house.

I've been thinking of laying a winding path in the rear garden (about 5 bricks in width) and about 36 feet long from the back of the house to the shed at the end of the garden. I want to lay the bricks in lines running lengthways up the path. This path will not be taking much weight.

For the path at the front however, I would like to make a herringbone style pattern (about 4 feet wide and 20 feet long) and this path will be load bearing as it leads from the front door to the street, so needs a firm foundation for deliveries etc.

I have watched the two videos with Monty Don and Joe on the best methods of laying the foundations for slab and brick paths, but I am still unsure of the right materials for laying loose bricks on paths for different uses/weights.

Do I need what Monty Don calls "Scalpings" before laying the sand on top, or is Ballast purchased from a builders merchants just as good?

Also, should the bricks be laid "wet" on top of the layers of Scalpings/Ballast and the sand with a cement mix, so being set in place, or will the bricks be fine simply laid "dry" on top of the top layer of sand, with just sharp sand sprinkled on top, filling the gaps to pack them tight, even if they are load bearing?

Will this method be solid enough?

I have also been wondering on the best type of clay bricks, as I like the old fashioned clay type multi-stock bricks to look at, but are these suitable for taking much weight under foot, and is there a particular type that is more liable to cracking, especially in snowy/frosty conditions?

Any help would be greatly appreciated!



26/01/2013 at 18:37

get bricks that are for paving. There are too many that will absorb water and disintegrate when the frosts come. Second hand, recycled brickyards are good. If the bricks look as though they've been there for some time and they haven't started falling apart, that's the ones to get. They'll all take the weight, it's the weather that does for them. 

27/01/2013 at 10:51

This article looks quite good. They say it will last decades without using cement. You need the right sort of bricks, the ones that have been cooked hotter and longer so they don't crack in the frost.

27/01/2013 at 13:11

I have some brick paths so ignore weight querries unless you are expecting a delivery of bank safes. As for spalling (for that is what it's called) this is when water is absorbed into the bricks which then freezes. I lose about one brick a year but it's a simple matter to chisel out the remains and insert another one. Laying the path is really all about commonsense although I wouldn't use the dry mortar mix method, or at least it never worked for me. Lay a pair of lines of engineering bricks on edge in wet mortar (3:2:1 mix, builders sandharp sand cement) about 2ft apart, check how many infill bricks would fill the gap. Next day when the mortar has set, whack in a load of wet mortar (same mix) then lay the infill bricks tamping level with the bordering bricks. Brush in fine sand into the gaps. Done. My paths have been down about eight years or so and no problems. Of course there are other ways to do it, this is mine. It's not rocket science, just play around with it and you'll find your own best way.

27/01/2013 at 21:29

Many thanks for your help, that's very helpful.

Joe's video shows him only laying the bordering pavers in wet mortar, with the bricks in the middle laid dry, so I'm still a little unsure of the best way, however it sounds like you have a pretty good method there Paul.

I'm in the process of looking for a good reclaimed clay brickyard, so I can get the right types/colour etc.

Does anyone know, Is Ballast as good as Scalpings for the base layer, before the sand is added?

Thanks again -and for the link Busy-Lizzie!


28/01/2013 at 09:23


No need to scalpings nor ballast. Provided the soil is nice and firm and you plonk down a nice depth of moist or wet mortar, the path will be plenty strong enough. I found in the past that laying bricks or paving slabs on a dry mix and brushing in dry sand was a guaranteed way of discovering later on you have a loose brick or three. I don't know if Tommy Walsh has any film clips on YouTube but that's the way he'd do it.

As much as I admired dear Geoff Hamilton, his method of laying paving slabs with five spots of mortar was always guaranteed to fail as well. I did this once when laying a patio and I was sweeping dry mortar into the gaps for months as it searched out the voids beneath the slabs. Tommy's method of a good sloppy bed of mortar works a treat for me.



28/01/2013 at 16:07

Yes, I'm not convinced of the five spots of mortar method either.

I think the moist/wet mortar way sounds like it'll make a better foundation and provide more stability for brick pavers.

Thanks Paul!

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