Home improvement jobs you can do: Block paving a driveway

Expert renovator Michael Holmes offers his advice on how to lay a block paved driveway.

Block paving is a hardwearing and smart option for a driveway, providing you choose the right blocks and bonding pattern. It’s hard work, but as long as you take your time and don’t cut corners you can tackle it.

Providing you use permeable block paving, or direct surface water (such as rainwater) to a flowerbed or a ground drain with soakaway, paving your drive won’t need planning permission. You will need planning consent to direct surface water to storm drains in the road.

Regular shaped clay or concrete blocks are the best option as their interlocking shape makes them easier to lay, compared to irregular (but cheap) natural stone sets.

Start by taking the existing driveway back down to hardcore; or for a new driveway, strip back at least 250mm of topsoil (150mm sub-base, 50mm sand, 50mm paving). Work out the depth of the build up (compacted roadstone and paving) at the highest point, usually nearest the house, and work away from there, allowing for a gentle fall of at least 1:80 (25mm per 2m run) towards your drainage. Set your levels out with a laser level and mark on firmly planted timber posts with nails to which you can attach a line as a guide for laying to.

Start by setting out the drainage, then lay the sub-base material, either MOT Type 1 Roadstone, slag, or scalpings (order by the tonne bag or, for large loads, a loose delivery by tipper truck may be cheaper). Compact firmly using a plate vibrator.

Block paving is only as good as the edging containing it on all four sides, so make sure edging blocks or kerbstones are firmly bedded down in concrete haunching – they’ll need to bear the weight of a car.

Lay blocks in sections, starting in a corner at the lowest point. Create a level area over the sub-base using sharp sand to a depth of around 50mm – it’s easier to get a level surface if you set out timber guide rails for the area to the correct level. Compact with a plate vibrator, then spread 15mm of sharp sand over the area as a loose screed and set to the correct level by drawing a piece of timber over the guide rails. Lay the blocks loosely, a course at a time, working to your chosen bond or pattern, leaving joint gaps of 2-5mm around each block.

Once the entire area is covered, sweep it thoroughly and compact with the plate vibrator. Finally, sweep jointing sand (kiln dried) with a dry broom over the entire area, ensuring all joints are filled and then vibrate again.

An average driveway is a week’s work, but you can split it over two or three weekends.

Tools needed…

  • Concrete block cutter (£50 per week)
  • Mini-digger (£60-£70 per day)
  • Plate vibrator (£50-£60 per day)
  • Disc cut-off saw (£40-£50 per week)
  • Laser level
  • Shovel
  • Pickaxe
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Knee pads
  • Protective eyewear
  • Ear protectors

A driveway before and after block paving

Remember to…

  • Dig out softer areas and compact more sub-base in.
  • Randomly mix and lay blocks from at least three packs for even distribution of colour.
  • Apply a silicone sealant to protect against spillages once the paving has settled.
  • Make sure the driveway is at least 150mm below your home’s damp-proof course level.
  • Direct the fall (water) away from your house or garage.
  • Make sure the concrete mix isn’t too wet. Place it at the front and rear of your laid out edging and push into place using a trowel.
  • Bed the drainage channels in the same way as the edging.
  • Set out manhole covers at the outset. Use a recessed tray cover you can fit paving into.

Cost: Materials will cost £18-£28 per m². Hiring a 2.5-3.5m³ skip costs £120-£150.