Choosing the right time of year to lay a patio is crucial, particularly if you live in the UK.
Should you install your patio in winter to have it ready for barbeques and socialising in the summer months? Or is it best to wait for warmer temperatures so there’s no risk of frost halting your construction work?
Read on to find out the best time to lay your patio paving and some tips for laying a patio if you’re planning a DIY project.
When is the best time to lay a patio?
When completing any construction work, you should always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for your purchased material. All reputable suppliers will include guidelines with the materials, although you may have to do your own research if you’re planning on building your patio using reclaimed materials.
A general rule of thumb is to avoid laying your garden patio during the colder months if you can. A higher risk of freezing temperatures means that the groundwork can be harder to carry out, and jointing materials and mortar will be harder to mix and use.
Anna Hampshire from Marshalls explains;
“Prolonged or hard frosts can put a stop to construction work. For traditional sand cement mortars used for laying paving flags, the typical guide is that they should not be used unless the ambient temperature is 3°C or above.
Some proprietary jointing compounds and products require the ambient temperature to be 5°C or higher, so it’s always important to read and follow the manufacturer's guidelines.”
When to lay a new patio
The best time of year to lay a patio in the UK is between March and November, allowing you to avoid the times of the year with the highest chances of prolonged or hard frosts - December, January and February.
Of course, if you can be flexible with your installation, you could wait for a period of milder weather during the winter months and go for it then.
Professional installers will have the equipment and know-how that will allow them to battle through bad weather. So if you plan on bringing in a professional to do the work for you, simply negotiate with your installer to find a time of year suitable for you both.
The benefits of laying your patio during the spring or summer
Laying your patio during the colder months when there’s an increased likelihood of frosts could severely disrupt your handiwork. Here are some of the reasons why you might want to consider installing your new patio when the weather warms up a little.
1. Work in comfortable temperatures
One of the key benefits of laying your patio during the warmer months is that you won't have to work in freezing cold temperatures.
If you choose to lay your patio around springtime, you’ll likely be working in conditions of around 10°C, and if you decide to hold off until the summer months then the temperatures will be more in the region of 18-22°C.
2. Fewer weather disruptions
Naturally, when the ground is freezing, it is harder to dig. This makes creating a suitable base for your patio much more difficult, especially if you don’t own the suitable tools that a professional will have.
You might also not realise that heavy downpours of rain and snow can sometimes cause big problems with the materials too. The compacted cement can easily become saturated, making it harder to use and less effective. Jointing compounds, which go between the slabs, can be harder to mix and use in harsher temperatures.
You may get away with light and sporadic rain, but you will have to postpone the work when the rain becomes heavy and protect the area with tarpaulin sheets.
3. Have time to enjoy your patio
If you want to get the most out of your new patio for the year, you’re best off getting to work closer to the beginning of the year - around April. This way, your new outdoor space will be ready to enjoy during the warmer months.
Tips for laying a patio
If you’re planning to lay a new patio yourself, you’ll want to make sure you get the job done right. Follow our expert tips and tricks to ensure that it all goes smoothly and that your patio is built to last.
1. Plan ahead
Patio installation involves much more than simply planning the finished look. So, if you want your new patio to look and function at its best, you will need to consider a whole host of factors first.
From the patio depth to the angle you need to allow rainwater to flow away from the house, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ model for laying a patio. Each patio must be designed and fitted to meet the area's specifications.
Once you’ve planned everything out and your patio paving slabs have arrived, you’ll want to lay them out on the ground as a ‘dry run’. This way, any mistakes with measurements or sizes can be rectified before you begin.
2. Follow health and safety measures
When doing any DIY tasks, but especially when taking on those involving heavy lifting and using power tools, it’s important to follow certain health and safety practices. These are designed to help you avoid injuring yourself or someone else by accident whilst working but can also ensure that you complete a job to a higher standard.
Before laying your patio, you’ll need to get ahold of some basic personal protection equipment (PPE). This includes a face mask, safety glasses or goggles, thick gloves, boots with a steel toe cap and knee pads. If you plan on using any power saws to cut larger pieces of stone to size, you’ll also need ear defenders.
Following safe handling advice is also important to ensure you don’t end up dropping something or straining a muscle while lifting heavy objects. This applies for situations like offloading materials from delivery vans and then moving paving stones to different areas within your garden. Generally, it’s advised that anything over 20kg in weight shouldn’t be lifted manually. If your paving slabs weigh close to or more than 20kg, consider getting some help from a professional installer who will have the training and equipment needed to move the slabs into position safely.
3. Prepare the ground properly
Before you lay your patio paving slabs, your ground will need to be appropriately prepared. You’ll need to dig deep enough to allow enough space for your sub-base, mortar and paving slabs. The ground should also be level to ensure a flat and smooth surface. This will give your new patio the best chance of a long life. Using a long spirit level is the best way to check whether your base is level.
4. Gather your materials in advance
What materials you’ll need to lay your patio will depend on what you’ve planned. However, you’ll generally need the following materials:
- Paving slabs
- Sub-base material
- Sharp sand
- Fine, kiln-dried paving sand
- Building sand
- Long timber straight edge
- Spacers to create an even gap between each paving slab
- And an off-cut piece of timber to protect the slab when laying
Additionally, you’ll likely need the following tools:
- Tape measure
- Folding square
- Building line and wire pegs to mark out the site
- Claw hammer
- Long spirit level
- Mixing tray
- Lawn edger
- Garden spade
- Garden rake
- Cement mixer
- Rubber mallet
- Hand brush
- Angle grinder (to cut the paving slabs if required)
- Jointing tool
- And a safety kit including dust masks, gloves and safety goggles
5. Use the correct aftercare
Make sure to follow the proper aftercare according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Different materials and manufacturers may require specific aftercare, so it is important to bare this in mind.
Also, follow the recommendations surrounding cleaning and maintaining your patio. Some materials are more delicate than others and will deteriorate with frequent power washing, so they will only require brushing with soapy water.
Create your dream patio with Marshalls
Here at Marshalls, our driveway and patio experts are here to help take the stress out of achieving your dream outdoor living space.
If you plan on using a professional to lay your patio for you, it’s worth knowing that the peak landscaping season begins in spring, so the best installers tend to get booked up in advance. Start planning during the winter months to get ahead of the rush and ensure you’ve booked a professional who you can trust and who shares your vision.
Discover Marshalls’ approved garden and driveway installers to find an accredited landscape contractor near you.
Or explore Marshalls' vast selection of garden paving to help create your dream patio. From sandstone paving to natural stone paving, there are plenty of options to choose from. And to make the process of laying your patio even easier, we’ve created a handy guide that can take you every step of the way - how to lay a patio.
Is it ok to lay a patio in winter?
Typically, manufacturer guidance states that you should not lay a patio if the temperatures sit below 3°C. With winter temperatures often reaching below freezing, it’s advisable to wait until the temperature increases to above 3°C. Not following these guidelines could result in the deterioration of materials or reduce the life span of your patio.
It’s also important to think about the additional safety precautions you’ll need to take if laying a patio in winter, as paving slabs could become slippery in icy conditions creating a trip hazard.
What temperature should you lay paving slabs?
You’ll want to ensure you’re laying your patio when temperatures are above 3°C. This includes overnight once you’ve laid your patio, as the base will still be setting. As temperatures in the winter months can often drop way below zero overnight, aim to lay your patio in milder weather.
How long after laying a patio can you walk on it?
Once you’ve laid your paving slabs, you’ll need to make sure you do not walk on them until the patio is completely dry. Mortar usually takes around 24 to 48 hours to dry, so you must avoid standing or placing any weight on the slabs for this duration.
Any pressure placed on the slabs before the mortar is dry can cause the paving slabs to slide and misalign, ultimately ruining the professional finish of your brand-new patio (and even causing possible trip hazards).