Considering a brick patio for your garden? Follow this expert advice to find out how to choose, lay and care for it
Houzz UK Editorial Staff. I’m a freelance journalist with more than 13 years’ experience… More
Brick patios are the perfect choice if you’re going for a rustic look in your garden, but they can also work in a more contemporary outdoor space.
Take a look at this expert advice to find out how to lay a brick path or patio, what to consider when choosing them, and how you can maintain them.
Professional advice from: Nicholas Macartney of Alexander John Garden Design & Maintenance; Roger Webster of Roger Webster Garden Design; Andy Stedman of Andy Stedman Landscape & Garden Design
Consider the advantages
Our experts love the way brick adds character to a garden.
Roger Webster, for example, says brick is “a natural material, warm and characterful and improving with age”.
Similarly, Nicholas Macartney enthuses, “Brick patios, particularly those made with traditional clay bricks, add more character to a garden. They have a unique rustic charm all of their own. Most of them are a uniform size and still come in a range of shades representing various parts of the country.”
Andy Stedman agrees and adds, “You can achieve a modern or classic look, and great textural contrast with other materials in the garden.”
There are many brick patio patterns to choose from and this versatility is a plus point for our experts.
Andy says, “There are many pattern options to achieve a styled and current look, such as herringbone and classic bonds.”
Roger suggests, “You can use the same brick in different ways and patterns to create variety with an overall unity – for example, to differentiate a seating area or patio from a path.
“Bricks can also be used to create walls, steps, kerbs, edges to planters or to gravel paths, as well as paved surfaces,” he says. “The bricks can be matched for a unified look or contrasted.”
Weigh up the disadvantages
When asked about the downsides, Nicholas highlights a lack of traditional manufacturers.
“The brick kilns that used to make them were sadly knocked down during the 1980s and early 1990s,” he says. “However, you’ll find many for sale in reclamation yards and on websites such as Salvo and eBay.”
Roger stresses the costs involved in laying bricks. “They’re relatively expensive and time-consuming if laid on mortar with mortared joints,” he says.
“Brick paths and patios can be uneven for furniture.” Andy points out.
“Also,” he says, “if they’re not looked after and cleaned frequently enough, bricks can get slippery. Weeds, algae and moss growth are seen more often on brick paved areas compared to paving slabs, especially in the joints.”
Roger agrees. “They may be prone to moss, algae and weed growth due to the large number of joints,” he says.
Go for quality
When buying your bricks, Nicholas recommends you find a reliable source.
“Make sure your supplier knows the standard of stock you’re after,” he says. “You also want complete bricks. Some sellers have been known to pack pallets with full bricks on the outside and half bricks on the inside. That’s a nightmare and something I learnt the hard way many moons ago.”
Roger recommends, “Make sure your bricks are suitable for purpose, and check with your manufacturer or supplier that they’re frost-proof and hardwearing.
“To be safe, use only bricks that are specifically made for paving,” he says. “Some building bricks are also suitable for paving, but many are not, or are suitable only if laid on edge, but not if laid flat.”
Nicholas agrees, and says, “Use a solid paver and not a brick with an indentation, such as a house brick, as these can be seriously affected by frost.”
If you’re laying a reclaimed brick patio, Roger says, “You will only know by trial and error. Check sizes, particularly if trying to match existing paving.”
Tie in with your garden
As there are a number of different brick varieties to choose from, it helps to look at your outdoor space and property as a whole.
“Think about the garden style you’re trying to achieve, the overall feel and look of the space,” Andy says.
He suggests you think about colour and pattern. “You can contrast your brick pavers with a defined edge, or pattern, or tie them in with other hard materials by choosing a similar colour choice,” he says.
“Greys and charcoals can achieve a more contemporary look,” he adds, “while reds and reclaimed-style bricks are more traditional.”
Roger says, “Think about laying patterns, such as a plain stretcher bond, basketweave or herringbone.”
Choose your foundation
The sub-base you lay beneath your brick patio depends on the type of bricks you’re going for.
Roger says, “Decide whether they will be laid on mortar [solid or rigid paving] or on sand [flexible paving], as some bricks are suitable for one but not the other. However, some are multi-purpose.
“If bedded on sand, with open joints brushed with sand, there will inevitably be some weed growth,” he says. “Rigid paving will be less susceptible to weeds and moss, but more expensive to lay.”
Also take note of how the area will be used. “Which foundation [is appropriate] depends on the foot traffic,” Nicholas says.
For small areas that don’t get much foot traffic, he suggests, “a good screed base and building sand base” and “a concrete haunch at the sides of the area to prevent movement”.
Roger says this concrete haunch is usually made by laying the same bricks on a rigid mortar bed, “often in a contrasting pattern or direction for decorative as well as practical effect”.
For heavy footfall areas, such as driveways, Nicholas recommends “compacted hardcore followed by building sand. Remember to look at a fall, so rain water can run off to a soakaway or planted border area,” he adds.
The preparation of your base is key. “Any paved surface must be supported by a solid base, otherwise it will be prone to subsidence, unevenness, ponding of surface water and possibly cracking,” Roger stresses,
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Plan your project
When it comes to planning your brick patio, Nicholas says, “Draw a plan. Work out in square metres how much brick stock you’ll require and make a point of deciding on a soakaway location.
“The patio ideally needs to be two courses of bricks below the property’s damp proof course,” he says, and recommends you try to avoid “narrow slivers and tiny cuts”.
He also highlights the importance of the outer edge. “This is crucial to get right for levels, patterns, cuts and longevity,” he explains.
Keep them clean
To maintain your brick patio, Andy recommends, “Clean and power-hose at least twice a year – and replace any pointing or jointing sand or compound after cleaning.”
Nicholas’s company maintains brick patios with wire brushes. “You can also get wire pads that go on an electric drill for really ground-in dirt,” he says.
“We also use an outdoor disinfectant to keep moss off them,” he adds. “This is very important to do if the brick patio is in a moist, shady location.”
As a precaution, Roger says, “Before using any chemical cleaning agents or weed killers, check they’re harmless to wildlife and be careful to keep them away from garden plants.”
Nicholas adds, “Keep an eye on any bricks after icy weather, and check pointing.” He advises you get any repointing work done in the summer months.
Andy recommends the use of a sealant and says, “Modern matt-finish sealers are great and not too expensive. Reseal after three to five years.”
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