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How to Lay Slabs with a Dry Mix

By Robert Raphael

One weekend project for the ambitious homeowner is building a patio. This task may seem daunting, but you can make a patio by simply laying slabs and sealing them in place with a dry mortar mix. A patio gives you a lovely area to plant shrubs for privacy, to have cookouts with family and friends, or enjoy a quiet respite from work.

Draw a scale plane of where you want your patio and how big you want to make it. Hammer posts into each of the four corners of the area for your patio.

Tie a length of string to one from one corner post and run it along the intended side of the patio. Tie it to the post in the next corner. Bring the string from that corner to the next post. Continue until you have roped off the area you intend for your patio

Dig up grass and replant any shrubs or plants to another location. You should be left with an area that is the shape of your new patio, covered with nothing but dirt.

Dig your foundation by shoveling six inches below the surface of the dirt. This will help compact the dirt and serve as a solid foundation for your patio.

Lay down four inches of hardcore on top of the exposed soil. Use your yardstick and a level to make sure your foundation is even. When all the hardcore is laid, tamp it down thoroughly using a plate compactor.

Start laying the slabs on the hardcore foundation. Use your yardstick, then the level, to make sure that all the slabs are evenly spaced and the edges parallel. Use the rubber mallet to securely tamp the slabs into the foundation. Lay a piece of 1-inch by 1-inch wood between each slab. Continue until all the slabs are laid.

Remove the wood two days after the final slab has been put in place. Fill the spaces between the slabs with the dry mortar mix. Use a watering can with a fine sprayer and sprinkle the mortar mix with water. Allow 48 hours to dry before using the patio.


Things You Will Need

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Yardstick
  • Posts
  • Hammer
  • String or rope
  • Shovel
  • Spade
  • Hardcore
  • Level
  • Plate compactor
  • Paving slabs
  • 1-inch by 1-inch pieces of wood (cut to the size of the slabs)
  • Dry mortar mix
  • Water
  • Watering can with fine sprayer

About the Author


Based in New Jersey, Robert Raphael has been writing health and technology articles since 1993. His work has appeared in “Natural Living” magazine and “Extreme PC” magazine. Raphael received the Jonathan Melman Literary Award in 1994. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brandeis University.