Installing a patio opens up your yard for casual outdoor living. Slate is a practical and attractive choice if you intend to build a slip-resistant patio from natural stone. Slate is also heavier than many other patio stones and is best transported with a wheelbarrow and careful lifting. When creating your patio design, decide if you prefer rectangular tiles or irregular snapped pieces for a more rustic look.
Plan the Design
It's important to consider how you will use the patio to get a general idea of how large the surface should be. Consider the shape of the stones you are laying as you decide on the shape, and try to limit the number of stones you will need to cut. Walk the site and consider areas that will receive the most sun and shade, especially if you want to grow a container garden. Rather than laying the patio as a rectangle, curving the patio deeper into the yard can buy you an additional hour of sunlight.
Prepare the Site
Once the site is outlined with landscape paint, remove all growth from the area and dig until the site is 8 inches deep. If the patio is near your house, grade the soil 1/4 inch every foot so water will run away from the building.
Stabilize the ground to prevent it from shifting beneath your foundation, which can dislodge the stones. Run a compactor machine over the soil three times or until the ground feels hard and flat. Begin at the center of the site so you can learn to handle the machine before running it near the house.
Build the Foundation
A gravel and sand foundation improves the site's drainage and reinforces the stone surface. Shovel gravel onto the site until it is 3 inches thick. Spread it with a rake and run the compactor over the gravel until the stones are packed. Add 2 more inches of gravel and compact the surface again. Cover the gravel in 2 inches of course sand and use a 2-by-4 to spread it out evenly.
Lay the Slate
It's advantageous to arrange the stones in your pattern beside the patio to fit the best arrangement possible. Re-create the size and shape of the site with wood boards or a garden hose.
Place the slate in the sand bed beginning in a corner. Leave about 1/8 inch space between the stones and set a water level over each section to check that the stones are even with each other. Press the slate deeper into the sand with a rubber mallet or remove sand as necessary. Once the slate pieces are in position, fill the joints with masonry sand to pad the stones from each other as they settle.