Get­ting to the point

YOUR HOME RICHARD BURR re­veals how to trans­form your gar­den path with a spot of re­point­ing PROP­ERTY PROP­ERTY & & LIV­ING& LIV­ING

Star Courier (Surrey & Hants) - - FRONT PAGE -

There are so many oc­ca­sions where you look at your gar­den and won­der where to start. Of­ten you think the only so­lu­tion would be to to­tally re- land­scape, but a bit of spruc­ing- up can have a dra­matic ef­fect. Fol­low these steps to re­point­ing a shabby old path and you’ll be amazed at the dif­fer­ence it makes... If you’ve got a pa­tio or a path made up of any type of jointed paving slab, the chances are, if you haven’t taken care of it, it’ll look pretty tatty.

Plants and moss grow in the joints and ev­ery win­ter, they freeze and blow the mor­tar out a lit­tle bit more. Be­fore you know it, the whole thing is a muddy, weed- mat­ted mess.

Fear not! To start, you need to clear your area. This means get­ting a sharp spade or shovel, find­ing the edges of your path and cut­ting away all the veg­e­ta­tion that’s grown over the top of it. Even do­ing this will make the task ahead look 100 times more man­age­able. Use a stiff broom to sweep the path and lift any loose moss stick­ing to the face of your stones. Wait for a dry day be­fore you be­gin. Now it’s time to get on your hands and knees, so get knee pads or some­thing soft to kneel on – you’ll thank me for this tip!

You need to get the bro­ken mor­tar out of the joints and bag it up in rub­ble sacks as you go – you’ll be sur­prised how much comes out. There are a few tools you’ll need for this job: a hand brush ( that you don’t mind ru­in­ing), a point­ing trowel, a ham­mer and a tool called a cold chisel.

This is a tool I’ve prob­a­bly used ev­ery week since the day I started build­ing. You’ll be sur­prised by how many uses you find for it – pris­ing stuff, wedg­ing things open, cut­ting heavy- duty things. You’d blunt a lot of wood chis­els be­fore you even made a dent in one of these, and it’ll prob­a­bly last you a life­time.

Start at the be­gin­ning of your path and work your way along. Prise- up your mor­tar with a point­ing trowel if it’s loose, or a ham­mer and cold chisel if it’s hard. As you clear the mor­tar, use your hand brush to get all the dust out. Be sure to pull out any roots, weeds or bits of green as you find them, and dig out to the depth of the paving stones. Wher­ever you mix it, ce­ment will stain, so you need a large wooden board ( at least a square me­tre) as a sur­face.

Cal­cu­lat­ing how much ce­ment and sand you need can be dif­fi­cult, but thank­fully it’s sold in ev­ery DIY store, so it’s very easy to get more if you run out. How­ever, make sure you get the same type of sand, or the colour of your mor­tar will look dif­fer­ent. The rea­son it’s dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late is be­cause it de­pends on the size and depth of your joints, as well as how big your path or pa­tio is.

As a rough guide, for a path around 0.7m by 10m, I would use about 2 x 25kg bags of ce­ment and 8 x 25kg bags of plas­ter­ing sand.

Lay a heavy duty plas­tic sheet on the ground, put your wooden board on top of this and tip two bags of sand into the mid­dle of your board. Add half a bag of ce­ment on top of this and use a shovel to mix this to­gether ( a bit like flour and co­coa pow­der when you’re mak­ing choco­late cake!). Once this is mixed to­gether, pile it in the cen­tre of your board and use your shovel to make a deep well in the mid­dle. Pour about five litres of water into the well and mix this in with your shovel.

This process is quite sub­jec­tive, and de­pen­dent on how wet your sand is in its bag. For this quan­tity, I can use any­thing from five to nine litres to get the right con­sis­tency.

You should be able to pick the mor­tar up with your hands with­out it drip­ping through your fin­gers, but not so dry it crum­bles as you hold it. Cut out about 30cm squared of your plas­tic sheet­ing and dol­lop about a honey­dew melon- sized amount of mor­tar onto this.

Flat­ten the mor­tar down slightly with the back of your trowel to spread it out on the sheet. Pick up some mor­tar on your trowel, flop this into the joint be­tween paving slabs and, us­ing the edge of your trowel, chop it into the gap.

Keep do­ing this un­til you’re flush with the top sur­face of your paving stones. To flat­ten the mor­tar to the level of your paving stones, smooth the trowel to­wards you with the flat of your trowel.

Chop the next bit of mor­tar in and al­ways smooth this into the mor­tar you’ve al­ready done. Keep go­ing un­til you’ve run out of mor­tar ( or en­ergy) and then mix up some more. As you work, there may be some paving slabs that pop up.

This can be be­cause roots have got un­der­neath them, but it could also be an ants nest un­der­min­ing them, for ex­am­ple.

Lift your slab, scrape or cut away what has made it pop up, and put down a layer of mor­tar to lay the slab on. This can’t be a smooth layer or your paving stone will have noth­ing to bed- in to, so chop the mor­tar in – as de­scribed be­fore – and put a chalk cross on this slab, so you know not to tread on it.

Mor­tar doesn’t take too long to dry, but make sure you don’t walk on your path un­til at least the fol­low­ing day.

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