How to Lay the Perfect Path

If you’re looking to make your garden more accessible, installing a path can be an affordable and easy to install solution for you.

There are a wide variety of choices for you to choose from when it comes to creating your perfect path, such as the materials you will use, what colour you want and what design you desire.

In this guide, we will outline what you should do to lay the perfect path and include our top tips so that you can create a path that is built to last in your garden.


Similar to undertaking any task, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This applies to laying a path. Before even making the first hole in the ground, you must plan every detail of your pathway and how you want it to be once it is finished.

To begin your planning, you should draw out your path design on paper then mark it out using pegs and string in your garden. This way you are able to visualise it before making any irreversible changes. You can then measure out the area and order the correct amount of materials for you to complete the project.

As a general rule of thumb for path laying, your path should be no narrower than 900mm. If you choose to use paving slabs, we also recommend having a 10mm gap between each slab to create a strong and long-lasting pathway. You must take this into account when ordering materials as you will require an extra slab layer to fill these gaps once the slabs have been laid.

Other materials or equipment that you may require are as follows:

  • A whacker plate – this is optional but can be useful to secure your path down by compacting the materials beneath the finished surface.
  • A rubber mallet – Similarly to a whacker plate, a rubber mallet will be used to secure your materials down. The importance of it being rubber is high as it reduces the likelihood of your slabs cracking if you were to use a regular hammer.
  • Spirit Level – Nobody like an unexpected bump or raised section in a path. Not only does this lower the durability of your path, but it can be a safety issue. A spirit level will allow you to check each section of the path to see whether it stays at the same level throughout.
  • Shovel – A very useful piece of equipment. Initially used to dig out the pathway shape but to then also dig and layer the other materials down at a faster and more even rate than pouring straight out of the bag
  • Rake – A rake is used to even out the surface of the base layers of your path and separate any clumps of sand that there may be. These lumps could cause raised sections on the finished path so it is important you remove them in the early stages of building.

Preparing the Area

The initial preparation of your pathway area is crucial to the success of your durable path. The very first thing you should do is use a CAT tool to scan the ground underneath for any hidden pipes or cables so that you don’t cut any when digging down.

Using your pegs and string guidance lines, you can now begin digging out the area. Once you have dug to around a depth of 100mm for gravel and a depth of 150mm for block paving and paving slabs, plus the depth of your slabs.

Depending on the material you choose for your path, the preparation will be slightly different:

  • Gravel Path
    • You initially need to create an edging to contain the gravel so that it doesn’t slip or pour out. To do this, at each end of the path, drive-in treated wooden pegs to the ground. You can then continue adding these at every 1.2m interval down the path and fix them to a treated timber edging board with screws. After each edging peg, check the levelling by using a spirit level to ensure that you are keeping it level.
    • You can then roll out and cut your landscaping fabric to fit the path, with an extra 50mm over the width. If you need to use another roll or overlap for a wider path, we recommend allowing for 150mm excess to overlap. This will prevent any weeds from penetrating and ruining your pathway later down the line.
    • After that, your MOT type 1 sub base or hardcore can be added. You must ensure that your layer is at least 50mm deep. This will assist your path with any earth readjustment, especially after heavy rain, and provide it with a strong base. Rake over this surface to remove any unevenness. Then use a tamper or a wacker plate to compact this layer and flatten it out, ready for your gravel layer to go on.
    • Pour your chosen gravel onto the pathway to an approximate depth of 25mm and rake, ensuring to leave a gap or around 25mm from the top of the edging. This will lower the chance of your gravel stones from being kicked around or becoming loose in your garden.
  • Paving Slab Path
    • You needn’t create an edging for a paving slab path, however, we recommend keeping the soil edge as clean-cut as possible.
    • To begin with, add your MOT Type 1 or hardcore to the original hole. Pour enough to create a 50mm layer which you can then rake to flatten and remove any predominate lumps.
    • Similar to a gravel path, you must then compact this surface with a tamper or a wacker plate to make it flatter.
    • You must then add another layer of 50mm MOT Type 1 or hardcore to create a total depth of 100mm of MOT Type 1 or hardcore. This must then be flattened once again with a tamper or wacker plate. This will create a strong base for your path to be built on.
    • Slablayer can then be added to a depth of 25mm, ensuring to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when it comes to adding the water to bind it together. You must then rake the slab layer to create a rough-looking surface.
    • You are now ready to lay your slabs! Ensure that each slab is dampened using a wet paintbrush. This will ensure that the slabs stick to your slab layer to reduce movement whilst laying. You can then begin placing each slab on your prepared pathway surface, followed by a few hits using a rubber mallet to bed them into your surface once you are happy that they are square to your design. Make sure to leave a 10mm gap between each slab. You can use an offcut piece of wood or slab to create this space temporarily whilst you are laying them.
    • Cover your path using a plastic sheet and allow it to set overnight. The next day, once the path is dry, you can fill in the joints with slab layered prepared to manufacturer’s instructions. We recommend using a trowel to poke the slab layer throughout the gaps
  • Block Paving
    • Similarly to creating a paving slab path, create a 100mm layer of MOT Type 1 or hardcore in the base of your dug up path.
    • Cover this layer with lightly damp sharp sand and compress at intervals using an offcut of timber to create a depth of 50mm. Sharp sand is used for block paving as it is of higher density to allow the block paving to sit more comfortably.
    • You are then ready to begin laying your block paving in your planned design. Place each block on the sand in your desired position and gently hit with a rubber mallet to secure them into the sand. At regular intervals, use a spirit level to check that the surface is still level and adjust accordingly.
    • Finally, sweep kiln dried sand over the entire completed path. This will fill the joints and create a more stable surface. Use a wacker plate to completely seal it and add any sand to fill in any gaps that may have been created during the levelling.

Whatever type of pathway you choose, you are making a great investment in your garden. Not just for access but for creating a more aesthetically pleasing garden for you to enjoy throughout the year.

If you follow our path-building guides and use our tips above, you will have a pathway that will certainly last for many years to come.
How to Lay a Path
Sansums are here to help with creating your garden pathway. We stock a huge variety of different pathway materials for you to choose from at great prices.

We only supply the highest quality materials and our highly trained team are here to assist you in ensuring that you purchase enough materials to complete your project.

Get in touch with our team today on 01793 536784, or contact them below, and they will be able to advise you.