aj mccormack and son

Flags & Slabs - Page 01
The Brew Cabin
flags and slabs


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Forum Question Patio Plan - Anomymous - Feb 24th 2001
I've got 2 patio areas 690cm x 190cm and 425cm x 300cm and am trying to come up with a design which fits 3 size stones all 55 wide by 42, 55, 70. As you look at the patio doors to from left to right it goes 73 then rasied step 102 x 43 then the remainder 250 to make up 425.

Can anyone help on how to come up with a plan.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Feb 24th 2001
You can create a plan using any simple graphics program. Plot out the area to be paved to any convenient scale, say 1 pixel=1cm, and then create rectangles to represent the flagstones at the same scale. Once you've done that, it's a simple matter of 'drag and drop' to arrange the rectangles into the most suitable pattern.
Forum Question Bedding course for flagstone patio - Steve Stiansen - Apr 7th 2001
Not sure if you guys let us 'dam americans' ask questions here, but if it is any consolation, this is one of the best sites I have come across in quite awhile. Great job! (even though the metric to english conversion thing has me plugging away at my calculator all the time)

Anyway, have a quick question. I am about to relay a previously installed bluestone/flagstone walk that was set on bedding sand alone. I am interested in trying to go with a dry bedding mixture, mixing some portland in, to help prevent future problems. I have never tried this before, but with the luck I have had in the past just setting in course sand, I want to try another method.

My main problem is how do you mix the material? I am working alone, and will have to complete the project over a period of a few days, so want to know the best way to mix.

Also, best way to go about installing the flagstone? They are in a random pattern, and varying thicknesses. Would it be easier to screed out a section first, then go in and 'remove' material as needed to make level, or would it be better to set each invidually? I can see problems with the overall flatness if I were to set each stone seperately, so thats why I thought screeding first would help, as it gives a good base reference to where each block needs to be.

Ok, one other quick question. What is a good diameter for a circular drive? I am figureing 60ft (18.2 meters). The client wants a open circle (no island in middle). Wait....I just thougt of something, you have smaller cars over there, hmmm....this could change things!

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 9th 2001
Hi Steve,
Anyone can use this forum, regardless of their country of origin, although any advice I give, is based on UK methods and best practices, which may not be the same as those used in other parts of the world. You never know, there might be other US contractors reading this forum.

As for preparing a dry bedding mix, we would typically mix enough to get us through a 'session', ie, a morning or an afternoon, rather than bulk mix enough material to cover the entire job. We use a portable mixer that churns out approximately 0.2 m³ per batch, sufficient to cover 4m² at a time. Depending on the paving type being laid, we would expect to use 3-10 mixes per session.

With regard to laying the flagstones, I'd suggest individual bedding, rather than screeding, using a taut string line to guide final level. Screeding in advance is fine for paving units of regular thickness but is wasted on units such as natural stone flags, unless they've been cut to a standard thickness, as osme of the modern pavings are.

And the circular driveway, yes, I think our cars tend to be a bit smaller than what you are used to. The absolute minimum we would use for an arc is a 3 metre radius, but it all depends on the space available. Ideally, we prefer 4.5m or 6m radius.

Forum Question Flag driveway - John@aintree.paving - Apr 16th 2001
I've been asked to lay Stonemarket Millstone flags to a driveway,one half is take out tarmac drive,the other half is take out turf.

Would these be best laid on a concrete base or on hardcore with a sand cement screed(wet). I have to bear in mind the thickness is only 40mm and there are two cars running over them.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 17th 2001
Hi again, John

The Millstones are a lovely flag, but they are not strong enough for a driveay, unless laid on a full concrete bed at least 100mm thick. Make sure there are no voids in the bedding and point with a decent mortar, a 3:1 should be fine, but use a silver sand and try adding a black dye; it looks much better with Millstone.

We laid Millstone to a private driveway near Northwich about 5 years ago and have had a problem with wear. The drive is quite narrow, so there is little room for manoeuvre and consequently, two 'stripes' of wear have appeared, where the light-coloured agg has been exposed on the run-in to the garage. Might be best to advise your clients before they commit themselves.

Forum Question - John@Aintree Paving - Apr 21st 2001
Thanks for that Tony.

Have you heard of a product called GEOFIX. It is jointing compound which can be brushed into the joints without staining the surfaces.

It is by FEB and is an excellent product. The only draw back is it is about £30 for a box to cover 15m² or £20 to cover 8m². However I think it is worth its weight in gold and will see an end to the tedious job of pointing. It cuts the time down for pointing very considerably. I try and use it wherever possible.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 22nd 2001
I've used Geofix on a couple of jobs, and found it to be ok-ish, but too costly for use on every job. We've used our own formula dry-mortar for years, and find that it is ok when brushed in on most regular joint-width flagging jobs, but still prefer a traditional black mortar for reclaimed yorkstone paving or riven copies.
Forum Question - John@Aintree Paving - Apr 24th 2001
In relation to my query over the Millstone flags,

I have about 50m² to lay. What quantities of concrete bedding mix ratios would you recommend. My estimate is approx 8 ton ballast and 30 25kg cement. Am I anywhere near it or too ambitious?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 25th 2001
50m² @ 100mm thick is going to take 5m³ - I'd recommend bringing in ready-mix, say 2.5m³ in the morning and another 2,5m³ in the afternoon, or split it over 2 days, 3 m³ on the first, then a makeup of 2-2.5m³, depending on what you need, for the second day.

Hand mixing that quantity is a lot of work. 5m³ is around 12 tonnes dry weight - assuming you use a C7.5 equivalent, that's around 1.25-1.5 tonnes of OPC, 3.5-4 Tonnes of grit sand and 7-8 tonnes of gravel, which would cost almost as much as bringoing in ready-mix, plus you have to pay for a donkey to keep the mixer loaded while the tradesman is laying.

Forum Question Combination slab & gravel - Paul Lautman - Apr 22nd 2001
My wife wants a garden laid with a combination of Riven slabs (600X600; 600X300 & 300X300) combined with gravel in-between the slabs.

What I need to know is:

1) What to bed the slabs on. It occurs to me that, if I lay them on sand and there is too much of a gap between them, the sand may get pushed out from underneath the slabs into the gravel filled gaps.

2) What is the optimum maximum "gravel filled" gap be between the slabs?

3) Is the thickness of a slab (1.5") enough of a depth for the gravel or do we need to create deeper gullies for the gravel to sit in?

4) Does 3 affect 2 and vice versa

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 22nd 2001
Hi Paul,

use a cementitious bed for the slabs. 1:10 cement:grit sand is usually strong enough, as you're not looking to create an incredibly tough bed, just to bind the sand sufficiently to prevent it from being washed out. No need to make a wet mix; a semi-dry mix is ideal, as it is less likely to stain your paving, gives you longer working time and is much, much easier to work with than a sloppy wet mix. There is (usually) enough natural moisture within the sands to initiate setting, but, if you have an exceptionally dry sand, you may need to add a little water, just enough to make it damo, not wet.

The best sized gap between the slabs is really a matter of taste, but you will find that 100-150mm is usually the most pleasing to the eye.

1.5" = 35mm or so, which should be a deep enough channel for a 10mm or smaller gravel, but if you're using, say, an 18mm or bigger size, you may need to create a deeper channel, say 50mm. The size of the gravel does affect what size gap between slabs looks best, but it is still likely to be in the 100-150mm range; a bigger gravel suits a wider gap and vice-versa.

Good luck!

Forum Question More on Millstone - John@Aintree Paving - May 6th 2001
In relation to my last question regarding Millstone Pavings

When you suggested ready mix

1-Do I lay when the concrete is setting and I can walk on it

2-Do I lay out a bay and walk over raised planks setting the paving as I go

3-Do I place the slabs directly on the wet mix.

I think I know what I want to do do but would hate to order wet mix and be stuck on site

forum answer Tony McCormack - May 9th 2001
John asked...

1-Do I lay when the concrete is setting and I can walk on it

I said that you should use a semi-dry mix, not a wet mix, so yes, you will be able to walk upon it.

2-Do I lay out a bay and walk over raised planks setting the paving as I go?

Not necessary with a semi-dry mix.

3-Do I place the slabs directly on the wet mix?

Do NOT use a wet mix - it will be a nightmare.
Forum Question Slabs over concrete patio - Sean - May 12th 2001
I have an area of 260cm x 290cm concrete against my house onto which I want to lay block paving. The current concrete base is 5cm thick and is 25cm below the DPC but is badly cracked in places. I intend to make a base of sharp sand on top of the existing concrete and then lay the 45cm slabs on top of the sand using mortar to keep them in place. What I would like to know is this the right approach or should I be using some other method. If this is the right approach should I use mortar or will it be fine to just let the slabs lay on the sand.
forum answer Tony McCormack - May 15th 2001
Is this block paving, as you originally state, or slabs? If it's block paving, then you need to lay the blocks on a cement-free bed of grit sand, not a mortar bed, unless it's rigid block paving (see site for more detail).

However, if it's slabs, then you can lay them on a 10:1 sand/cement semi-dry mix on top of the existing concrete. A 35-50mm thick bed plus the 40mm or so thick slab will give you an additional 75-90mm on top of the concrete which should keep you below the recommended 150mm clearance from paving to dpc.

Don't use a wet mortar for bedding - it will make a mess and is much harder to lay on than a semi-dry bedding mix.

Forum Question Flags and Ants - Tony Benham - Jun 8th 2001
I was planning to lay some cheap flags behind our garage which will be a utility area for a small toolchest/dustbins etc, so light traffic. I was going to dig down to subsoil, use a sand screed and lay the flags on top, using cement/blocks as edging to retain the sand as per your paving information. I had one question about this. Our neighbourhood has a lot of ant problems, and these seem to tunnel under the flags and bring out masses of sand which is deposited on the flags, and after a few years the flags start to sink. Is there any way of minimizing this, maybe add a small amount of dry cement to the sand screed to firm it up ?
forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 2nd 2001
Got it in one! Yes, make the bedding layer a 10:1 mix, with no added water, and it will set hard enough to prevent the sand from running and keep the ants at bay.
Forum Question Patio and clay soil - Richard Lancaster - Jun 20th 2001
Hi Tony, I've been looking for advice on patio's and this is by far the best site I've seen - thanks!

I'm about to convert lawn to patio, but have a query re soil conditions and the need for a sub-base. The soil has quite a lot of clay, so it cracks in summer, and gets soggy in wet conditions. Some of the DIY books/store handouts recommend strengthening / stabilizing the soil with a sub-base, but you suggest that for patio areas, sand is OK on compacted areas. Given the above conditions, what would you recommend?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Jun 20th 2001
Thanks for the kind words, Richard, it's good to hear that folks find the site useful; reminds me that I'm not completely useless....yet! wink

From what you tell me about the clay sub-grade, I'd definitely use a sub-base, even if it were only 75mm thick. A good covering of DTp 1 will help speread the load of the patio paving and make sure it doesn't sink or settle during the even wetter weather of winter.

What sort of paving have you chosen? Flags/slabs?

forum answer Steve Stiansen - Jul 2nd 2001
For heavy clay areas (and also for sandy areas also) they make a fabric that you use underneath you stone base (we use a mixture of 3/4" and fines that we call QP here in the states). The fabric prevents your base from sinking into the soil over the years.

Only problem is, its quite pricy. Usually around $1.25 a sq foot here in the states (not sure the conversion for you guys on the price) I often recommend it for a jobs, but a lot of clients do not want to spend the extra money. It is a tough sell for me, even though I know it should be installed.

Either way, fabric or not, defintely use a good base (I like 6 inches min for patios) and be sure to compact it. Depending on equipment, be sure to do it in 3 inch lifts and wet it down while you are compacting, as I find it leads to a much stronger base.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Jul 3rd 2001
What are you using for your base, though, Steve? I know many US-ian designs have to take account of frost heave, a phenomenon we rarely, if ever, witness here in the UK, so we can get away with 100mm sub-base of a granular material, preferably DTp1 crushed stone.

Also, it seems that the geo-membrane is slightly cheaper over here. There are two common 'grades'; a so-called "Landscape Membrane" sold at Garden Centres and DIY stores that is basically a weed blanket and sells for 50-80p or so per square metre (about $0.70-$1.10 in US-ian funny money).

The higher grade product is sold via Builders' Merchants as a true geo-membrane, and is much, much tougher than the landscape fabric, which makes it a better bet beneath driveways or wherever membrane puncture is a possibility. This sells for around 1 quid per m² ($1.40 or so)

Forum Question - Richard Lancaster - Jun 21st 2001
Thanks for confirming the use of a sub-base.
Yes, I'm going to use flags, probably with block paving as edging, however the design stage is taking some time to get to grips with! When I get a bit closer to finalising things and looking at prices, I may get back to ask on differences between companies and comparable products.

I have x2 manhole covers in the area I'm going to patio with flags. Is it OK to use the block paving insert-type manhole covers but insert with flags? If not, any other suggestions/ideas how to hide the manholes?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Jun 21st 2001
Yes, use the standard recess covers normally associated with block paving - they're fine with any form of patio paving, not just blocks. smiley
Forum Question Paving for Green House - Dan Bevan - Jul 17th 2001
I'm just about to lay 70 450x450mm slabs for my greenhouse base. I've dug over the earth to remove as many weeds as possible. I then plan to make a 3x2" timber frame (treated) get this level then roll the earth inside to compact it, add a layer of sand (about 1" thick) reading your website I now plan to add cement in 1:10 proportions. Using a wooden level, screed this over so that the height is correct and then lay the slabs down and bed them in.

What size of gap should I have between the slabs, before I point them in and is there anything else I should do.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Jul 17th 2001
Hi Dan,
I'm not sure what the 3x2 timber frame is for, but anyway, the joint width between your flags should be 10-12mm for mortar pointing. If you butter the receiving edges in advance, you will find the pointing is much easier to complete and also lasts hell of a lot longer.

Seventy 450 squares - that's a bonny greenhouse! What do you grow?

forum answer Dan Bevan - Jul 18th 2001
I thought I would use the timber frame to get the levels right using your timber screed bar and avoid any wash out of the sand mix at the edges (a poor man's edging). I'm planning on a 12x10' greenhouse mainly for over wintering potted plants, toms starting hanging baskets and generally getting thins off to an early start in the veg plot.
forum answer Tony McCormack - Jul 19th 2001
I'd be wary about leaving that timber in place, Dan. Unless it's been treated, it will probably rot away over a couple of years. If you add a small amount of cement to your bedding sand, say around 10:1, that will stiffen-up the mix and prevent it being washed-out. This is the method I've used for the single width path up the centre of my own modest greenhouse.
Forum Question - Dan Bevan - Aug 3rd 2001
Well the slabs are down the missus says it's far too good to be covered up by a greenhouse (I think she's impressed). One last question when I get the greenhouse I need to secure it to the slabs, what is you suggestion for doing this so that I don't end up breaking and slabs.
forum answer Tony McCormack - Aug 3rd 2001
Well done, Dan! If you can please the missus, it must be a good job!

When it comes to fastening down the greenhouse, I'd suggest you get a few lengths of pre-treated timber, such as 75x47 or 100x47mm. Lay out the timbers so that the GH will sit on top of them once they are fixed. Drill the timbers and the flags at approximately 1 metre centres and then fix the timber to the flags by using anchor bolts or frame fixings. Once the timbers are secured to the flags, the GH can be screwed onto the timbers with standard woodscrews.

That's how I did mine, and it's still standing (and bursting with fuchsias)! smiley

Forum Question Flagged driveway - John@Aintree Paving - Aug 1st 2001
In the speccys regarding a flagged driveway
1-Why isnt the sub base of sand not mixed with cement as on patio construction?
2=Does it change if you use 2x2s on a drive.

I always tend to put cement under the flags on a drive. However with your vast experience and you not doing this it makes me wonder a little bit.

forum answer Tony McCormack - Apr 2nd 2001
Hi again John,
the sand bedding beneath a flagged driveway is not the sub-base - the sub-base is the layer of DTp1 stone, and that provides the strength of the drive. We use non-bound grit sand beneath all paving, with the exception of the thin patio flags, where cement is added to give a bit more strength to the flags.

However,on a pavement experiencing vehicle overrun, such as a driveway, a rigid cement-bound bed is fraught with difficulties - you'd need movement joints; any slight movement in the flags would result in permanent rocking; there's more risk of breakage unless the flag is perfectly and evenly bedded. This appiles to whatever size of flags you use, whether they are 450mm squares, 900x600's or any other size.

More and more, we are now using the small element vehicle overrun paving, such as Trafica by Marshalls, for residential driveways, as well as for civic schemes. These units are butt-jointed, and laid in more or less the same manner as flexible block paving, but are specially designed to take the weight of cars etc.

Given that the price diff between Trafica and standard flags is minimal, it's well worth considering.

Forum Question - John@Aintree Paving - Aug 4th 2001
I meant the bedding layer not the sub base - It was late when I wrote the mesage. I see your point. On my drives I tend to specify 63mm flags to the customer . However when you suggest about not a rigid bedding layer, does this not apply to the likes of millstone and other decorative pavings that need a concrete mix under them?

Also-what colour and sizes do Trafica come in and what thickness.Do you brush kiln sand in the joints.?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Aug 4th 2001
The 63mm thick BS flags are a better unit for driveways, John, even if they are a swine to handle at times.

As for rigid bedding, it is essential beneath products such as Millstone or any other wet cast flag, as they are simply not strong enough to withstand trafficking without a concrete bed. For that reason, we always tried to persuade clients to use some other form of paving - for the price of Millstone on a concrete bed, they could have, say, Tegula, or even 100mm thick reclaimed York stone.

Trafica comes in a range of different sizes, from G60 (300x300x60) right up to E100 (450x450x100), and is available in most of the usual Marshalls finishes, such as Saxon, Perfecta, Toscana etc, plus the standard pimple face in 5 basic different colours. As small element paving, it is laid with sand joints.

Forum Question Indian Sandstone - Alan - Aug 3rd 2001
Me again! You kindly cleared up some problems for me concerning my sub base back in December last year. Now I'm laying the top. I'm using Indian Sandstone flags and granite sets. I laid a couple of rows on Wednesday,on a layer of 6 parts Thames washed, 1 part building sand and one part cement. The mix was semi dry. The problem that I now have is that some of the flags have not stuck to the mortar. The granite setts have all stuck fast (the setts are only 50mm approx thick as I have cut them in half to maximize coverage). The flags that are not stuck do not rock. I am going to point the patio after laying.

Does it matter that the flags are not stuck to the mortar base?

forum answer Tony McCormack - Aug 3rd 2001
Hi again Alan,
it doesn't really matter if they haven't 'bonded' to the bedding layer. The cement content of your mix is only intended to stiffen the bedding layer rather than create a mortar or concrete; there should be no difference in structural integrity between bonded and non-bonded units, in a light-use situation such as this.

Send me some pictures when you're done. smiley

forum answer Alan - Aug 4th 2001
Hi Tony
Thanks for that.That was the answer I was hoping for. I didn't fancy doing it all again! I'm sending a pic of work in progress. I'll keep you updated. Cheers again. Alan
forum answer Tony McCormack - Aug 4th 2001
I've got the picture, thanks, Alan - it's looking good. smiley

What are you going to use to seal the sett joints? The mortar you've used on the semi-circular planter edges doesn't do justice for that lovely granite.

How much did you pay for the Indian flagstones?

forum answer Alan - Aug 6th 2001
I'm not sure what to point it in with yet. I'm not keen on the planter edges either. I dont know if pitch would work because the setts are not full size (shallow joints). I'm thinking of using geo-fix,t hey do one in grey. I would like the pointing to be the same on all the patio. Any ideas?

The flags were kindly donated by my brother when he decided to emigrate to Namibia. I got 130 flags and 5 tons of granite (and a wet blade saw) for niche! I bet you cant beat that up north! I enquired at local builders merchants here in Surrey and the prices are around £30-£35 per m². I think I will need to buy a few more to finish the job, so if you know of any good sources I'd be keen to hear of them.

forum answer Alan - Aug 6th 2001
I'd point them with a black mortar, Alan. It will really set them off, and is fairly cheap - it's only about a fiver for a half-kilo of dye, which will knock out around 5 batches of mortar at 50Kg. If you use a silver sand, rather than the usual red or hard yellow building sands, the colour comes out much stronger.

The Indian flags are selling for 28-35 quid per m² around here, too, but some of the quality is debatable. Still, when you consider that a top quality riven copy, such as Old Town by Bradstone or Chancery by Marshalls is selling for 25 quid per m², you can't say they're not value for money!

Forum Question Sources in Surrey - daragh - 5 Dec 2002
Hi Tony, may I say first of all what a great site, I spent at least three hours on this site yesterday at work...Dont tell Sony Tony!

My lovely boyfriend has undertaken the task of transforming the tiny back yard (8m squared) from a dumping ground to a little tidy patio. We removed the terrible existing slabs and flattened the area, currently it is covered with 10cms of coarse sand waiting for the new slabs.

Question one - where can I get really super feature flooring in Surrey? I want to splash out but to date can only find realtively boring concrete slabs or cobbles at the builders merchants in the area.

Question 2 - I am concerned that there wont be ample drainage. Is it a big "no no" to assume that this enclosed space wont become waterlogged, there are no drains, it is flanked by walls and the only way out is seepage, if he lays the flooring on top of a bed of sand, surely this will mean the water will stay on top of the slabs/tiles? if we introduce a definite gradient  away from the side of the house, water will run into the wooden fence separating the neighbours yard and could be a problem.. any suggestions

Finally - question 3, we have removed a wooden fence that topped a 2 foot high side wall and built it up using more bricks by another 5 foot. The newer bricks are yellowy/red and are completely different as is the colour of the cement to the older brown bricks. Have you any tips about making the two blend in better?

Well done to you, for a great site, trust an Irishman to come up with a great idea!

forum answer Tony McCormack - 6 Dec 2002
Thanks for the compliments, Daragh. The next time Mr Sony pops in for a brew, I promise to keep me gob shut! wink

1) - where can I get really super feature flooring in Surrey?

Paving? One of the best places is Silverlands at Chertsey. They have a good range of natural paving stones, and a reasonable selection of concrete products.

2) - Drainage - how?

This can make or break the patio. It is essential, but, if you have a well-drained spot, and will have some open ground, then it might be possible to drain onto that. When you say 8 metres squared, do you mean 8m x 8m or 8 square metres (eg, 4m x 2m)? Draining 8m² onto open ground shouldn't be too much of a problem, but 64m² is another thing altogether, and would definitely be better if drained adequately.

3) - How to blend brickwork?

I think you have to accept that they are unlikely ever to match, unless you painted them. There are some strange 'recipes' that can be applied to walling and paving to make it look much older, but none of these can make brand new walling/paving look indistinguishable from existing weathered paving/walling. Could you not get some climbers scrambling up the wall to help mask the difference?

Don't the Irish have all the best ideas? Uisce ... Guinness ... Daniel O'Donnell - well, maybe not!  wink

6 Dec 2002
Super, thanks for that, advise will be heeded. The drainage site is 8m², of an enclosed area
Tony McCormack
6 Dec 2002
You should be ok tipping that small area onto the garden, then.
Forum Question Yorkstone Flags in Kitchen - Kate - 27 Feb 2002
We have relaid some lovely old york flags found underneath a concrete kitchen floor. It looks lovely, but dispite sealing with HG impregnator and a couple of coats of Golvpolish, it still looks very dull, although the different shades have come through.

Anyone know of anything to put on that will make them look a bit brighter? I don't really want to varnish them.

We have also laid some relcaimed flags at the front of the cottage, they are old and weathered, should they be sealed?

Many thanks

forum answer Tony McCormack - 27 Feb 2002
|Hi Kate,

did you clean up the flags in the kitchen before sealing them? The actual type of stone, and there are/were hundreds of different potential quarries for york stone, will determine how well they show up when sealed. Some of the browny yorkstone that has a high iron content, does not improve when sealed, while some of the lighter buff colours and the greeny types often come up much darker.

When it comes to sealing yorkstone in a situation such as this, it's almost impossible to state that such-and-such a sealant will definitely bring about the desired results. I have found that different sealants have different effects with different stone and so it's very much a game of trial and error. One of the best sealants I've used is one developed for block paving - Resiblock 22, but, as I say, it's impossible to guarantee it will be the right sealant for your stone.

As for the flags outside, I would never seal yorkstone laid outdoors. It just looks totally wrong. Clean them up with a power washer and leave them as nature intended.

27 Feb 2002
Thanks for the speedy reply. I did clean the flags several times with a brickcleaner, as there were some residues of concrete on them. They were left for several weeks and then I cleaned regularly with soapy water. Once sealed, the flags have actually come up quite a nice colour, greys, with flecking of black in them, some slightly lighter with a sort of marbling effect on them which and this looks nice. Its just they look a bit dull. I suppose I see all these magazines with shiny york flags and want that look. I know some people varnish them, but I wondered if there was any other polishes on the market.

Thanks for the advice about the ones outside, it saves a lot of work to leave them, they are really interesting to look at and came from a reclaimation yard, some have little gulleys worn into them and I do wonder where they spent their former years!

By the way, we have also laid some Indian stone flags in the dining room (sandstone/fossil) and in the Utility room (bluey grey), I am not convinced about the quality of these as they are already beginning to flake a little in places, how should I go about treating these?

Sorry to be such a nuisance!

Tony McCormack
27 Feb 2002
Brick Cleaning Acid is not the best thing to use when cleaning stone flags. It reacts badly with iron oxide and can stain some flags very, very badly, ruin them, in fact, but it seems you've been lucky.

Anyway, all I can suggest about the glossy look you want is to try a different sealant, such as the Resiblock. Have a look at their website or contact their sales dept and tell them you were sent by me, and they'll be able to advise you.

As for the Indian flagstones, you're not the first to comment on their flakiness - see the thread below.

And nuisance? Nuisance? Don't be daft! The whole point of this forum if for people such as yourself! smiley

Forum Question Pointing a Patio - Matt - 28 Feb 2002
Hello again Tony,

thanks for the help with my cleaning of block paving question last week I took your advice on the high pressure water and it worked a treat so cheers for that one!.

Anyway I now have a new problem, I have a large patio area made up of riven style slabs and I need to re-point the whole area, usually I would sweep in silver sand however the gaps are really wide due to the nature of the slabs profile and i feel the need for something more substantial maybe a cement based grout?? is there a certain way of achieving a solid finish by sweeping in sand and cement or will I have to point up with a wet mix? god I hope I can use the sweeping method as I know how long it takes to point up with wet mortar I could be there for ever!!!.....thanks once again Tony for your invaluable advice mate......

forum answer Tony McCormack - 28 Feb 2002
Riven paving usally has what are known as 'quarry fettled edges'. These give a variable joint width, and as such are not really suitable for dry sand jointing; you need to use a mortar.

Now, you could use the traditional method of pointing, as described on the Pointing page, or you could use a Wet Grout, which is also described therein, but this isn't really the best time of year for a wet grout job. If we get a dry spell, and the surface of the paving is dry, you could even try a dry grout, and then water it in, but this method doesn't normally give a firm joint, unless it is properly tooled after wetting.

Of the three, I'd go for the Pointing - if it was late spring or summer, I'd use the Wet grout, but February isn't really a 'drying' month, so you copuld ennd up spending more time cleaning the wet grout off the paving than it would take to point each joint individually.
Besides, pointing isn't too much slower than wet grouting, once you get the knack of it. From my estimating rates, I have figures for pointing 600x600x65mm buttered flags at 42m² per hour and wet-grouting the same at 55m² per hour *in summer* or 45m² per hr in winter. Dry grouting is 86m² per hr regardless of season, but that doesn't include tooling time.

28 Feb 2002
Cheers Tony, looks like its a spell on the trowel for me!...will a squirt of fairy liquid be adequate as a plasticiser for my mortar??..and would the mixing of builders sand and sharp sand be a good idea for the mix?.....thanks once again...
Tony McCormack
28 Feb 2002
The owld Fairy liquid will be fine, Matt, but don't overdo it. Adding extra just buggers up the mix. Reckon on around a thimbleful to a bucket of water. Of course, if you buy that crappy cheap Wash-up liquid, you might need two thimblefuls, but genuine Fairy Liquid is bloody powerful stuff!

I wouldn't mix the building sand with the grit sand unless you have exceptionally wide joints, say 20mm or more. Adding grit sand can make tooling more difficult, especially with tight joints (6mm or less).

If you're using a coloured mortar, silver sand is better, as you're not fighting against the natural sand colour with the dye.

Forum Question Can't find a mall in the mall - Tim Klein - 1 Mar 2002
I found your site on the internet and well, to be honest, I think it's better than excellent. Certainly it has answered most of my questions and next Wednesday when the sand/cement and concrete paving slabs get delivered I hope to start reaping the benefits from reading your site.

I do have one question/comment. Where can I get hold of a pavier's mall or can I make one say out of a pick axe handle and lump of wood?

Additionally, a comment is that not every one knows what a pavier's mall is. After checking in my dictionary I worked out that mall meant hammer or shopping centre, so I assume that it is one of those big wooden hammers I used to see pavement layers using. It might be a good idea to add pavier's mall to the terms section?

Once again, thanks for sharing your wisdom.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 1 Mar 2002
|Hi Tim,

you should be able to get a pavior's mall at a good builder's merchant, a contractor's merchant, or a specialist tool supplier such as Greenham Trading or AG Strachan, depending on where you live. Most of the mall's now on sale are composite rubber, rather than iron-bound wood, but the i-b wooden ones are still popular in the SE for some reason. Personally, I'd have a fibre/rubber composite anyday!!

Thanks for the comments on not being sure about the terminology - there is now a 'Tools of the Trade' page which illustrates the most commonly used tools.

Forum Question Small flags for driveway - Frank - 1 Mar 2002
I am planning to install a new and larger drive, approx 36 sq mts as my drive is on a bit of a slope. Is it wise to use 450x450x35 mm slabs?

Also should they be dry jointed or wet mortar jointed?

forum answer Tony McCormack - 1 Mar 2002
Uh-oh! 35mm slabs/flags are only suitable for patios, Frank. They'll snap like wafers on a driveway unless they are laid on a full bed of C20 concrete.

Have a read of the section about Small Element Paving, which are much better suited to driveways.

Forum Question Indian Flagstone for floor - Ivor Butcher - 1 Mar 2002
I am in the process (about ¼ way through) of laying some very nice riven Yorkstone type flooring throughout our lounge and hallway. (Hopefully not too flakey!) I have 2 questions:

1) They are being laid on a lime mortar but are as yet un-grouted (average gap is 1-5mm). Can they be effectively grouted some days after laying or should I instruct floor layers to grout 'as they go'?

2) We want to maintain as natural a look as possible BUT a)give some stain protection to the surface and b) bring out (without achieving any finish) the colour variation. There appear to be a number of products on the market designed for this purpose - does anyone have any experience with the specific type of stone which we have (sourced from Perfitts of Diss, Suffolk)? The colouration is primarily buff/yellowish with some nice grey and red variation.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 1 Mar 2002
We prefer to point the joints as we proceed, so that the pointing mortar and the buttering mortar all set as one, but there's no strong reason why they can't be left a few days, as long as the empty joints don't get filled with crap in the meantime.

With regard to sealing your flags, I've asked the world's leading paving sealant company to advise on this matter and contribute something to the website. Mr Craig Amor, CEO of Resiblock has written the following, which has also been added to the Sealants page....

We have two products that are particularly suitable for this purpose, the first is RESIBLOCK '22' ULTRA (low sheen finish) and the second is RESIBLOCK SUPERIOR ULTRA (wet-look finish). Both of these products are based on aliphatic TDI technology and provide outstanding resistance to a wide range of household chemicals whilst remaining totally light stable (critical where part of the flooring is exposed to daylight and part is in shadow). Unlike the standard '22'/SUPERIOR products these have a high degree of adhesion and do not rely solely on the porosity of the substrate for mechanical bonding, as a consequence they are both particularly suitable for both wet-cast and hydraulically pressed paving.

The only caveat being is that if the floors have been pre-treated with another sealer particularly one which is silicone based (i.e. Thomsons Water Seal) then our material may not properly adhere to this surface.

Both provide very attractive aesthetics and can withstand regular cleaning with household and janitorial chemicals. As with all our products, 0.25 litre samples are available FOC to potential users to ensure compatibility.

Hope that helps, Ivor. smiley

Ivor Butcher
1 Mar 2002
Thanks Tony. I think we'll start by grouting and try some of the products on sample flags for effect. I hadn't thought about possible changes in appearance due to daylight exposure - very relevant given the size of the windows in our property.
Forum Question Thinner pcc flags - Andre - 1 Mar 2002
Are the 60 x 60cm concrete flags avalaible in less than 50mm thickness eg. 32mm?
forum answer Tony McCormack
Yes - we call them "wafers" - see the Richmond paving from Marshalls. They are, IIRC, 35mm thick.

Bloody useless shite is another popular term for them! wink

Forum Question Glass Flags? - Melissa Hansom - 1 Mar 2002
Hi! I'm a Design Craft student at Staffordshire University currently undertaking a project to design something for our campus. I am proposing to re-pave an area outside the students union and cast some of my own hand-made cast glass flagstones in between concrete ones. I was wondering if I could have some advice as to how to drain cast glass slabs and also if I could have some idea of the cost for labour and materials to flag an area 14X3.5 metres in concrete slabs? I would very much appreciate some help!
forum answer Tony McCormack
I'm not sure about what you mean by a "cast glass slab" and how it would be drained. Can you explain a bit more?

14 x 3.5 = 49m², so, assuming you're using plain concrete BS flags, rather than decorative patio flags, that would cost around  1750-2000 quids all in.

Melissa Hansom Thanks for the reply. I'm planning on making several pieces of solid glass in the shape of a square or a rectangle-probably about 3 inches deep which have imprints of certain types of the body in them, like a foot or hand. As you can tell if it rains there will be a problem with water collecting in the imprints. Ones of the things I was thinking of was maybe putting some holes through the glass so any excess water would drain through into the earth underneath, but I'm a novice and don't really know what I'm talking about!
Tony McCormack If you drain via the glass blocks, then the bedding layer must be very free draining. I would consider using a drainage composite between the bedding and the sub-base/sub-grade to avoid any risk of waterlogging.

If you let me see your design before implementation, I'll advise on any potential pitfalls.

Forum Question Stone Theft - Ian Bond - 5 Mar 2002

I live in Bradford, West Yorkshire where a lot of the old paving and buildings are done in beautiful sandstone.

Unfortunately this material is very valuable and thefts are on the increase. Most of the pavements in my area have vanished over the past few months.

Has anyone got any suggestions for making flags etc harder to steal? Some people have resorted to painting their flags but this spoils them.

We've just had 14 yards of stone copings stolen from a wall. Replacement stone would cost around £500.

forum answer Tony McCormack - 5 Mar 2002
Hi Ian,

I suppose you've heard the apocryphal tale of the 'workmen' turning up one morning to lift all the yorkstone flags onto a lorry, only for the local residents to find out later, when they rang up the council to ask what had happened to the workmen, that they were actually nicking the stone!

Yorkstone theft is a serious problem, especially with it being so relatively valuable. The best way to deter would-be thieves is to make sure the joints are well pointed, as this makes it harder to lift, and to fit whatever external security devices you can - PIR lamps are useful.

One of our old clients had his yorkstone driveway nicked three times in less than 6 months, and he lived on a main road! In the end, the Insurance Co refused to cover him for Yorkstone, so they paid for him to have his driveway block-paved. It may be worth contacting your insurance co to see if you're covered.

A 'trick' we have used in the past is to paint our initials 'ajmc' onto the underside of the yorkstone we lay. Then, if it does get nicked, all the local dealers will know it's been laid by us, recently, and therefore is likely to be stolen. On two occasions, we've received a 'phone call telling us just who is trying to flog the contraband and where they were last sighted.

Also, notify the Police. If a 'spate' of robberies are reported in your area, they'll start pulling over suspiciously overweight Tranny vans travelling late at night.

The drive bandits are bad enough, but somewhere, there's a bent dealer, willing to pay beer vouchers for what they know is stolen paving. Until the Bobbies identify and close down these rogues, the bandits will continue to rob vulnerable paving.

Ian Bond
6 Mar 2002

Thanks for the prompt reply and advice, it is much appreciated.

I have great sympathy with your former client.

And yes, those tales of 'workmen' are true. They even nick the paths of churches....

New Story

I'll follow your advice as soon as possible.

I really want to put the theives off before the flags are nicked, as they're part of a house that's almost 200 years old.

I am considering etching my postcode and house number onto the surface of the flags. Although this will detract from their appearance, it may make them less attractive to thieves as they're easily identifiable as stolen.

Once again, thanks for your help,

All the best


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