How To Lay Paving On Soil (Do's & Dont's)

Laying paving on soil sounds like a short-cut to laying it properly, but actually, with the right knowledge, materials and tools, it can be a straightforward process that offers a perfect solution for laying paving. Just to be clear, we're not advising you to lay the paving directly onto the soil, however, laying paving on a combination of compacted soil with an MOT Type 1 sub-base is the recommended solution provided by the majority of leading paving manufacturers.

A well laid patio can enhance the appearance of your outdoor area and make it more functional, providing a space for activities like barbeques, outdoor dining, or simply lounging and it is just not necessary to create a concrete foundation on which to lay the paving. Whether you’re looking to create a patio, a walkway, or a driveway, the key to a successful paving project is to ensure that the foundation is strong and durable. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the steps of laying paving on soil, from preparing the site to laying the pavers and finishing the job. By the end of this post, you’ll have the knowledge to complete a paving project that will stand the test of time.

Materials and Tools Needed

Before you start laying paving on soil, it’s essential to ensure you have all the necessary tools and materials to complete the job efficiently. Here is a list of the materials and tools you will need:

  1. Paving - The pavers are the main material required for the project. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, including concrete, natural stone, and clay. Choose paving slabs that fit your desired style and budget.

  2. MOT Type 1 - MOT Type is used as a sub-base and leveling material under the paving. You will need approximately 1 bulk bag for every 5 sqm of area to be paved.

  3. Sharp Sand - Sharp sand is mixed with cement to create the bedding mix on which to lay your paving slabs. You will need approximately 1 bulk bag for every 15 sqm of paving. 
  4. Cement - Cement is mixed with sharp sand to create the bedding mix on which to lay the paving. You will need approx. 16 bags for each bulk bag of sharp sand for a 1:3 ratio or 8 bags for each bulk bag of sharp sand for a 1:6 ratio. 

  5. Edging Material - Edging material is often used to give an attractive finishing touch to the paving. Choose cobble setts or linear paving as an example. 

  6. String and Stakes - String and stakes are used to mark out the area where the paving will be laid, ensuring a straight and even surface.

  7. Shovel and Spade - A shovel is used to remove the top layer of soil, while a spade is used to edge the area and create a neat finish.

  8. Optional Excavator - If the area to be paved covers a large expanse, it may be preferable to hire a mini excavator. 
  9. Wheelbarrow - A wheelbarrow is used to transport materials like sand, gravel, and pavers around the site.

  10. Compactor Plate or Roller - A compator plate or roller is used to compact the soil and MOT Type 1 creating a stable base for the paving.

  11. Level - A level is used to ensure that the surface is even and level throughout the project.

Each of these materials and tools is essential for creating a strong and durable foundation for your paving project. Make sure you have all of them before you begin your project.

Planning and Preparation

Before you start laying paving on soil, it's essential to plan and prepare the work area. Here are some key considerations and steps to follow to ensure that your project runs smoothly:

Key Considerations:

  1. Drainage - Proper drainage is critical to prevent water from pooling on the surface, which can cause damage to the paving and the foundation. Ensure that the surface slopes away from your home and that you have a plan for draining any excess water.

  2. Design - Consider the design of the area you're paving, including the size, shape, and pattern of the paving. Take into account any existing features like trees, gardens, or structures. Measure the length x width of the area you are looking to pave and add on 10% extra for cutting and breakages. 

Steps to Plan and Prepare the Work Area:

  1. Mark out the area - Use string and stakes to mark out the area where you will be laying the paving. Ensure that the area is the correct size and shape.

  2. Remove any vegetation - Use a shovel to remove any grass, weeds, or other vegetation from the area.

  3. Excavate the area - Dig out the area to a depth of at least 150mm, however this needs to be gauged depending upon the thickness of your paving. Remove any rocks, roots, or debris from the soil.

  4. Add the MOT Type 1 layer - Add a layer of MOT Type 1 to the bottom of the excavation. Apply in two layers, compacting with a compactor plate between each layer. The final compacted thickness should be 100mm.


Proper and Safe Handling and Storage of Materials:

When handling and storing materials for your paving project, it's essential to take proper safety precautions. Wear appropriate protective gear like gloves, safety glasses, and a dust mask. Keep cement dry and sand covered when not in use. When handling heavy materials like paving slabs, use proper lifting techniques to prevent injury. Use caution when working with machinery like an excavator and compactor plate, and follow all safety guidelines.

Installing the Paving

Once you have prepared the work area and have all the necessary materials and tools, it's time to start laying the paving. Here are step-by-step instructions to help you lay the paving slabs:

  1. Mix up your mortar and trowel enough into position for one or two paving slabs at a time. Apply more than is needed to prevent any voids under the paving once positioned onto the mortar. 
  2. Start at one corner of the area and lay the first slab in place. Use a rubber mallet to tap the slab into place gently pushing out any residual mortar from the edges. Scrape this away and put in the location of the next slab along. 

  3. Lay the second slab beside the first, leaving a gap of about 15mm between the two slabs, although the exact spacing depends on the type of paving you are using. Natural stone will require a wider gap than porcelain and concrete paving and non rectified porcelain has a wider tolerance on paving slab dimensions than rectified paving. Always use a gap as this allows the paving to dry around the edges - without a gap, paving can remain wet around the perimeter of each slab known as 'picture framing'. Use a string line to keep a straight line and if preferred, use a spacer or a length of wood to maintain consistent spacing between the slabs.

  4. Continue laying the slabs in a row, ensuring that they are level and aligned with the edging. Use a level to check the alignment of the slabs regularly. Remeber to have a slight slope away from you home to allow surface water to run away elsewhere into your garden. Always mix packs of natural stone paving to ensure an even mix of shades.

  5. For irregular shaped areas, lay the slabs out before fixing them in place to ensure they fit together neatly.

  6. When you reach an obstacle like a tree, you will need to cut the slabs to fit around it. Read our article on cutting paving for more information on how to do this. Ensure that the gap between the slab and the obstacle is wide enough to allow you to point up to it. 

  7. For edges, cut the slabs to fit or make a feature of a staggered edge by leading it into a pebble topped planting bed. 

  8. Fill the gaps between the slabs with either sand and cement mortar or a specialist jointing compound. We have an article to explain different options for jointing paving. 

  9. Ensure you clean up as you go. Both mortar and jointing compound will stain the surface of the paving and cannot be removed once dried. 


When laying porcelain paving slabs:

It's essential to use slurry primer on the back of the slabs to aid adhesion. Slurry primer is a cementitious mixture that is applied to the back of the slab before it is laid. It helps to create a stronger bond between the slab and the mortar, preventing the slabs from shifting or cracking over time. This is especially important with porcelain paving which is known for its non-porous, stain resistant qualities, which are a great benefit with porcleain, however this low porosity also means it will not adhere to the mortar without a priming slurry. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the slurry primer you use.



In conclusion, laying paving on soil is straightforward and when following the right planning, preparation, and installation techniques, you can create a beautiful and functional outdoor space that will last for many years to come. The key to success is to plan and prepare your work area properly, use high-quality materials, and ensure that you follow proper installation techniques. Additionally, regular maintenance and care such as sweeping and occasional washing are essential to keeping your paving in top condition. By following the techniques outlined in this article, you can ensure that your paving is installed correctly, looks great, and lasts for a great many years.