Winter seems like it would be the absolute worst time to start laying paving, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
In this article, we are going to talk about some of the best tips for building a laid patio in winter.
We will also include tips for those who may not want to lay paving in winter at all and want something else instead.
Lets start by admitting that paving in winter will be more difficult than paving during other times of year.
For starters its much less pleasant to work outdoors with all the wet and cold. Secondly, you will need to be very careful about unexpected freeze/thaw cycles that can cause major problems for cement.
Finally if you are working in the rain it can over saturate the soil and make it very hard to get the concrete in place.
1.Don’t lay paving on frozen ground
The ground underneath your pavers will expand during the freeze-thaw cycles, then contract during warmer temperatures.
Although natural and unavoidable, excessively expanding or contracting of the ground can actually lead to cracks in your paving as well as shifting out of place.
2. Cover the ground or the paving with hessian or carpet
This is a great tip if its in the low positive degrees in the day time but drops below 0 degrees C at night.
Use a thick hessian covering or some old carpet to cover anything you want to avoid freezing.
This is a particularity important step if you have laid paving that day and the cement is still curing. It can also be useful to cover the paving sub base to make sure it doesn’t freeze and expand.
3. If its going to rain cover the ground with a tarpaulin
It can be a nightmare to lay paving on a saturated ground or sub base. A great trick to keep the water away is to place a tarpaulin over the area. Make sure to divert the water somewhere it wont be a problem.
This has saved us many hours of bailing out water from pits and trenches.
4. Increase the cement content of your mix
If you are working in cold conditions you are fighting a battle to get the cement mix to cure before the water in it can freeze. This is usually not possible with a normal 1/8 ratio of cement to building sand but if you increase the ratio of cement in the mix you can speed the curing process up significantly.
If you are doing this as part of a home project you may like our helpful guide on mixing cement.
5. Lay on days of 3 degrees C or upwards
This may not be possible (especially if you run a business and need to keep paying the bills!). But if you can arrange things so that the temperature won’t drop below 3 degrees C at any point during the day or night you will avoid the loose slabs and uneven base which can come from frost damage during the paving process.
The temperature is a key factor in how fast cement cures so if you can increase it, even by just one degree C, this will make a significant difference.
If you are planning on sealing your paving then you will need to wait until it is much warmer with a minimum of 13 degrees Celsius needed for most sealants.
6. Use frost proofer in your cement
If you find yourself having to lay paving in cold conditions there are some ingenious cement additives which can give your paving a better chance of lasting without frost damage.
Accelerator and Frost Proofers are liquids that helps the cement in mortar set faster. By decreasing the curing time you are able to lay paving in colder weather.
NOTE: the Accelerator will have a shorter lifespan than normal cement and frost proofers can turn your mortar creamy white which is not aesthetically desirable but if you are laying paving in winter, it’s worth considering these options.
7. Use “non frost susceptible” sub base
When laying a sub base in the winter its a good idea to opt for one that is frost resistant, or non-frost susceptible. These will be more expensive but can save you money as they won’t need to be replaced due to damage caused by the freeze and thaw cycles in winter.
Most type 1 MOT and limestone scalping’s are frost resistant. Ask your supplier for paving sub base products which are classed as non-frost susceptible.
8. Don’t lay paving in heavy rain
Laying a patio in heavy rain can cause real problems.
The cement can become saturated causing level paving slabs to move and sink.
Heavy rain is likely to wash the cement content out of mortar significantly reducing its strength, making it difficult for pointing or jointing too dry properly later on down the road as well (if that’s what you’re going with).
If you’re reading this article, chances are that it’s too cold to lay paving outside your house right now (or maybe we just want to get an idea of what might be coming).
But even though laying paving is best done when the ground and air temperature are at least 3 degrees Celsius, there are some things you can do to make sure you don’t have any problems next time winter comes around.
Follow these eight tips and by the time summer rolls around again, not only will your garden look amazing but you’ll also know how to avoid those pesky pitfalls from last year! Take a look around our website for more great content on patios or other home improvement