A sandstone terrace

This area of the garden catches the sun all day but is under utilised.

The area does not lend itself to much and is hemmed in on all sides. A paved terrace across this area will give it purpose and form.

The hard work begins. Digging out the slope in preparation for a retaining wall.

With the slope removed the foundations can be excavated. The pegs denote the depth of concrete.

The foundations are completed and the block walling has arrived.

Time to lay the first stone. Attention to detail is paramount at this stage. Oh, it was the school holidays too.

The concrete block retaining wall is faced with a Cotswold facing block.

As the retaining wall rises above ground level the concrete block is replaced with the facing block.

Time for a tea break. Guess who Dylan is with?

With the wall completed the coping stones are layed along the top to protect the interior of the wall. They also form convienient  seating as they are 450 mm above the finished level. The same height as a dining chair.

Great a change in the weather. And with the sun we take delivery of 5 tonnes of crushed stone to be carried by hand from the road 100 metres  away up a narrow path. But its sunny!

There was a large tree in the way. So we boxed it in to give it room to move without affecting the terrace.

The paving arrives. In this case hand cut imported Indian sandstone (From ethically sourced quarries). Note the difference in depth between each piece of stone. This type of stone is getting very popular as prices fall. The best way to lay these types of stone is to use a semi-dry bedding mix of grit sand and cement which can be spread as you go to accommodate the difference in thickness between neighbouring stones. When laying onto a level surface it is wise to choose the thickest stone as your first and lay it on a thin layer of bedding mix. This way you avoid the embarrassment of getting halfway and finding that you don't have room for your thickest stone. It does happen, not to me of course!

Ok, we're getting there, great. That green spirit level with the 5 levels on it allows me to lay the stones at a slight slope away from the upper wall. This ensures the water will not collect here and it will drain down the slope. Each vile on the level increases by 1 degree. The sack truck is invaluable for moving slabs around, especially those big ones. They are also cheap £15-£25 from builders merchants. Another piece of advice, if you get stone paving in different sizes make a plan of how you will lay them on graph paper or a computer then stack them in that order so you don't have to move 10 to get the one you want next.

Its one of those jobs. You think you will never finish it and all of a sudden it all comes together. Once all the stones are down they have to be pointed. Riven stones like these can not be layed close together, the rippled surface does not allow for this. The best way is give each a 15 - 20 mm gap. This gap however has to filled to protect the terrace from water damage, weeds etc. Sandstone is very porous so a wet mortar would stain the stone. In this case a semi-dry mortar which has been coloured with dye was used. It needs just enough water to hydrate the cement yet remains like damp sand. This reduces the problem of staining to a minimum. And the mortar matches the centre piece chiminea, nice touch.

This sandtone was called "Fossil mint" and it looked light when dry but when it got wet a whole rainbow of colours emerged.

And there we have it. After, and...