Just a few square metres of paving could cost hundreds if not thousands, depending on the type of material you opt for.
Many years ago it wasn't uncommon for a garden seating area to be made of concrete, cast in situ; I certainly remember the two council houses I lived in as a kid having concrete pathways, with the latter house having a small concrete pad just big enough for two garden chairs.
However, concrete is concrete. It's versatile, strong and, provided it's mixed and laid correctly, concrete lasts forever.
With imagination and a little practice, concrete or course mortar can be made to look like real stone and be used in a variety of applications; what's more, anyone with a bit of patience and little know-how can make concrete products to use in their own garden.
In this video (it's a bit crudely made but I hope you find it useful?) I make my own wooden moulds and cast coping stones for the top of a stone wall.
I wanted to use sawn limestone but after researching a variety of products from different suppliers I realised the cost of each block could be as much as £60-80.00 plus vat.
I made up three moulds (you can make as many as you like but obviously if the wood has to be bought then this cost has to be taken into consideration) of exactly the same dimensions. 600mm x 470mm x 100mm.
The sides are screwed together and then a plywood base is then screwed onto the sides to create a strong rigid structure. Bear in mind that when filled, the mortar inside is not only heavy but when fluid it will be pushing hard against the mould walls.
Also bear in mind that the fewer moulds you have the more you will have to assemble and disassemble. This eventually takes its toll and may lead to screw heads pulling through the wood. Washers may be needed to spread the surface area of the screw heads.
Once assembled and before each pour, the internal mould faces need to be liberally coated with a natural oil. I've used linseed oil but vegetable oil will also do. Try to avoid engine oil.
Clean any mortar residue or flake from all surfaces before applying the oil.
Before deciding on what mixture to use you need to think of the colour.
In my opinion, mixing and using materials in their natural state to produce the right look is better. Dyes can be added but sometimes the final result highlights that it's imitation.
I've used ordinary sharp sand (think of this as just a very fine all-in ballast) building sand and white cement. There are no other additives apart from water.
The ratio of sand to cement is 3:1. The three parts sand may be made of a mix of different sands. To achieve consistent results (especially to get the right colour throughout) it's best to measure accurately.
Conversely, if you deliberately wish for each stone differ slightly in colour you may change the quantities of sand but it's important to retain the 3:1 ratio overall.
For this project I measured the materials into a bucket first. That way I can be sure to get the right mix time and time again.
I removed my stones from their moulds after approximately twelve hours just to check for weakness or blemishes. It also meant the moulds could be re-filled.
If you do decide to handle or move any paving or coping be careful not to knock them or drop them because the mixture will still be green. Do not lift from the corners as they are likely to break.
Once I removed my stones from their moulds I let them rest on wooden battens so as the air can flow all the way around. I also dowsed with water periodically so as to help counteract the water being chemically removed by the curing process.
Here is the wall in Monflanqin with coping stones that inspired my wall.
...and here is my wall with my coping stones in place.
I hope you like the video. If you have any questions please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org