Can You Lay a Patio Without Sub Base? Uncover the Truth!

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Hardcore sub-base added for patio preparation, brownish red stones


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Patio & Yard


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When you are creating a patio, you need to make sure that you have a stable foundation. This ensures that the patio won’t fall apart later.

But can you lay a patio without a sub-base, and what would be the side effects?

It is highly advisable to lay a sub-base floor; however, there are a few circumstances where a sub-base won’t be needed. The patio will need light foot traffic and be built on relatively strong soil. Materials like patio flags, cobbles, and Indian Sandstone don’t necessarily need a sub-base. 

Laying a patio can be expensive , so finding ways to cut costs can be tempting. Because of this, you might be tempted to avoid using a sub-base.

But this isn’t usually a good idea. Read on to learn about some sub-base alternatives and how they stack up. 

Hardcore sub-base added for patio preparation, brownish red stones

Can You Build A Patio Without Laying A Sub-Base? 

This can be a tricky question to answer. In most cases, a sub-base is a good idea. You can think of it like an underlay when putting down carpet.

It will help spread the load and create a flat surface. This is why most people use it when lying on a patio. 

While they are always a good idea, there are some circumstances where you can get away without using a sub-base. First, you must consider what the patio will be used for.

You might not need a sub-base if it is used for foot traffic and a few light furniture items. A sub-base might be needed if heavy furniture or cars are on it. 

You should also think about what type of paving you will be using. Some of the ones that don’t necessarily require a sub-base are: 

  • Patio flags
  • Cobbles
  • Indian Sandstones

Lastly, you should think about the ground beneath the patio. If you have softer dirt, you will need to lay a sub-base.

If you don’t, you risk the patio surface becoming uneven, as the pavers might sink into the ground over time. 

Look at the lay of the ground as you should aim to have a slight slope or angle away from your patio doorway, ensuring that the water runs off correctly.

Pooling water increases the chances of rot on the doors and walls of your home. With a sub-base, getting the correct angle will be relatively easy.

Remember this element if you don’t use one when laying the pavers. 

Poor quality lumpy soil is not a good sub-base

What Are Some Alternatives To A Sub-base? 

The most common alternative to a sub-base is pavers. These will need to be laid on top of sharp sand. Sand or gravel will be required to fill in the gaps between the pavers. 

A sub-base is designed to help spread the load out over the patio. This is important when adding a significant amount of weight, like adding furniture or hosting a party with many people.

Plus, the sub-base will ensure that the flooring stays flat for years. 

Because of these requirements, many people will turn to a sub-base known for its durability. But if you are on a tight budget, this can cause some problems.

It can be expensive to lay a sub-base. You’ll need to source the sub-base materials and bring appropriate construction equipment. 

Because of this, you might want to lay pavers without using a sub-base. This can work well over the short to medium term.

If you want to take this approach, you’ll need to follow these steps: 

  1. Dig out four to eight inches of soil to create a flat section for your patio. 
  2. Line the edges with bender boards
  3. Add sharp sand
  4. Place pavers above the layer of sand
  5. Use gravel or sand to fill in any gaps between the pavers

If you take this approach, it’s best to use heavy pavers. These will be harder to move out of position, even when being stepped on daily. 

The pavers might shift slightly over time, especially if you live in an area with a lot of rain.

This can sometimes cause the patio floor to become uneven. A sub-base will allow them to bond with the ground, so your patio will stay in excellent condition for years. 

Patio tile flooring is flat with flowers and grass showing that a quality sub-base can help maintain a flat surface for years to come

How Thick Should A Patio Sub-base Be? 

Typically, a sub-base must be between 75 to 100mm when making a patio. This will be able to cope with the weight of heavy furniture and high foot traffic. But if you drive vehicles on it, you will need a sub-base of around 150mm.

If you will lay a subbase for patio areas, you will need to consider how thick it will have to be. This will often depend on the paving materials you will use on your patio and the load it will need to carry.

But 75 to 100mm will usually be a good option. 

It’s also important to consider the sub-base for patio you will be laying. There are a few options that you can explore: 

  • Hardcore. This is the name for recycled materials like bricks, stones, and concrete. These are crushed up into tiny pieces to form a suitable sub-base. This is one of the most economical approaches, as the elements can be salvaged from other construction projects. You might even be able to source these materials from your local landfill site. 
  • Limestone. This can be broken up into Type 1 and Type 3. This is used for road work, which makes it the ideal choice for patios that will be put under a heavy load. But it can be expensive. Most of the time, it can be overkill for a basic garden patio. 
  • Gravel and sand. Finally, you might want to consider using gravel and sand. These can be compacted with a rolling drum to form a solid sub-base. Plus, they are inexpensive. 

Is a Patio Seating Essential for Laying a Patio Without Sub Base?

When laying a patio without a sub base, outdoor patio seating is not essential but can be a great addition. It provides a comfortable and inviting space for relaxation and entertainment. Consider the outdoor patio seating guide to choose the best seating options for your patio layout and design.

Final Thoughts on Laying a Patio Without a Sub-Base

Laying a patio sub-base is usually a good idea when creating a patio. It ensures that the patio will be able to last for years to come.

But, if you are on a tight budget, there are some circumstances where this step can be skipped.