What is hard landscaping?

At Southway Construction we are experts in a wide range of exterior construction and Civil engineering work, and one of the professional services that we provide to both our domestic and commercial clients, is hard landscaping.

Hard landscaping or ‘hardscaping’ is a term which applies to a number of different hard aspects of our exterior spaces i.e. the shapes, frameworks and different surfaces in our gardens, rather than the soft features such as lawns, plants, trees and shrubs.

Natural stone stairs landscaping in home garden

Hard landscaping can cover (but is not limited to) the following aspects:

  • Paving, pathways and steps
  • Rocks, stones and masonry
  • Fences, walls and other boundaries
  • Car parks, driveways and any sort of vehicular standing
  • Patios, terraces and decking

All of these different elements involve a wide range of different design and material choices. Fences, for example could be wood, metal, brick or stone. So it is important that your hard landscaping elements are carefully managed to ensure that they fit well into the overall scheme of your garden or other outside space.

Planning your hard landscape

Any sort of redesign or refurbishment of your exterior space should be planned carefully. The best way to approach this is to ensure that you plan all of the different elements – hard and soft – and consider how they will all work together.


Some considerations are mainly practical i.e. where you need a path, the addition or replacement of a fence or wall and such factors as having a patio or decking close to the house. Other areas are more open to preference, including the shape or style of paving, the colour of materials, additional features such as rockeries or ponds and how all of these individual elements work together.

Overall it is important to make sure that all of your materials and different elements are practical, look good, complement each other and also fit well with your plans for the soft elements of your garden.

The right balance between hard and soft elements

Hard landscaping should always be considered first when considering a new garden or external layout or a refurbishment to your exterior spaces. A concern over the development of our garden spaces in recent years has been the tendency for soft spaces – which include important plants and drainage – to be paved over for car parking or ease of maintenance. By engaging experts like Southway Construction for your hard landscaping project – you can be reassured that your hardscaped surfaces are planned to be appropriate for the environment and can accommodate soft aspects as well – helping to achieve the perfect balance.


Find out more about the different elements of hard landscaping on the Southway Construction web site, or get in touch with us for more information.

Driveway drainage – why it is important?

It is very important to consider the potential problems which can be caused by water when you are planning a new driveway, patio or any type of paved surface. Water can cause damage to surfaces in a number of different ways including staining, erosion and encouraging weed growth. Here in the UK where we are no strangers to rain – so this can be a real problem.

There are also major environmental concerns related to surface water which doesn’t drain away appropriately, as our sewerage systems were never designed to deal with all of the additional surface water which falls on our increasingly paved front gardens. Indeed, since 2008 it has been illegal to let rainwater run from your drive directly onto the road and consequently into storm drains.

So ensuring that your driveway has the correct drainage is a requirement that needs to be taken seriously when refurbishing or installing a new driveway, and the bottom line is that to prolong the life of your driveway – you need to make sure that you have effective drainage in place.


What are my driveway drainage options?

There are two main approaches that you can take when deciding how to manage drainage on your driveway:

Incorporate a gradient

If you do not have a permeable driveway, water will gather on the surface in puddles. It is a legal requirement that moisture must be absorbed near to where it falls, so an effective way to deal with this is to install a driveway surface which has  a slight gradient – only around 1:80 from the front of the paved surface to the back. This will be just enough of a slope to allow the water to flow off the paved surface and into a specially installed drain which has been designed for that specific purpose.

Permeable surfaces

Another approach is to install a driveway surface which has been specifically designed to be permeable. The most common form of permeable surface is gravel, and it is a popular choice for driveways for this very reason. Paving technology continues to develop over time, and the legal requirements which cover driveway drainage has led to the development of a range of different paving options which have been designed to be permeable.  These must be fitted with an appropriate sub base to ensure that the water drains away.

You can read more about permeable paving on our previous blog on this subject.

More information

More information on the legislation related to paving can be found on the Planning Portal web site.

Southway Construction are experts on creating the right driveway base and appropriate drainage for your driveway. Take a look at our driveway page for more information or get in touch with us for further advice.

Winter patio preparation

As Autumn progresses, there are lots of changes in our gardens and external spaces. Whilst the temperature is still not too cold, it can be difficult to anticipate the cold weather to come, but now is a good time to start preparing external areas for the winter months.

Patio preparation for the winter

Despite our obsession with the weather in the UK, the reality is that in most parts of the country we are lucky enough to avoid very harsh weather problems most of the time. The downside to this is that we can sometimes be a bit complacent about preparing for the changing seasons. The reality is that all paved surfaces require ongoing maintenance and attention throughout the year and this is particularly true as we head into the winter months. In this blog we take a look at some of the paving surface and patio preparation tasks that you need to think about as winter approaches.

Start with a clear-up

As the leaves fall and Autumn debris accumulates, it is a good idea to clear away garden waste. Having a general clear-up is an excellent way to prepare your garden for the winter as well as having the advantage of topping up your compost heap. It is important to bear in mind that leaves and other debris can stain paved surfaces if they get wet, and these organic stains can be very difficult to remove. Keeping your patio or drive clear of waste will help to keep it clean and unmarked.

Autumn leaves with wheelbarow and garden tools

It is also advisable to put away your heavy garden furniture in readiness for the winter. When it is cold outside it is unlikely that you will be making use of it anyway, but heavy furniture on top of paved surfaces can add extra stress when they get damp or freeze and then thaw.

Carry out a pre-winter inspection

Before the weather takes a turn for the worse, it is sensible to carry out an inspection of all of your surfaces to check for minor repair requirements. Most patio and drive surfacing or paving is designed to expand or contract dependent on the temperature, but this can sometimes be a problem if the weather gets very cold. Very small holes or other sorts of damage are not generally a major cause for concern but if water gets into even a small crack and then freezes – it will expand and can worsen the existing damage. Water can also penetrate beneath paving and freeze and expand – which can cause damage. You can also consider using a sealant on exterior surfaces to get you through the winter months, but if you are using any sort of chemical it is important to check that it is appropriate for your specific surface as some materials can be easily damaged.

And as the weather gets colder, you should spread sand or grit to remove snow or ice. This makes a safer surface to walk on and also helps to prevent water or ice damage to paving and patios.

Professional help with your patio or paving

Don’t forget that Southway Construction can help with any of your paving or patio preparation for the winter, including maintenance, repairs or re-laying.

Take a look at our patio and paving page for more information.

What is driveway sealant?

driveway sealantsDriveway sealants are a clear costing that can be applied to the driveway surface to maintain, and possibly improve its performance. A driveway sealant can help to stabilise the surface, stop weeds growing through and stop oil and other liquids penetrating through the surface. Sealants can be made from a range of different materials but common types include acrylic and polyurethane.

There is some debate about the benefit of using driveway sealants. Many experts only recommend them for very high traffic areas where there is a high likelihood of fluid spills. This makes them ideal for petrol station and garage forecourts but potential overkill for the driveway at your house. Nevertheless driveway sealants are a popular product and there is a growing market for them in the UK. Driveway sealant manufacturers make a number of claims about their benefits.


Improving the appearance of your driveway

Driveway sealants are a bit like a varnish, and like a varnish they can change the colour of your driveway. This can help to give an old and tired driveway a fresh look but obviously isn’t ideal if you have just spent a lot of money on the perfect shade of paving blocks. If you have dirt or other imperfections on your driveway when you apply the sealant these will also be sealed in, potentially compromising the finish at the same time.


Improving the life of your driveway

Having a sealant applied to your driveway can help to prevent water ingress and can help to prevent erosion of your surface by weather or heavy use. Heavy use should not be an issue for most domestic driveways but water ingress can be. The most common reason driveways fail is due to a badly laid base. If the base of the driveway has been laid badly then it will fail eventually but if it constantly has water running through it will fail faster. Using a sealant can extend the life of a driveway but only if the driveway has been built properly in the first place.


Reducing maintenance on your driveway

On block paving driveways using a sealant can help to reduce the amount of maintenance work that needs doing. The sealant can help to stop weeds growing up between the blocks and can stop the jointing sand from being blown or washed away. The sealant should also stop any oil that drips from your car from penetrating the driveway and spoiling the way that it looks.


Is driveway sealant worthwhile?

Ultimately this is a personal choice. For most residential driveways a sealant is not technically necessary. However, sealants are relatively cheap and they are easy and quick to apply. If using a driveway sealant is potentially going to improve the look of your driveway, reduce the maintenance you have to do and make it last longer then many will see it as a worthwhile expense.

Types of Driveway Paving

There are lots of different options available for driveway paving. The most commonly used types of driveway paving in the UK are:

  • Block paving
  • Slab paving
  • Tarmacadam (tarmac)
  • Gravel

There are a lot of other types of driveway paving available which are not as widely used in the UK. These include concrete, resin and various types of matting which can be used to reinforce grass areas. The type of driveway paving that is best for your home will depend on your budget and the type of look you want to achieve.


Block Paving

Small block paving produces a cobble like effect on a driveway. Properly laid block paving driveways are extremely long lasting and hard wearing. Paving blocks are available in a very wide range of colours and finishes and can be laid in lots of different patters so it is easy to match them to the colour and style of your home. Laying a block paving driveway properly takes quite a bit of preparation and time. This makes it relatively expensive but given as the driveway should last for many years it is often a one off investment.


Slab Paving

Using larger paving slabs on driveways is not as fashionable as smaller block paving but it is still a good option for UK driveways. Slab paving is commonly combined with gravel or grass with two tracks of paving laid for car wheels to sit on and gravel or grass in between. Like a block paving driveway careful preparation is needed for a slab paved driveway but they are much quicker to lay which helps to keep costs down.


Tarmacadam Driveways

Tarmacadam (otherwise known as tarmac) driveways have a bit of a bad reputation. If they are laid badly they can crack or sink and have to be torn up after a few years. Done properly though they will last for a long time. Tarmacadam can be laid in different colours and finishes and can be combined with block paving to create a decorative finish. Tarmacadam can be laid much more quickly than block paving making this a good budget option.


Gravel Driveways

Known for their use on mansions and country houses a gravel driveway is still seen by some as something of a status symbol. Gravel driveways tend to work best on properties that are relatively flat and well drained. Most gravel driveways will be laid with some kind of membrane underneath to stop weeds from coming through. If gravel driveways are heavily used they will need topping up with fresh gravel from time to time.


Southway Construction specialise in block paving and tarmacadam driveways but also lay slab paving, gravel and other types of driveways in Portsmouth, Hampshire and the surrounding areas. To find out more give us a call on 02392 793477 or 07557 440129

Patio Paving Hazards to Avoid

Garden Patio PavingA patio is a great addition to any home, adding usable space no matter how much rain has fallen on the garden. Done properly patio paving will last for years and years. You just have to avoid a few common hazards.


Bad Drainage

Rain that falls onto your patio needs to drain somewhere and ideally it should be into the drains and not into the foundations of your house. To get your patio to drain properly it will need to be subtly angled in one direction or another. For larger patios you may also want to install drainage channels along the edges and have the water channelled towards a ground drain. Planning this all out in advance is a lot better, and cheaper, than finding a big puddle in the middle of your patio the first time it rains.


Blocked Damp Proof Course

A simple mistake to make the first time you do a patio is to get the gap between the patio and the damp proof course wrong. Patios, and other paving should be 150mm below the damp proof course, or two bricks below. Failure to identify the damp proof course, or to put in a sufficient gap can lead to moisture getting into your house and causing all kinds of problems. Some people try to avoid the gap between the patio and the damp proof course as it can mean there being a noticeable drop between your patio door and the patio rather than it being a continuous surface. There are ways around this by putting in channels but this needs to be done carefully to stop water collecting between the patio and house.


Poor Base and Levelling

Perhaps the most important step when laying a patio is putting in a proper base and getting it level. This is the step that people most often try to skip or shortcut. Normally this will involve digging down around 15cm. A layer of hardcore or course gravel will then need to be laid and compacted to give a firm and even surface. On top of that a layer of mortar base will need to be laid. This is usually a mix of cement and sand or a specialist slab laying mortar. This surface will need to be properly levelled but allow for proper drainage by angling away from your house.

If the surface the base is not laid to the correct depth, or with sufficient care, then you are more likely to see problems with paving stones coming loose, an uneven surface and drainage problems. While the base will be invisible it is vital to do this correctly to make sure that you get a good looking and long lasting patio.


Whether you are planning on building your own patio, or are going to have a professional paving company like Southway Construction do it for you, you need to ensure these issues are being addressed. Failure to cover the basics will likely mean your patio will need to be re-laid within a few years.


Southway Construction do patios paving and pathway paving in Portsmouth, Hampshire and West Sussex. To find out more, or to get a quote, please give us a call on 02392 793477 or email jason@southwayconstruction.co.uk

The benefits of tarmac driveways

Tarmac (or ‘tarmacadam’ to give it its full title) is a popular surface material which we tend to associate with  pavements, car parks and roads.

Tarmac is both practical and durable so it is worth considering when you are thinking about resurfacing your driveway. You may also be interested to hear that it is a much less expensive option than some of the other choices available.

Here are some of the reasons why you may like to consider a tarmac driveway for your home:

Preparation and cost

Tarmac is relatively easy to lay compared to some other surfaces like block paving. Provided you have a relatively flat surface to start with, tarmac can be added with minimum preparation. This means less upheaval as your driveway work is carried out and a quicker time scale to get it completed.

Both of these factors help to make tarmac a cost-effective solution for your driveway because less time spent on the work will inevitably mean less expenditure for you.

Tarmaced driveways with diamond paving 2


Tarmac is durable and lasts a long time – often longer than traditional block paving and once it is cooled, it also tends to be less susceptible to cracking.

Tarmac is also weather-resistant and does not tend to experience water ingress problems, or frost damage – both of which can affect block paving. Because tarmac is tough, it makes a good supportive surface for most types of vehicle.

How it looks

Tarmac is laid as a hot liquid then leveled and compacted in a process that can take a matter of a few hours.  The end result is a very flat and even surface.

Tarmac looks neat and professional but not all of our customers are keen on its very uniform appearance. However, there are a variety of different design features which can be added to tarmac to add interest. You could select embedded paving or a paved border to give your tarmac a unique look. You can also enhance its appearance with landscape features such as planting and shaped flower beds.

tarmac driveways

Taking care of your tarmac

Due to its durability and the fact that it is less susceptible to weather damage – tarmac is easy to take care of. If it does require any sort of repair this tends to be straightforward to do.

Is tarmac the right choice for your driveway?

Southway Construction provides high quality paving solutions, including tarmac driveways to satisfied customers throughout the Portsmouth Area.

Call us on 02392 793477 or 07557 440129 or get in touch with us today and we will be happy to advise on the best options for your driveway.

Things to consider when you hire a mini digger

Mini diggers are versatile machines which are used every day on domestic and commercial construction and landscaping projects. Why would you do all of the digging yourself if there is a perfect machine to do it for you?

In this blog we take a look at some of the factors you should consider before you hire a mini digger for your project in order to ensure that you get the best possible use out of it:

Why are mini diggers so useful?

Mini diggers are useful for a range of projects – both residential and commercial. They are the perfect solution when you need to dig deep i.e. for foundations or similar – or when there is a lot of surface material to be removed.

Professional building firms usually have their own mini digger available for a range of requirements because they are small and versatile and much more efficient than doing digging by hand.

Surface requirements

If you intend to use a digger – you are likely to be digging deep so you need to be sure there are no pipes or other utilities underneath the area where you plan to dig. You should check with the relevant authorities such as your local utilities providers before you start work.

You should also consider the quality of the ground that you are working with. If there are hard rocks or concrete surfaces the ground will need to be broken up first before you start to dig.

Although a mini digger is small and relatively compact you do need to bear in mind its weight on very uneven or unstable ground.

mini digger 1


The beauty of mini diggers is that they are designed to be small in order to be moved into tight spots where larger machinery cannot be placed. You do, however need to be sure that your work area can be accessed by your mini digger. If you have any questions on this you can check with your hire company to be sure.

Hiring arrangements

Diggers are usually available by the day, or by arrangement for the week or month – particularly for commercial projects. If you hire your mini digger from  a reputable provider like Southway Construction, you will have the flexibility to hire on exactly the basis that you need.  It is worth remembering that hiring a mini digger has the potential to save you man hours so can be very cost effective.

Expert support

It may be tempting to do your digging yourself – but if you are not a professional builder then it is a good idea to hire your mini digger with a qualified operator. This will ensure that it is operated safely and efficiently – so you don’t waste time and your work is completed quickly and well, in less time – saving you money.

Are you ready to hire a mini digger?

If you need to hire a mini digger in Portsmouth or the surrounding area – get in touch with Southway Construction on 02392 793477 or 07557 440129 or fill in our contact form.

Our mini digger hire options are flexible and affordable to support your project.

Repairing Sunken Block Paving

sunken block paving in need of repairA properly laid block paving driveway should last for many years. However, we do often get asked to look at block driveways which have begun to sink, or where dips and puddles are forming. Often we are able to repair sinking block paving but it is not really something that should happen in the first place.

Why does block paving sink?

When sections of block paving ‘sink’ it is nearly always because the base has not been laid properly. When block paving is installed correctly the base should be made up of several layers.

To prepare a proper base a block paving company should start by digging down to solid ground (removing finer top soil). Once at an appropriate depth, and with a level surface, a course sub-grade will be laid and compacted. Then a layer of sand will be laid and compacted on top. Above this a level of finer sand will be put down onto which the blocks will be laid. Often a membrane will also be put down as well to stop weeds coming through and to add extra stability.

When block paving sinks it is normally because not all of the layers have been installed or they have been done badly or with the wrong materials. It is not uncommon to see driveways which have just been laid on sand or where the general rubble has been used instead of a proper base begin to sink within a couple of years.


How to repair sinking block paving

Unfortunately fixing sinking block paving usually means pulling it up and relaying it. As it is normally the base that is the problem that is what needs to be fixed and that can’t be done without lifting the blocks. Sometimes it is possible to get away with just lifting a small section of the blocks but generally you will be better off doing the whole lot. If you don’t you are likely to find that you end up fixing the paving section by section over several years.


Avoiding sinking black paving

Obviously the best way to avoid sinking block paving is to make sure you have a proper base laid in the first place. This either means taking the time to learn how to do it yourself or hiring a reputable block paving company like Southway Construction.


Southway Construction install and repair block paving driveways, paths and courtyards in Portsmouth, Hampshire and the surrounding areas. Our work is fully insured and guaranteed. To find out more about driveway-paving-contractors-in-portsmouth/our block paving services just gives us a call on 02392 793477

Block paving maintenance – taking good care of your paving

Block paving is popular choice for gardens and driveways, because it is a practical and attractive surface which has a wide variety of different styles, designs and colours to choose from.

As is the case with all exterior surfaces, your paving will require regular maintenance and cleaning to keep it in tip top condition.

Here are some tips on the best way to approach your block paving maintenance and ensure that your paved surfaces look clean and attractive:

Start with an inspection of your paving

Remove any furniture or other items and take a good look at your paving. Does it look grubby? Are there any signs of cracks or damage? Can you see any weeds or moss growing on the surface? Particularly as we head into the Spring,  it is worth checking that your paving hasn’t sustained any damage over the winter months as water, frost and cold can all cause potential problems.

How to clean block paving

You should ideally clean your block paving at least twice a year.

Start with a stiff brush and brush the surface of your paving – this will remove any surface debris and allow you better access to review the quality of your surface. If it has been a while, there is likely to be some moss or weeds in evidence as these take hold very quickly. Weeds are not just unattractive, but can also damage sand joints between paving slabs.  You can manually remove them or use a weed killer.

If there are any noticeable individual stains, you should treat these with an appropriate product such as an oil remover.

To clean the bulk of the surface use a liquid soap dissolved in water (washing up liquid will work – it doesn’t need to be a specialist cleaner – but do check the label before using any soap product to make sure that there are no warnings against using on your surface). Then lightly scrub the surface with a brush or broom. Once you have rubbed the surface, you can use a gentle jet wash or a hose to rinse away the dirty water – leaving your paving spick and span and looking like new.

To jet wash or not to jet wash?

There are mixed opinions about whether a jet wash is too harsh for block paving. You can use a jet wash but you must do so with caution because it is possible to blast away the jointing sand from block paving which will weaken the structure. Don’t use your jet wash on its highest power and approach your surface at a 45 degree angle.


Wear and tear

If you feel that your block paving maintenance could do with some professional input, please get in touch with Southway Construction for advice and guidance.

We offer a range of paving installation and repair services so if your paving requires replacement or repair – we will be happy to help.