How to Mix Mortar for Paving

Richard Partington

Published on: 28 November 2019

Making patio pointing mix

So, you’ve checked the weather forecast and the weekend is free from distraction. In a nutshell, it’s the perfect time to start your next DIY paving project.

But before you can even consider finding the right paving slabs for your patio, there is one essential task you won’t want to get wrong: mixing your mortar.

Whether manually or in a cement mixer, mixing mortar can be a confusing – and messy – job. Luckily, with our expert guide, below, it’s easy to get the right consistency for your patio paving or driveway edging first time around.

Are you ready to go? Grab your safety gloves and jump right in.

How to make mortar by hand

While you can buy paving mortar mix and patio mortar mix in DIY shops, it is just as easy – and more affordable – to make it yourself. What’s more, you don’t need to hunt around specialist shops for your materials – a lot of what you need will already be in your garden shed.

What you’ll need to make mortar by hand:

For the mortar:

  • Cement
  • Sharp sand (aggregates less than 5mm)

Tools you’ll need:

  • A wheelbarrow
  • A large sheet of thick plastic
  • A shovel
  • A bucket of water
  • A spade
  • Work gloves

How to make mortar by hand:

  1. Firstly, fill your wheelbarrow with the required amount of sand for the job.
  2. Then lay your plastic sheet on the ground a short distance from where you are going to use the mortar.
  3. Scoop four shovels full of sharp sand onto the plastic sheet to make mortar for general use, such as laying paving slabs, or three shovels of sharp sand to create a patio pointing mix (for filling the gaps between paving slabs).
  4. Scoop one shovel full of cement onto the plastic sheet.
  5. Use your shovel to mix the sand and cement together evenly, creating a small mound with a hole in the middle so that it resembles a volcano.
  6. Pour water slowly into the mound, about half a pint at a time. Use your shovel to mix it all together, adding more water as needed. You will know that it’s ready when you can pick a handful of the mixture (wearing gloves, of course) and squeeze the mixture: if it is too wet, water will ooze out, if it is too dry, it will crumble. At the right consistency, it should retain its shape.

Top Tip: Try to avoid making more mortar than you need. While it takes 24 hours for mortar to fully set, it can become unusable quickly if it’s left to dry, particularly on hot days. Our golden rule of thumb? Only make enough mortar for two or three pavers at a time.

How to make mortar with a cement mixer

A cement mixer used to make a patio mortar mix

For large patios or driveways, we recommend that you hire a cement mixer. A mainstay of a professional paver’s arsenal, a mixer allows you to make one huge batch of mortar in one go. And, as long as the mixer doesn’t stop turning, the mortar will not set before you’re done laying it.

What you’ll need to make mortar with a cement mixer:

For the mortar:

  • Cement
  • Sharp sand (aggregates less than 5mm)
  • Plasticiser (improves workability and eliminates air pockets)

The tools you’ll need:

  • A cement mixer
  • A 30-litre mixing bucket
  • Water
  • A spade
  • Work gloves

How to make mortar using a cement mixer:

  1. Set up your cement mixer close to where you will be working, within easy reach of an electricity source. If this isn’t possible, then you will have to hire a site generator or petrol-powered mixer.
  2. Turn the cement mixer on – remember to read any safety and operation instructions first.
  3. Pour half a bucket of clean water into the mixer.
  4. Then, pour four buckets of sand into the mixer to produce standard patio mortar mix or three buckets for a patio pointing mix. For both mixes, add one bucket of cement.
  5. If applicable, add the plasticiser according to the instructions on the packaging.
  6. Allow it to run for thirty seconds until it is all mixed.
  7. To test the consistency, stop the cement mixer, pick up a small quantity of the mortar in your hand and squeeze it. If water seeps out, it is too wet and needs more sand. However, if it breaks apart easily, add a little more water. You’ll know it’s ready when you can mould it easily with your gloved hands.
  8. Once you have your desired consistency, turn the mixer back on and keep it going for as long as you’re using it. Otherwise, the mortar will set and become unusable.

If you have any more questions about how to mix mortar, please do not hesitate to call one of our experts on 0800 032 6306 or start a live chat with us.