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Published on 03 June 2014 15:33

Paving the Way: The Benefits of BS 7533

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Key Learning outcomes
  • An Introduction to what BS 7533 is
  • What is ‘rigid’ construction?
  • What problems can arise when not adhering to BS 7533
  • Other materials to be considered, e.g. resinous mortars and sand stabilisers
Published date: 11/11/2013


This article intends to offer an overview of the benefits of using BS 7533 for the design and construction of 'rigid' (mortar bed/mortar joint) pavements in public realm works. It discusses the basic principles of the standard and the guidance it provides for designing and constructing your paved area. It will demonstrate high quality paving where BS 7533 has been used successfully and shall also illustrate some of the problems of poor design or construction.

1.0 What is BS 7533?

BS 7533 is a 'code of practice' created by the British Standards Institution (BSI). “Since its foundation in 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee, BSI Group has grown into a leading global independent business services organisation providing standard based solutions in more than 140 countries (” A ‘code of practice' is a guide to best practice developed and published as a British Standard (BS) by the BSI. BS 7533 in particular refers to the design and construction of both ‘rigid' and flexibly constructed paved areas.

For a mortar paving system to ‘actually' be proven BS 7533 compliant, rather than just ‘manufactured to meet' or ‘manufactured in accordance with', it must have undergone independent testing using UKAS methods. The testing assesses the performance capabilities of the materials considering compressive, flexural and adhesive bond strengths, and shrinkage amongst others. It also ensures ‘rigid' paving is constructed using the correct procedure. The testing and approval therefore in general ensures the following benefits:

Can be used to design and build schemes in excess of 1000 standard axles per day
  • Helps to protect professional indemnity insurance

  • Reduces costly failures and resulting personal injury claims

  • Trusted throughout the world

  • Tried and tested methods of construction

  • Removes the uncertainty of site batched mortars

Most significantly, the British Standard promotes professional results that can give a construction life in excess of 40 years, whereas a non-compliant system cannot offer any minimum life expectancy. Using a non-compliant system may in some cases have a lower initial outlay, but the ongoing and life cost of such constructions is generally significantly higher owing to the additional ongoing maintenance. Overall, using a BS 7533 compliant system helps to protect your professional indemnity insurance by reducing the risk of costly failures during the life of the construction.

An often overlooked aspect of the standard is that all of the materials are tested in conjunction with one another, ensuring that they work in harmony. This is extremely important when specifying a full mortar paving system to include bedding, priming and jointing

BS 7533 sets technical and practical guidelines that help to minimise potential workmanship issues. It is evident that using a compliant system is the one and only assurance against costly repercussions and ensures longevity.

The next section will explain the process of correctly constructed ‘rigid' paving according to the standard and using the correct mortar paving system.

Always ask for UKAS testing certificates.
Always ask for UKAS testing certificates.
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Danny Morson Way
Birch Coppice Business Park
B78 1SE
Lynne Flavell
Tel +44 (0)1827 254455
The information contained in the CPD article web pages is not intended and accordingly shall not be relied upon either as a substitute for professional advice or judgement or to provide legal or other advice with respect to any particular circumstance. RIBA Enterprises accepts no responsibility for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the information contained.
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