Picking the best patio paving material for your project can be challenging. Many factors must be considered, and the variety of paving materials available can make the decision even harder. Adding to the pressure is the fact that patio paving is costly and-labour-intensive, so you will likely be living with your choice for many years to come.
Factors to Consider when Picking Patio Paving
There is really no “right” or “wrong” choice of patio paving material; only what is best for your situation.
- What is the overall look and feel of your house and garden? Does it call for traditional or contemporary patio paving?
- How will the patio be used? For informal or formal dining and entertaining? Relaxing? Pet kennels or sports practice?
- Existing and future vegetation: perhaps your patio paving will be incorporating established trees, or you’d like to include flower beds, or even some raised herb or vegetable plantings.
- Budget and personal preferences: do you or a family member have your heart set on a certain finish? Is local sourcing or a low carbon footprint an important factor?
Stone patio paving adds character, as no two pieces are exactly the same, and allows for a more natural-looking, informal paving layout. Soft stone can be porous and hard to clean, and tends to become mossy with age. Blue limestone, or Kilkenny limestone, is said to absorb less dirt than other soft stones. Indigenous stone can prove to be more expensive than imported, but it has a lower environmental impact and carbon footprint. Slate withstands cooler climates and temperature fluctuations well.
Actually a hard stone, granite patio paving looks luxurious but can also be porous, although it tends to keep cleaner than stone. Chinese granite tends to be softer, whereas Portuguese granite is said to be harder-wearing.
Concrete can be poured on site, or purchased in precast pieces in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. A polished eco-concrete, which can give a lovely natural look, is now also available. Concrete patio paving need not be boring: a mixture of different shapes and sizes can be most effective. If you are considering coloured concrete, check how long the colour is guaranteed for, as it can fade over time with exposure to light and the elements.
Gravel is often overlooked as a possible patio paving material, but it is excellent for introducing warmth and texture and invaluable when it comes to accommodating tricky shapes or existing trees. Gravel will need an edging, such a brick, to keep it in place, which can make for a nice contrast. Loose gravel can be prone to weeds, but self-binding gravel is now available, which is suitable for wheelchairs and prams.
Brick patio paving looks warm and classical, is suitable for all climates, and lends itself to a variety of patterns and combinations. It is vital that the course on which the bricks will be laid is thoroughly prepared beforehand, or very soon the bricks will start lifting up and sprouting weeds between them.
Available in an almost unlimited variety of shapes, sizes, colours and textures, tiles can be laid in regular or mosaic-like patterns to make bold visual statements. They can also be a slipping hazard when wet and the grouting between them will require maintenance.
Traditional cobbles can look charming, but their uneven surface can make them impractical. They are slippery when damp and almost impossible for prams and wheelchairs to navigate. They need to be laid so that they won’t work loose from the concrete, which looks messy and creates a tripping hazard.
Making the Final Selection
Once you’ve drawn up a shortlist of options, it can be well worthwhile to spend some time walking around your neighbourhood and observing existing patios. If possible, talk to friends and relatives with patios about the pros and cons of their patio paving. Consider investing a couple of weekends in visiting showrooms and asking questions. Then you will be fully equipped to choose the best patio paving materials for your project.