How Do I Choose the Perfect Patio Flooring?
Stone is a natural and durable material for a patio, but it’s not your only option. Our experts suggest alternatives
Stone is an obvious material for a patio, but it’s worth looking at all of the options, especially as some are easier to maintain. “You only want to have your patio installed once, so, if possible, stretch the budget to accommodate the best material that suits your budget and the look you want to achieve,” Paula Warman of Aura Landscapes says.
We asked a panel of experts to outline the options, so you can make the right choice for your outside space.
Professional advice from: Paula Warman of Aura Landscapes; Eloise Street of The London Tile Co; Tristram Minns of TL Landscapes
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Concrete paving is one of the most popular and affordable ways to build a patio, as it’s readily available in a range of sizes, shapes and colours. You can also use it to emulate more expensive natural stones, such as limestone and even slate and granite, for a fraction of the cost.
“Concrete pavers are installed via flexible installation, so any movement or subsidence can easily be rectified by lifting other blocks,” Paula explains. These types of pavers are also easy to repair, as singular blocks can be lifted and re-laid.
You can install pavers yourself, but bear in mind that the ground needs to be accurately levelled and prepped before you start to ensure there’s no shifting or movement. You’ll also need to consider drainage.
Instead, she suggests regular sweeping with a stiff brush using hot detergent, such as washing-up liquid or non-bio washing powder, to prevent the build up of debris. “Then, thoroughly rinsing the patio with clean water should do the trick,” she says. She also suggests that, if you want to keep it looking new for longer, you should seal it.
Also be aware that a badly prepared sub-base can cause the paving surface to sink, particularly in high-use areas. Plus, weeds and moss can grow between the blocks. So ask yourself, do you have time to maintain your concrete paving regularly?
Take a look at the Houzz Professionals Directory to find a range of renovation pros in your area, see their projects and read client reviews.
You can replicate a wide range of more expensive stones with this method, so ask your installation company to help you decide which pattern and colour would work best for you.
The added benefit of a pattern-imprinted concrete patio is that it’s poured and can therefore be moulded to suit any landscape.
Also, once it’s laid, pattern-imprinted concrete is permanent, so if any services underneath need to be accessed, it has to be dug up. “This material also needs to be sealed every three to five years to keep it looking new,” Paula says.
Also, although it’s generally cheaper than natural materials and installed in a shorter amount of time (thus causing less disruption), if you want an authentic, natural look, a pattern-imprinted concrete patio may not be for you, either.
Is concrete paving or pattern-imprinted concrete best? “A concrete paver is better, but if you like the look of pattern-imprinted concrete driveways (like the one pictured here) and you want a low-maintenance option, we would recommend using Marshalls Drivesys systems,” Paula says.
External porcelain tiles may seem a more expensive option, but they can save you money in the long run. Fully vitrified porcelain is frost-proof and slip-resistant and, in general, porcelain tiles are extremely strong (they’re fade-proof and less prone to scratching than other materials), so they’ll last – and look great – for many years.
Porcelain is low-maintenance, too: it’s non-porous and resistant to moss and mould growth as well as staining. “You won’t need to spend money on expensive cleaning and sealing products every year,” says Eloise Street, who advises simply to do an occasional sweep and mop. “The tiles do have a slightly textured, anti-slip surface, so we recommend using a protective sealer before grouting, as residue can be hard to remove once it’s cured,” she adds.
Ceramic tiles aren’t suitable for outdoor use. Although they’re made in the same way as porcelain, they’re not fired or pressed to the same extremes, so they’re not recommended for the outside world.
Rectified tiles, which have been cut or ground to create straight, even edges, are your friend here. They’ll reduce the amount of grout needed so your flooring appears uninterrupted.
More: A Beginner’s Guide to Porcelain Patios
Slip-resistance varies, too. It’s measured using its own scale, so ask for advice on what the ratings mean if you need to.
As external porcelain tiles tend to be thicker, they’re heavy and can be difficult to cut. “An experienced tiler will have all the right tools to install your new patio, and will probably be able to do it much more quickly,” Eloise says. “They’ll also be aware of any tiling standards and be able to advise you on the right products for the job.”
Different stones have different qualities – just think how different granite looks from limestone and slate. So if you’re keen on stone, you’ll need to think through how those qualities will work in your space. Some stones change colour in the rain, for example; others vary widely in colour and may not suit a large area. Consider maintenance, too: if you choose sandstone, for example, you’ll need to jet wash it every six months to remove grime and dirt build-up.
Sandstone, however, is a popular option, especially if budget is an issue. “It’s affordable, available in a wide range of colours, and is easy to lay, as the slabs are only a depth of 20-25mm,” Tristram Minns says. Sandstone is also sturdier than concrete slabs.
Always buy sandstone from a reputable retailer and avoid ‘too good to be true’ prices. This means the stone will be softer, which lowers the price but heightens the risk of the slabs not being strong enough to withstand the UK climate.
More: A Beginner’s Guide to Natural Stone Patios
Which patio material has worked for you? Let us know in the Comments.