Owning a patio means having an outdoor space where you can unwind and enjoy a meal. But before you can sit back and relax, you need to build one!
When building a patio, one of the most important things you need to decide is the material for paving your patio floor. For better or worse, there are plenty to choose from. Each material has its unique qualities, appearance, and price tag which will influence your decision.
Let’s take a look at them!
Concrete pavers are a popular choice of material. They strike a good balance between cost and durability, and the fact that they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors means there’s something for everyone. You can even find ones with blended colors and unique patterns.
To install, concrete pavers can be set on a bed of sand and gravel or mortared over a slab of concrete. Sand-set installations are an easy, albeit time-consuming, project for a DIY homeowner. For mortared installations, if you’re not comfortable with making a concrete base, you may want to leave the installation to a pro.
Concrete pavers last decades and require little maintenance. But they should be sealed to prevent stains and retain color. The general recommendation is to re-seal every 3 to 5 years to extend the beauty and lifespan of your patio floor.
Bricks are full of character. They will appeal particularly to those who want a classic look for their patio – think Italian courtyard. Compared to “cold” concrete pavers, clay bricks have a warm, welcoming charm.
Not to be confused with bricks made for buildings, bricks made for paving are thinner and have a porous texture that provide traction in wet weather. You can find them in a number of colors, textures, and finishes that look old or new.
Like concrete pavers, they can be set in sand or mortared over a concrete slab. Their uniform dimension makes them easy to install and arrange in a number of decorative patterns.
In terms of durability, bricks are able to resist stains and retain their color better than concrete pavers. That means less maintenance for you. Bricks may chip and crack overtime, which some people think lends to their charm, but you can expect them to last generations.
If you’re already torn between concrete and brick pavers, flagstone may complicate your decision. Flagstone refers to any flat piece of stone that’s cut for paving. Common types include limestone, sandstone, bluestone, slate, and basalt.
Flagstone is beautiful. You’ve probably seen stunning pathways and patios made out of flagstone. These stones give you the opportunity to build a patio that’s super unique. Your choices in terms of colors, textures, and shapes are endless.
Beauty is dangerous though. Certain flagstones can easily split, are susceptible to scratches from patio furniture and snow shovels, and are slippery when wet. Ask your stone dealer about these potential issues of your flagstone before purchasing. Despite its challenges, flagstone is a strong material and will last for centuries.
Speaking of purchasing, flagstone will cost you a pretty penny. It’s certainly more expensive than concrete and brick pavers. But you can save on installation if you install it yourself, either by sand-setting or if you’re up to the challenge, mortared over a slab of concrete.
One more thing: patios built out of flagstone may be uneven, which will potentially cause your patio furniture to wobble. Will that be OK with you?
Consider stone tile if you like flagstone but want something more uniform. Stone tile is basically what it sounds like: stone – typically slate, limestone, granite, or quartzite – that’s been cut into an even square or rectangular tile.
Stone tiles are usually too thin to set in sand though. They wouldn’t be able to carry the weight of foot traffic, so unless you can find thicker ones suitable for sand-set installations (ask your dealer), they would have to be mortared over a slab of concrete.
If stone tiles aren’t your thing, try terracotta, quarry, or maybe porcelain tiles. You’ve probably seen some of these tiles used in the outdoor dining areas at resorts and hotels. They can turn your patio into a formal outdoor dining room.
Terracotta tiles are warm and inviting like bricks. But being permeable makes them vulnerable to cracking due to freeze-thaw cycles. That makes them suitable only for warmer climates, or perhaps a covered sunroom. Quarry tiles are water resistant and their rough surface makes them slip resistant. Porcelain tiles are water resistant too and are as tough a tile as you can find.
When choosing an outdoor tile, check for good slip resistance. That generally means staying away from glazed tiles. Again, tiles must be mortared over a concrete slab.
Poured concrete doesn’t get as much love as other more aesthetically-pleasing materials, but you can be so creative with it.
For instance, you can pour concrete into molds to build a walkway. You can fill a whole patio space to create a perfectly flat surface for a dining table, or you can split the area using dividers to create separate slabs for a decorative effect. You can add color to poured concrete by mixing in colorants or stain the concrete once it’s cured.
Besides flexing your creative muscles, there are many good reasons to use concrete. It requires zero maintenance, it’s extremely affordable, and it’s extremely durable. The only thing we would caution is poured concrete can be a big project for inexperienced DIYers, but a small area is certainly manageable.
Some materials are impractical to use for high traffic areas, but they certainly accentuate the look of your patio. One of which is wood chips. You can, for instance, scatter wood chips along the perimeter of “cold” concrete pavers to add a touch of warmth to your patio.
Wood chips are as easy as it gets to “install”. You would typically start with a base layer of compacted gravel, over which you will lay landscape fabric to prevent weeds, and then finish by scattering wood chips several inches thick.
If you have young children, wood chips are a fantastic material to use to create a play area.
Decomposed granite (DG) is another material that you can incorporate into your patio. You can think of DG as fine sand made of granite. It’s a popular material for walkways.
One reason why people choose DG is for its permeability. Water is able to seep into the ground. That means no puddles and no runoff. However, DG does not fare well in areas with a lot of precipitation, and depending on how fast it erodes, you’ll have to give it a facelift every few years.
But DG is incredibility easy to install. The installation process is similar to that of wood chips. After putting down landscape fabric, you would finish with a layer of compacted DG.
While small rocks can’t be compacted to create a smooth surface like DG, they’re great for decorating certain areas of your patio. You can even use them in areas that will accommodate foot traffic. Choose smooth rocks rather than rocks with jagged edges as they will be more comfortable to walk on.
Mix & Match
For a truly stunning patio, consider combining materials. For instance, you can make a stepping stone path out of flagstone and surround it with wood chips or DG, and this path will lead to your dining area which is made out of concrete pavers.
By combining materials, you can save on the costs of pricey materials (like flagstone in this case) while creating a balanced, unique design.
It’s Not Easy Choosing Pavers
As you now know, there are plenty of materials to choose from. Can’t decide on a material? That’s OK. Take your time to go over the options, then choose a material (or two) that Marie Kondo would say “sparks joy”.
Have Fun Out There!