There’s never been such a wide choice ofpaving- the best combines good looks with toughness to give years of service.
B y far the most popular material for a, and the easiest to lay, is some kind of paving slab – either concrete, reconstituted stone or natural stone. To add interest to large expanses of slab paving you can intersperse the slabs with other materials such as cobbles, gravel, bricks or setts, use a variety of shapes and sizes, or break up the area with planting pockets, plants in containers or raised flowerbeds.
Checking it out
Once laid, a patio is a permanent feature of a garden, so draw up your plans and choose your materials carefully. Roughly mark out the intended area well before you buy materials; try out the space for size, shelter, ease of access, planting potential, sunlight and shade.
Whether you’re interested in modern concrete slabs or more traditional country-stone effect flagstones, check with your supplier over the suitability of different types of paving and bedding methods for your conditions.
A patio that is to be laid on a recently disturbed soil or a soil containing a lot of peat or clay requires a hardcore base. A hard-core base is also advisable if the patio is going to take heavy loads such as a garden roller. You should also use thicker paving slabs for this type of patio.
Choose a slab that blends in well with your house or existing paving, or boundary walls – perhaps something based on a local stone. Take care over colour choice; what looks good in a garden centre can seem harsh in a small garden. Remember that in bright sunshine a light-coloured stone gives off a strong glare which is far from restful. Also, coloured slabs are much darker when wet.
Concrete slabs come in a range of colours and effects, and often have a riven or textured slip-resistant surface which is laid uppermost. Concrete slabs are generally the cheapest form of patio paving. Patterned concrete slabs – for example, basketweave brickwork or stone sett effects – are quicker, cheaper and easier to lay than indi-vidual bricks or setts. For authenticity, make sure the joints between the slabs match the simulated joints within the slabs. Reconstituted stone slabs, with riven facing, give the appearance of natural stone. They have slightly irregular edges and are available in reds, greys and buffs, with a newly quarried or mellowed finish. Some ranees have two or more sizes of square plus one or two rec-tangles so you can make a random pattern of different sized slabs for a convincing traditional stone effect. (Check with your local supplier – some sizes may be available only in packs of fixed quantity.) Natural country stone such as York stone or slate is very heavy and is the most expensive form of slab paving. It may be difficult to come by and can be slipper}- when wet. But for small, secondhand broken natural stone slabs can be used highly effectively as crazy paving.
Range of shapes
The commonest shape of slab is a 45cm (I Sin) or 60cm (2ft) square; rectangles are available, also hexagonal and octagonal slabs.
Plan your patio (including the size and shape of slabs used) to reduce the need to cut slabs. Half slabs are available in some ranges, and there are special slabs, such as planters, for design features.
How many slabs? Calculate the number of slabs you need by multiplying length by width of patio and of slab and dividing the slab area into the patio area; if necessary, adjust the measurements to allow for pointing. Alternatively, map out your plans on squared paper then assess the number of slabs. This is espe-cially useful if you are using two or three different sizes of slab.
Check your estimate with the supplier before you order, and add a few extra slabs for breakages.