The hard de­ci­sions

Tim­ber or tiles, grass or granitic sand? This guide to hard sur­faces helps you choose the right ma­te­rial

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

Paved ar­eas de­fine spa­ces, di­rect foot traf­fic, pro­vide ac­cess and solve prob­lems such as heavy shade. Paving bal­ances the soft land­scap­ing on your block, and con­nects it to the house. When it comes time to pave an area in your gar­den, there are a few things to con­sider be­fore you even be­gin to look at the many ma­te­rial op­tions avail­able.

First, you need to de­cide how you in­tend to use the space. High traf­fic ar­eas such as the path to the front door, the ac­cess path down the side of your house or the drive­way are go­ing to have dif­fer­ent sur­face re­quire­ments to a whim­si­cal path wind­ing around a well-es­tab­lished tree, or ac­cess be­tween vegie beds.

Next, think about which ma­te­ri­als marry well with what al­ready ex­ists in your home and gar­den. Paving can dom­i­nate spa­ces, and it doesn’t al­ways serve the house or gar­den to just use some­thing you love. Ask your­self if the sur­face com­ple­ments the house. Take cues from the ma­te­ri­als that have been used in con­struc­tion of the house – brick, tim­ber, tiles and so on – and the paint colours.

Safety is an­other con­sid­er­a­tion. Be mind­ful of slop­ing ar­eas in the gar­den, and look for sur­face fin­ishes that are easy to grip and won’t at­tract moss or al­gae, be­com­ing dan­ger­ous over time. Around pools, non-slip paving is essen­tial.

An­other thing to be con­scious of is the ra­tio of paved to un­paved ar­eas in your back­yard. Rain and stormwa­ter need to be able to fil­ter into the ground to en­sure a healthy mi­cro­cli­mate, vig­or­ous trees and good ground­wa­ter qual­ity. While es­tab­lished homes may not be sub­ject to coun­cil reg­u­la­tions about th­ese ra­tios, you should think about where all the water is go­ing to run dur­ing pe­ri­ods of heavy rain, and what ef­fect your ma­te­rial choices will have on your neigh­bours.

solid foun­da­tion

Some paved ar­eas de­mand ex­tra thought and in­vest­ment. A drive­way needs to be con­structed with a solid foun­da­tion that won’t shift un­der the weight of a ve­hi­cle. A steel-re­in­forced con­crete foun­da­tion is first poured over a layer of com­pacted road base. Paving ma­te­rial is then laid into a thin­ner mor­tar over the con­crete.

Per­me­able op­tions for drive­ways are be­com­ing more widely avail­able. Th­ese por­ous sur­faces can look sleek or rus­tic, and give off less heat dur­ing sum­mer than con­ven­tion­ally paved drive­ways.

You could look at de­signs for peb­ble drive­ways, per­me­able paving sys­tems and plas­tic grid sys­tems, for ex­am­ple. Th­ese op­tions can be more ex­pen­sive than con­crete, but peo­ple are adopt­ing th­ese ma­te­ri­als for en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons. Oth­ers are mo­ti­vated by coun­cil laws that stip­u­late hard to soft land­scap­ing ra­tios in new de­vel­op­ments.

An ac­cess foot­path re­quires less of a foun­da­tion, but paving still needs to be laid onto sub­lay­ers of com­pacted road­base and bed­ding sand. Once laid, the out­side edges should be se­cured with a strip of con­crete to hold the pavers in place, and then the joints be­tween the pavers need to be filled with fine sand to min­imise move­ment. With a step­ping stone walk­way, each stone should be laid on a base of freshly mixed mor­tar to se­cure them firmly.

paving pat­terns

Once you’ve set­tled on a ma­te­rial you like, there’s the ques­tion of how it’s laid. The pat­tern used with var­i­ous paving ma­te­ri­als shouldn’t com­pete with its func­tion or be too dull through rep­e­ti­tion.

Her­ring­bone pat­terns, for in­stance, cre­ate a sense of move­ment but can be over­whelm­ing if not laid with a sur­round­ing bor­der. Ran­domly laid paths suit an in­for­mal gar­den, cre­at­ing a crazy-paving ef­fect, and you can plant among the pavers. Clean lines cre­ated by large pavers laid at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals look con­tem­po­rary, and can be soft­ened with gravel or ground­cov­ers planted around them. Ash­lar paving pat­terns see dif­fer­ent-sized, straight-sided blocks fit­ted to­gether in a reg­u­lar con­fig­u­ra­tion, which is well suited to tra­di­tional-style homes.

What­ever you choose, have fun with it, and re­mem­ber, it will look bet­ter with some reg­u­lar main­te­nance. Some pavers need to be sealed, oth­ers ben­e­fit from an an­nual high-pres­sure hose down, and peb­ble path­ways need to be topped up every now and then.

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