Buyers’ Guide to paving Choose the right slabs for your patio
The humble paving slab has evolved in recent years. Geoff Hodge explains how to choose the right type for your patio
There are few gardens that don’t benefit from an area of hard standing. Whether that’s an attractive patio for outdoor entertaining, a paved terrace for al fresco dining, or simply somewhere to display your burgeoning collection of ornamental pots, it’s nice if that paving contributes to the overall aesthetics of the garden. Paths, too, offer an opportunity to choose paving that helps improve the ambience of the space. This is where the good old paving slab comes into its own. But you can forget the once-standard fare of 60x60cm (2x2ft) concrete slabs in garish colours or drabbest grey. When I managed a garden centre in the 1980s, all you had to choose from was a selection of bright yellow, pink or ‘council pavement grey’. Oh, how things have changed! Now paving is readily available in a wide range of natural and manmade materials in a choice of textures, styles, shapes and colours. There’s truly something for every taste, unlocking the possibility of creating a stylish flourish whatever your garden’s size. Materials now include natural limestone, slate, sandstone, granite and silky smooth porcelain tiles. But even the colours and designs, look and feel of manmade concrete and reconstituted stone slabs have improved beyond measure. Mellowed with age and a bit of weathering, these too can look fabulous in a garden setting, often resembling much pricier natural stone finishes. And, of course, it’s not all about squares and oblongs: you can create circles and a whole
Large expanses of one size can look monotonous so use a variety to be creative
range of different shapes using paving. But if you’re not adept with a stone-cutting circular saw fitted with a diamond masonry blade (!) your best bet is to buy a circular paving kit. So, with a bit of thought and careful planning, your patio could become one of the best features of the whole garden.
Rough or smooth?
The profile is the outline shape of the surface and there are three basic profiles to choose from – smooth, riven or textured. Smooth profiles are flat, level and even. Their sleek style suits contemporary gardens or more functional uses (such as being laid as a shed base). Those that are cut on each of their faces combine a smooth profile with straight edges for the ultimate in clean, contemporary paving. Riven profiles have been split or manufactured to create an outline that’s uneven, rugged and irregular. This rustic appearance creates a weathered look that makes the stones seem as if they’ve been in place for years. If opting for concrete, look for paving that includes a variety of riven profiles to help achieve a random, natural look. Riven surfaces have excellent non-slip properties. Textured profiles are often described as looking sandblasted or stippled. They offer better slip resistance than smooth profiles, and work well in modern gardens to give a uniform appearance to your paving.
How big, and how many?
Most paving ranges come in a variety of sizes – usually from 30x30cm (12x12in) up to 90x90cm (3x3ft). The bigger sizes are generally better for larger paving areas, and smaller ones for more compact areas. However, large expanses of one size can look monotonous. It’s a good idea to use a variety of sizes, which will allow you to be creative with your paving layout. For best results keep to a maximum of three sizes.
Concrete slabs come in a range of textures and colours to mimick natural stone.
These large porcelain tiles have a slight profile for better grip.