Our patios are as diverse as our homes. From large rectangular decking to a free-form slate patio. And today there are so many different patio materials you can choose to use for the surface, that the decision can be a tricky one.
This post is a run down of some of our favourite patio materials. Not all of them suitable to the UK climate, but don’t fear we will look at the pros and cons, and throw in a few tips that’ll help you choose the right material for your patio:
Natural Stone Patio
Stone offers a natural and durable option for the creation of a patio. Lazy Susan would always recommend you try and use as locally sourced stone as you can, purely because it will be more environmentally friendly and also more likely to blend into your backyard setting.
Some common varieties of natural stone used in the UK for patios include slate, limestone, sandstone, granite, and yorkstone, to name a few.
A paved patio is primarily made out concrete to basically imitate the more expensive natural stone pavers above. They come in a variety of different sizes and shapes. They’re also available in many different colours.
No mortar is needed with concrete pavers, they are held in place with coarse sand, which allows the patio to flex with ground movement. They’re very strong and also suitable for use on driveways.
Poured Concrete Patio
Concrete is basically a combination of cement, sand and gravel that’s mixed with water to make a semi-liquid that can be shaped and will set solid when dry. The semi-liquid nature of concrete allows it to be formed into almost any shape or size.
This versatility gives you the freedom to do very geometric or more curved patios. Poured cement is also a very economical option for creating a patio that offers a hard, flat surface that requires very little maintenance.
Block Sett or Cobble Patio
Cubes and setts, cobbles and cobblestones. The terms seem to be vary depending on which part of the UK you live. There’s a whole range of regional terms, too, such as ‘Cassies’ in Scotland and ‘Belgian Block’ in some places down South.
The terms all simply refer to blocks of natural stone, mined from a quarry. A block patio is long-lasting, low maintenance, but biggest plus of all, it is easily the most attractive.
What can you say about decking… Decks are primarily made of wood or a composite wood material. Popular woods for decking include redwood, cedar and pressure-treated pine. Properly cared for, decks offer a beauty and warmth that you simply can’t achieve with stone.
However, they also require the most maintenance!
There are many different types of outdoor tile you can choose from, but not all are suitable to the climate here in the UK.
Ceramic and terracotta tiles are usually fine for outdoor use, but terracotta tiles do not handle the freeze and thaw of our winters. They’re also – like the Bon Jovi LP – slippery when wet, so you need to be careful if you use them.
A better choice for outdoor use in the UK is slate. They handle freeze and thaw well and are highly resistant to fading or abrasion. Yes They’re more expensive when compared with other choices of tile, but its beauty is well worth the expense.
Porcelain tiles can also be used outdoors and they’re OK with the freeze-thaw of a British winter. They are dense and hard so they don’t wear down quickly and they’re water resistant. But generally we would only consider using porcelain tile in areas of interest or to create a focal point on your patio.
Loose Filled Patio
And last but not least… Basically, any type filling that can be used to create a patio. So anything from, wood chips, mulches, pea gravel, to any other decorative small rock you can think of. They all make excellent fillings for a patio.
A good idea when using loose fillings is to use different colour gravel or other materials, divided by separators. You can use stone pavers as separators, or create your own out of a plastic edging material. It’s possible to create some really unique designs by using this method and loose filling are great between large stone pavers too.
Choosing the right patio material
If a spot of al fresco entertaining is your thing, especially if you want to create an outdoor dining area, then a firm, level surface, such as a block sett or paved patio, is definitely the way forward.
Flat stones, such as slate, will also create the level surface you need. Loose material, such as pea gravel, is a definite no for dining areas. Your chair and table legs simply won’t stay still in the uneven surface.
But to be honest, when it comes to the surfacing material, it is largely a matter of taste and cost. Pea gravel for example is significantly cheaper than a block sett. However, the foundation upon which the material rests and how the surface is set in place are the real key to creating a structurally sound patio.
A good foundation will ultimately determine how level your finished patio is. Excavating the area so it is completely level and then putting a gravel base topped with sand are the key to building a patio!