Advice on paving – everything from planning, execution to maintenance.
The area to be paved should be planned first on paper. By doing this you can ‘play’ with different pavers, patterns, edges and accent areas without having to do any heavy lifting. “Do your homework, ask lots of questions and buy magazines to get some good ideas, then plan and design the area and work out your budget,” advises Brendan Stallworthy, Marketing Manager of Wilsonstone.
Adds Rob Weller, founder of Chelmstone: “The overall effect has to be practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. For example, when paving around a pool consideration must be given to environmental issues such as the impact of UV light, product colour-fastness, nearby trees and whether the pool is chlorine or saltwater. The real message here is that materials must be chosen not only for taste but appropriateness,” Weller adds. “Consider how what you choose is likely to respond to everyday use and abuse. The other factor is budget. Choose something that will last a long time and get better with age. The cheap alternative is not necessarily the best choice in the long term.”
This early planning stage is also the time to consider whether you need to create paved pathways or a series of stepping stones to connect various parts of the garden or prevent lawn areas from being trampled. This is also the time to consider how the path or paved area will be bordered. To soften hard edges you can use wide, low-growing plants with flowing foliage that will spill over the path’s edge. And if you intend to edge the path with flower beds, make sure the pavers are higher than the surrounding garden bed so that soil won’t run onto the path when it rains.
Colours and patterns
“At the moment, lighter colours are in vogue,” says Brendan Stallworthy. “We make five colours and, by far, the two most popular are Beach and Ivory. Good paving manufacturers recognise the trends and make their colours accordingly.”
Adds David Wecker of Stone Directions: “We have 14 standard colours and the light pastels like our Limestone and Wheat are more popular, especially in larger areas. Our strong colours, such as Terracotta, Gunmetal and Charcoal, can look a bit heavy and overwhelming in large areas, but they work well as borders and features.”
Following fashion can only take you so far. “To determine the correct colours to use, you really need to pick up on another colour in the outdoor area — for example, the roof, guttering, fencing or house render — and try to tie them together,” advises Marg McFarlane, Marketing Manager of Quantum Stone. Having said that, she adds, Sandstone continues to be the most popular paving colour they sell.
Size is largely a matter of personal preference. “There are probably hundreds of different sizes available in today’s market,” says Brendan Stallworthy, “but the trend seems to be going towards the larger-format style (400x400mm and bigger). Basically, the bigger the better.”
David Wecker agrees: “There is a trend among designers towards a minimalist look which seeks to reduce the visual impact of materials and design features. Large paver sizes have fewer joints and therefore a less busy look. Smoother, less textured finishes are also a part of this trend.”
The thickness of the paver you choose will be determined by its application, says Marg McFarlane. “Driveways usually require a thicker paver (upwards of 60mm), while a paver laid on a concrete base need only be 30mm thick.” Basically, the thicker the paver, the more it will interlock with its neighbour and the greater its load-carrying capacity.
Not only does the paver or tile need to be thick enough to do the job at hand, each paver needs to be of uniform thickness. “Significant thickness variations obviously cause great problems on-site,” explains David Wecker. “The finished surface will be visually unappealing and there will be trip hazards caused by the ‘lipping’ of adjacent pavers. Also, thickness variations will add to the cost of laying the pavers because it increases the time it takes a good contractor to complete the work.”
Laying the paving
The area to be paved must be well drained and well prepared. Most stone paving can be laid onto a bed of washed river sand, but thinner units, such as some slate, terracotta and ceramic tiles, need to be laid on a full mortar or concrete bed. With a driveway, you’ll need to add a suitable sub-base.
To prevent shifting, you’ll need to provide for some type of edge restraint. Plastic, concrete or metal edging materials are available, or you could use treated timber or a single row of heavy, cut-stone blocks or a line of mortar-set bricks (referred to as a header course).
Common patterns for laying rectangular pavers include stretcher bond herringbone, basket weave, tracery and circular.
The pattern you choose can make a space look larger or smaller. A path will appear wider if the pavers are laid on the diagonal or in rows running across the area. Wide spaces can look narrower by running rectangular pavers lengthways.
To add interest to a large expanse, create circles, curves and fan-shaped patterns, but long straight rows should be avoided as they are tiring on the eye.
For a casual, seemingly random look, consider ‘crazy paving’ or stone flagging. This requires a lot of effort to install as each individual piece needs to be fitted with the next to minimise the amount of mortar and jointing that will be visible once the job is completed.
Cobblestones, sometimes called setts, are traditionally made of quarry-hewn natural stone and come in a range of sizes and rock types, including granite and porphyry. These also require expertise to lay, but the end result can be extremely attractive, especially around a period-style home. Popular laying patterns include coursed (the traditional ‘cobbled street’ look), random or fan-shaped.
Natural stone solutions
Quarried stone paving is available in a wide range of finishes, including honed, sawn, combed, chiselled, riven, hammered and punched. Some manufacturers offer finishes that are available only with their products, either because of a unique characteristic of the stone itself or resulting from a special finishing process.
Honed, sawn or other smooth finishes may be better suited for high traffic areas such as pathways and courtyards, while heavily textured finishes, such as chiselled or punched, are better suited for projects where additional traction is important, such as around a pool, or where a specific ‘look’ is required.
Sandstone, granite, limestone, bluestone, slate, porphyry … there’s any number of choices when it comes to natural stone. Sandstone is always popular and comes in a bigger range of colours than you might think possible. It ages quickly and well, which makes it well suited to heritage and cottage gardens.
Both granite and slate also come in an appealing range of colours, with slate ranging from rich red to dark green to silver grey. Granite is especially suitable for high traffic areas and will endure the splash of saltwater pool with grace. Slate is also a durable stone, often used to connect indoor and outdoor spaces.
Other paving options
Terracotta tiles are more brittle than, say, ceramic tiles, but are a cost-effective option. Colours range from gold to a rich earthy red and density may vary according to the country of origin. Bricks are a modestly priced, casual-looking option, but since bricks are designed for stacking rather than laying side by side, they need to be properly installed (for example, in an interlocking herringbone pattern) and mortar used for high traffic areas.
Clay pavers are made from natural clays and fired under extreme temperatures to give a long-lasting product that will retain its colour, says Bob Rushton, executive director of the Clay Brick and Paver Association.
“They are the ideal answer for homeowners wanting earthy natural colours to complement their landscaping. They blend beautifully with the colours of your flowers and lawns to give a totally natural look and will help pathways, driveways and courtyards to come to life.”
Available in a wide selections of colours, including reds, browns, golds, blues and greys, kiln-fired clay pavers can improve with age, growing richer and mellower. Concrete pavers (sometimes called masonry pavers) come in a multitude of colours, shapes and sizes. Detractors say concrete faux stone products crack and stain more easily than their natural stone counterparts, but they are actually less porous than natural stone.
There is choice aplenty when it comes to concrete paving products — rock moulded and stone-look pavers, cobblestones and railway sleepers. Reconstituted and composite stone pavers, which replicate the colour and texture of natural stone, are made by combining raw materials with wet-cast manufacturing techniques and air-curing. Sandstone and limestone are the most popular finishes and, just as with quarried stone, no two pavers look exactly alike, so you can be assured of an authentic stone look. Replicated stone costs less than natural stone and is ideal for tying indoor and outdoor spaces together.
Choosing the quality
First-quality pavers can vary in both size and colour, however size variations should be no more than 2-3mm in any direction and colour variations should be minimal and tonal.
Second-quality pavers have some kind of fault. This could range from chipping and cracks to size and shape distortions. Some seconds are better than others, but there is often no way of knowing and buying them can be risky, as they carry no guarantees.
Run-of-kiln (ROK) pavers are mainly first-quality but because they are ungraded they may contain some seconds, particularly if they have been ROK due to non-standard colour variations. Neither seconds nor ROK pavers should be laid on driveways or around saltwater pools.
Most pavers are sold by the square metre. As pavers should be laid with a 2-3mm gap, the quantity needed to cover a square metre may be slightly less than the exact paver dimensions would indicate.
While some pavers are stacked on pallets, most are now strapped into bands and cross-strapped into bundles. As straps cannot be broken before delivery you need to place your order in exact strap (and sometimes bundle) quantities. Complicated patterns require five to 10 per cent more pavers than simple patterns. Some people base the area to be paved on the desired paver dimensions, eliminating the need for cutting altogether. It’s also wise to order at least 10 per cent more than the space requires, allowing for rejections.
Caring for pavers
New pavers sometimes suffer from efflorescence, which is what happens when salt leaches to the surface and causes a white bloom. The best way to prevent this from happening is to use a compatible mortar. If it does happen, simply let the pavers dry out then sprinkle them with slightly damp sand. The sand will absorb the salt and can then be brushed off.
Natural stone paving is very low maintenance once laid. The pointing is the weakest element, however, and may need to be replaced after a few years. To keep most paving in good condition, all you need to do is sweep regularly with a stiff brush to remove dust and leaf litter. Stone paving in shady or damp areas that have been colonised by algae, lichens and moss can be easily cleaned with a pressure hose.