Often viewed as natural extensions of the house, patios are used for many purposes from outdoor kitchens, bars and dining areas to private relaxation spots. In addition to al fresco dining and entertaining in summer, a patio can also serve as a recreational spot in autumn with a fireplace or a fire pit installed.
When planning a patio design, you need to consider the area’s functionality. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Will the patio be used to host large groups of guests or is it a private space?
- Will food be prepared and served on the patio?
- What kind of furniture and amenities will the patio need?
- Most importantly, what material should the patio be built with?
In terms of aesthetics, choosing the right material for the patio helps ease the transition from the inside of the house to the outdoor space. Brick patios complement traditional homes, stone and terracotta give modern homes a Mediterranean look, while concrete patios work well with pretty much any style and add a contemporary feel.
When it comes to functionality, consider if you will be needing a non-slip surface around a pool, will the patio be covered or open to sunlight and whether freezing water will be an issue.
You also need to think about how affordable and eco-friendly each option is. We take a close-up look at the most popular patio laying materials below.
Laying a patio using stone is a natural and eco-friendly option, especially if you opt for local stone. It’s not only environmentally responsible but also blends more naturally into the surroundings of your garden. Depending on the desired design and your garden’s situation you could get very creative, so it’s recommended to explore as couple of ideas and play around on a piece of paper at first.
British stone comes in a variety of colours and can be cut to any size for a bespoke patio design. Considering this, it is among the long term investments that you have to look after, or at least give it a thought. But here’s what the London’s top choice gardeners have to say about it as they are too experienced in garden design: Stone will look good in your garden for years on end but there’s one thing to consider in terms of functionality – the material’s irregular surface may create a walking area that is far from smooth and bear in mind that patio laying is usually the most expensive part of any landscaping project and stone is a high-end purchase. Still, if you have the financial opportunity it’s highly recommended you pursue this option.
Concrete pavers are a more affordable alternative to stone. Available in a variety of colours and shapes, pavers are individual units made of dense concrete to resemble stone or brick.
Depending on the installation method, concrete pavers have different benefits. They are usually laid as individual units, allowing for easy replacement of a single paver without affecting the rest of the patio. Another installation option is to use interlocking joints to achieve more stability for the patio, as pavers become less likely to dislodge.
Pavers set in sand are less susceptible to temperature variations and weight because the sand allows them to shift rather than crack. Affordable and convenient, concrete pavers are, however, a less flexible option when it comes to design patterns due to their strict geometric shapes.
Another thing to consider when choosing pavers is how deep the pigment goes — if it is too shallow, it may fade over time or reveal the bare concrete underneath if scratched. A patio laid with permeable concrete pavers is an environmentally responsible option because this kind of installation has spaces filled with small stones between each paver, which filters rainwater before it seeps back into the soil. This prevents water from running over pavement and lawns, picking up pollutants on its way and contaminating rivers and streams.
Allowing for more diversity in shapes and sizes than concrete pavers, poured solid concrete offers versatility to complement any architectural style and features. And it’s a lot more affordable in terms of both installation and maintenance.
Poured concrete is a combination of sand, gravel and cement mixed with water, forming a semi-liquid substance that can be styled in different shapes and sizes. When mixing the cement there are certain specifications that must be followed to get the best results. If the concrete mixture does not dry correctly, or has drainage problems, cracks may appear over time.
Solid concrete is not the best choice if your patio will be over a sewer or underground electrical cables simply because any time they need to be repaired or changed, the patio will also have to be repaired.
Very smooth concrete surfaces can also be slippery when wet, which means they’re not suitable for the splashback areas of pools or hot tubs.
As for the overall look of a property, the somewhat industrial or austere feel of concrete may clash with a more natural setting. However, there are ways to soften the stark appearance of solid concrete — stamped and coloured varieties of concrete can give the appearance of bricks, pavers or stones and transform a grey surface from drab to fab.
It will, of course, cost more than regular concrete mix but is still a cheaper option than laying a patio with concrete pavers.
Bricks have come a long way from their traditional red colour and linear layout. You can now choose from a variety of shades ranging from tan to black, and pretty much anything in between, to create a unique pattern. Bricks used for laying a patio have different specifications from the ones used in buildings construction, as they have to be fired in a special method and be less porous.
If seasonal weather changes in your area cause freezing and thawing, you should look for the correct grade of the bricks to match your climate conditions. Keep in mind that a brick patio laid on sand instead of mortar will need weeding if you don’t like the look of plants which can spread in the gaps between the bricks.
If not properly installed, bricks can become more uneven than paved concrete or interlocking concrete pavers. They are also more expensive than concrete pavers.
One of the easiest ways to make your patio stand out or create a flowing indoor-outdoor transition is to opt for the variety of styles ceramic or porcelain tiles offer.
Tiles used for laying patios can be similar in appearance to the tile that you might use to lay your kitchen floor, but you have to make sure that both the tiles and grouting for your patio are meant for exterior use.
To prevent damage from seasonal freezing and snow-melt, patio tiles should not be able to absorb a lot of water.
Tiles may not be the number-one choice for pool surrounds because they can be slippery when wet. If they hold water for long periods of time, an algae film may also develop on the surface of the tiles.
In general, unglazed tiles are more suitable for large walking areas, as they tend to be less slippery than glazed tiles. As for the price, before getting creative with an elaborate tile design, consider the fact that price tags on tiles display larger numbers that the ones on brick and sometimes even stone.