We look at the materials to use for your garden design flooring and help you choose what's best for you...
Here we'll look in a bit more depth at garden landscape materials which you might want to use in your garden flooring or in other structures in your garden...
Have you already looked at the page discussing how to design what's underfoot in your garden?
...and find out all about:
Don't forget to add your choices for your flooring in your garden to your Materials and Accessories Planner Checklist
Materials for Patios and Hard Surfaces
Patios used for seating need to be flat, hard and hard wearing...
Suitable materials are:
Positioning your Patio
Make sure your patio area is positioned:
Deciding on Patio Size
Make sure your patio is large enough to fit your preferred tables and chairs...
Also consider if there is enough space to push chairs back safely, and walk behind (if access is required).
I recommend a minimum size of:
Combinations of materials can be used, and a pattern could even be created with patio paving stones and slabs, for added interest...
A great idea, but keep it simple, and don't go too fussy...
Look out for special kits with pre-planned designs and patterns which fit together...
Plan your design carefully, to avoid having to cut your patio paving stone and slabs, which can be awkward!
Patio Paving Stone, Slabs and Setts
Concrete is usually the most reasonably priced option for patio paving stone and slabs, and modern designs can be very attractive.
Real stone can be very expensive, but looks and feels 'quality' and can last a lifetime.
York stone, Portland stone, sandstone and limestone are all suitable for garden patio paving stones and look lovely.
Paving slabs of 'reconstituted stone' are another option - made of real stone powders, which are bonded together. They are usual much cheaper than the 'authentic' patio paving stones, but often don't have quite the same look or feel.
Other 'natural' options are slate slabs - beautiful, but can more easily crack and split along natural fault lines, especially in frost. Can also get very slippery when wet.
Also look out for granite - usually in setts - and cheaper concrete imitations.
Setts are suitable for smaller gardens, historic and country themes, or curves and patterns, and are a good choice where you don't want to do much cutting of traditional patio paving stones and slabs (as they are smaller).
These above materials will usually suit both traditional and modern settings very well - match colors to the chosen colors in your house exterior, or surrounding architecture.
Compare the bricks you choose with the bricks of your home, if you have a brick built home, to make sure they match or complement each other.
Most bricks will mix well with your existing patio paving stones and slabs if you'd like to add interest with a decorative border. They also make great edgings.
Terracotta tiles are lovely for Mediterranean style gardens and Islamic style gardens, but may not be able to withstand cold weather - check for frost-proofness.
Also think about glazed tiles, which come in different colors, which can allow you to add a bit of color into your garden design, and create patterns, too - again, particularly good for Mediterranean and Islamic garden designs.
A very 'modern' option (certainly so in the UK) is to use decking - these are long, timber planks, which are fastened to a wooden sub-frame.
This is seen as a very 'contemporary' style in the UK, but is actually seen as quite traditional in other parts of the world, such as the USA and Scandinavia.
Decking looks lovely in traditional and contemporary settings, then, and suits a coastal style really well, too.
You can use hardwood or softwood for your decking...
Hardwood is more expensive, but does last much longer. Look out for pressure treated timber for durability, and buy responsibly sourced timber.
Think twice before installing decking in shady and especially damp areas of your garden, as it can become very slippy and dangerous.
Ridged decking can help with this, or you can fasten wite netting tightly over the top, for added grip.
Decking is a very good option where changes of levels, or steps, are needed.
Decking can be trimmed into curved patterns. Or sometimes, circular kits can be bought - we used to have one of these, in our garden.
Decking is also useful for creating a 'jetty' in your garden, out over water or ponds. Take care it doesn't get wet and slippery though, or this could be very dangerous! And wet!
Decking can be painted or stained, to add color to your garden, or left natural, to suit more natural surroundings. Very versatile!
More Hard Landscaping Flooring Options for your Garden Landscape Design
For your hard landscaping underfoot, also consider...
Always a favorite of mine - it's usually a lovely, cheap option and looks good with lots of color options.
Gravel is especially suitable for Mediterranean, contemporary, coastal and Oriental style gardens.
Gravel is not really suitable for patio areas where you'll be moving chairs (and/or tables) about a lot, but there's no reason why you shouldn't use it in areas where furniture is more 'static'.
Gravel is great for front gardens, drives and any other area where you'd like to be alterted by a 'crunch' as people walk along it.
Gravel will need regular weeding - even when laid over weed membrane - as weeds self-seed into the gravel itself.
Take care to contain gravel areas well, with edging, as it can really 'travel' and spill over, into borders and onto lawns (where it could damage lawn mowers!)
Bits of gravel often get picked up in the treads of shoes, and walked into your house.
Cats may mistake you garden for a giant litter tray! Most unpleasant!
Slate chippings are similar, but have larger 'chips', so they are less likely to get stuck on shoes, spill over edgings, or become a cat toilet. They can feel less comfortable to walk on, though.
Also look out for compacted gravel (self compacting gravel) surfaces (usually laid with a vibrating plate) or resin bonded gravel.
You can also use gravel in plastic frames, to give a more solid surface for walking on, or parking cars.
You can also combine with patio paving stone, slabs or other materials to add more interest, or a more sturdy and solid surface.
Bark chips, also known as 'Wood chips' are a lovely 'soft' option for pathways and play areas.
They look great in cottage gardens, country-style and rustic gardens, also woodland or natural, and wildlife gardens.
For children's play areas, use specialised, rubber chippings, as a softer, and more suitable, alternative.
Mix bark chippings with cut-log stepping stones, for an interesting and natural effect.
Cobbles and Pebbles
A lovely effect, but not so suitable for walking on, or for patio areas.
Use as a mulch on borders, or in garden 'spaces', that you won't need to walk across often.
Leave pebbles and cobbles loose, for a natural effect of 'coast' or 'river' - great for coastal, and Oriental styles...
Or, set cobbles into cement, to create a firmer surface, with quite an old-fashioned feel (like a cobbled street).
Create patterns and mosaics, with cobbles, pebbles and shells, to make a unique feature in your garden.
Or use cobbles and pebbles as an interesting edging to an ordinary patio paving stone square.
Metal flooring, or mesh, can create a very contemporary feel for you garden landscape design.
It looks stunning, but consider the practicalities first:
If you fancy bringing some 'industrial chic' into your contemporary style garden (would not mix that well in a traditional or rustic style garden!) look out for industrial flooring stockists, who can supply you.
You might consider adding just a touch of metal to complement and modernize your existing patio paving stones and slabs.
Not exactly 'hard' landscaping, but it's still important to choose whether you want to feel the softness of grass, or a hard landscaping material underfoot, in your garden landscape design...
The tickle of fresh summer grass on bare feet is a wonderful experience, that little can beat, in my opinion...
...but even so, do consider if a lawn is actually suitable for your design and needs.
For the best results from your lawn, choose the right grass mix...
Look out for specialist mixes to suit your own particular needs:
Grass lawns will certainly need some care and attention in their upkeep, and may need to be cut once a week, all summer long!
For basic lawn maintenance take a look at my FREE downloadable Garden Maintenance Schedule
(Pdf version - opens in a new window - right click to download to your own computer)
Wild flower lawns need cutting only in early Spring and then again in Autumn, to keep your wild-flowers year after year (cut every 2 months in the first year).
Other alternatives to grass lawns are low growing, and creeping plants, which knit together to form a lovely green carpet - consider:
Camomile is a very sweetly scented idea - but it can prove very expensive!
New lawns can be created from grass seed, or laid as turf - early Autumn is the best time to create a new lawn.
You can also repair and treat problem patches to improve your existing lawn for much less hassle and expense.
In larger gardens I do think that lawns and grassy areas can be a very nice touch - and lend a large area of restful green to your design...
In small gardens (like mine) they can appear ridiculously tiny, and be far more trouble than they're worth!
I've not had a lawn in my tiny backyard landscape designs for over 10 years - and I don't miss it!
For well worn areas, create a path of stepping stone patio paving stones or slabs, bark chippings or gravel.
You might choose to have steps in your garden landscape design, to help cope with a sloping garden...
...or just use steps to create a change of level, with added interest, in a flat garden.
When deciding on your hard landscaping materials for steps, safety is of the utmost importance!
Make sure steps are:
Also consider if your steps require a hand-rail.
You may prefer to let a professional build your steps for you!
I hope that this page on patio paving stones, gravel, slabs, decking ideas and all your other garden flooring options has helped you...
Don't forget to use your Hard Landscaping Planner and Checklist to research and list your hard landscaping options, and find the one(s) which suit your own garden design best....
Have you looked athow to use and combine flooring materials in your garden design yet?
Next step: Look at your vertical surfaces and boundaries in your garden...
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