Frequently I am asked by clients “what are the right patio slabs or stone to use?” I always say that there are four main factors:
- Style – this should link with the style of the house and garden. Should you be looking at traditional, rustic riven or modern sawn faced types of stone?
- Colour – as well as choosing a colour you like – ask yourself whether you want to have a colour that contrasts with, or complements, the existing walling of the house and garden. Or more than one colour.
- Function – what is it going to be used for? How much traffic, footfall and weight will it have to endure?
- Cost –the cost of the stone in a landscaping project is usually only 20% (approximately) of the total cost – the majority of which is in labour and other materials. So going for a more expensive stone may not impact dramatically on the cost.
One good rule of thumb re: design is that small areas suit smaller stones and slabs, and vice versa. Large stones in a small space can look wrong proportionally.
Another thing to consider is how the stone will weather – the more porous the stone, the more green with algae it will go. Generally concrete stone tends to fade and natural stone tends to darken with weathering.
The main selection is between natural stone, reconstituted stone and Porcelain.
Natural stone tends to look better – each stone will have its own individuality, its own texture and colour, which overall can give a marvelous finish. It is high quality, hard-wearing, and – sadly – more expensive.
Natural stone can be imported or from UK quarries. Indigenous readily used products include:
- York sandstone
- Portland stone
- white and blue lias
- Welsh slate.
The benefit of imported natural stone, such as Indian sandstone, is that it is much less costly than indigenous stone due to cheaper production methods. Look out for ethically sourced stone from suppliers such as Marshalls who are now working with UNICEF.
There are many products made of reconstituted stone:
- Wet cast (tends to weather slower and has a smoother look –Premium product– big variety of products)
- Pressed concrete slabs – cheap and can give a very neat, uniform look , cheaper product (whether smooth or textured/riven)
- Blocked paviours – usually used for drives because they are so strong but can be used for patios due to their decorative effect. Concrete and clay forms in many different sizes, finishes and colours.
- Impressed concrete –can be created to look like natural stone, or slabs. Dye is added to colour the concrete surface.
- Porcelain stone – Relatively new product designed for outside use 20mm thick in many sizes. Very robust, less slippery than concrete and stone, lots of finishes from smooth to textured – Very good resistance to staining. Mid-range price
And finally – one thing to consider is how much “give” does there have to be in the surface? On drives, large slabs may crack as they are very rigid and may have to bear a large uneven weight over their surface. Smaller elements such as block paviours are better suited in this situation as they can flex slightly due to the base make up and so are less likely to crack.
Sourcing patio slabs and stone has never been easier and there are dozens of products available. I would look at the practical elements before the aesthetic – because, with so many products out there – you are bound to find the right colour and texture – it’s much more important to pick the right stone.
Bye for now
Next post: 20th April