Garden paving – what’s right for you?

Hard surfacing is an essential element in the garden from both a practical and style viewpoint. It provides spaces for playing or relaxing and a comfortable passage around the garden in wet weather. It can also be used to delineate ground patterns, unite house and garden and create visual effects to complement planting. Paving is one of the most cost-effective hard-surfacing treatments and most affordable ways to improve your landscaping – and the value of your home!


Choosing paving materials is no doubt the hardest part of installing hard surfacing. It will largely be dictated by end use and some materials will be better suited than others to specific situations. Natural stone is undeniably the most beautiful – but also the most expensive. It creates an instantly mellow and aged effect, but its often-uneven sizing can be difficult to lay. Bricks are cheap and easy to come by at demolition yards. They’re easy to lay, can be used as decorative edging, to create intricate patterns or curves, and suit older homes and cottage gardens.

Crazy paving is fun but best-suited to small areas or informal garden paths. Prefabricated paving slabs offer the most choice, are relatively economical and suited to practically any use. Cobbles are more decorative than practical. They’re not great for walking on due to their uneven surface, but they make an attractive feature when placed around the base of a specimen tree or used to fill in odd shapes, which are difficult to pave.

Gravel is a low-cost, easy and quick-to install option, but needs a firm edging to prevent spreading, is noisy to walk on and will be carried indoors on the soles of shoes. It can, however, be used as an economical interim measure and easily paved over at a later date. Concrete is extremely durable, economic for large areas like driveways and suitable for irregularly shaped areas. Coloured dyes and exposed aggregates make concrete a very acceptable and attractive option and you can even get heated concrete installed on your outdoor patio area!


Creating a small paved area in the back yard or an informal pathway meandering through the garden are relatively easy DIY tasks. Creating a large paved area or one adjacent to a building is another matter entirely. Thorough planning and ground preparation are paramount to meet council requirements, avoid costly mistakes and to ensure paved areas last the distance. First up is the intended use of the area. For instance, areas used for cars require stronger materials and different preparation to those used for entertaining. Secondly, is the design of the paved area – size, shape, colours and materials. All factors should complement the style of the house and scale of the garden.

Drainage is the most important physical consideration and must be attended to prior to laying the base course. It is especially important when laying paving adjoining a building. The finished level of the paving must sit at least 15cm below the damp-proof course of walls to prevent water rising up the walls. Pavers must also be set to fall sightly away from the building to direct water away, preferably onto garden or lawn. Always check with your local council before embarking on major landscape work (especially if you plan to implement impermeable surfaces such as concrete or sealed paving) and seek professional advice for large projects or if you’re not sure how to do the job properly.

Paving design tips

Avoid light-coloured paving in very sunny areas as it produces excessive glare.

Avoid using very dark paving in hot areas as it attracts heat.

Use light-coloured paving in shaded areas for a brighter, warmer effect.

Large-format pavers provide a stylish, contemporary effect.Bricks and natural stone provide a rustic, natural effect.

Introduce contrasting materials to create interesting visual effects.

Keep the choice of materials to a minimum to avoid visual chaos.

Use patterns and contrasting colours to create directional paving.

Place stepping stones at 600-700mm centres and lay below grass level.

Break up larger expanses of paving with large potted plants, gravel, grass or groundcovers between pavers, or leave out random pavers and replace with striking feature planting or coloured pebbles.

Use non-slip surfaces, especially in high traffic areas and around swimming pools.

Consider heated ‘Designer Concrete’ for outdoor entertainment areas.

Seal pavers soon after laying to prevent efflorescence and staining.

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