Outdoor Surfaces

Your choice of outdoor flooring, for a front or rear garden, roof deck or drive, will depend on the style of your property, budget and practicality. Consider using a variety of the materials mentioned below in different patterns or as borders to create original designs. Patterns can also be directional, as in the case of a herringbone brickwork drive, and contain a space or lead the eye forward. You should also consider the scale of the materials you select in relation to the area you are covering; trying out samples on site can be very effective. Bear in mind the importance of good drainage when laying paving, whichever surface you select. (Image: Artorius Faber)

outdoor paving by Artorius Faber


The Stone Federation www.stone-federationgb.org.uk represents over 200 masonries and quarries across the county. It also publishes a wide range of data and information sheets and copies of these are also available on request (Tel:01303-856123).

Sandstone (including Yorkstone) is the most popular paving material. It is durable, and comes in earthy mellow tones which blend well with other materials. (Image: Mandarin Stone)

sandstone by Mandarin Stone

Travertine and Portland stone are often pitted where matter is washed away from the surface or air pockets occurred during formation. These do not need filling when used externally.

Neither limestone nor marble paving is well-suited to the British climate.

A sawn finish is rough to the touch and is more suitable for areas that get wet as they provide a non-slip surface.

Reclaimed flagstones are very popular; however you need to order far more than you think because thickness varies and some pieces may not be usable. (Image: Lichen Garden Antiques)

reclaimed flagstones by Lichen Garden Antiques

On old slabs ensure that the joint is recessed and does not cover the attractive worn edge of the stone.

Slates come in five finishes: riven, flame textured, sanded, honed and polished. Riven (hand-split, uneven thickness) is best for outdoors.

Natural stone has variations of colour and should be bedded on mortar with joints 8-15mm thick.

Faux stone pavers, often made from cement aggregates, are available in most garden centres. They are cheaper, but often lack the variation of texture and pattern from slab to slab that genuine stone has to offer.

Setts are small, non-slip paving squares, useful for creating designs. Granite setts are strongest, but sandstone, limestone and concrete setts are also available, as are weathered reclaimed setts.


A glaze makes porous tiles water-proof and brings colour to the outdoors.

Ensure that ceramic tiles (which are made of clay) are frost-proof before specifying for outdoors.

Clay fired to over 1180 degrees becomes ‘vitrified’- totally impervious to water and frost damage. Tiles fired to this state include quarry and encaustic tiles. Quarry tiles often come in earthy reds and browns.

Encaustic tiles, fashionable in the 19th century are made by pressing powdered clay compound into moulds and sometimes indenting a shape on the surface, which is filled with clay before firing. (Image: Original Features Restoration).

ceramic path by Original Features


The Brick Development Association has a number of information sheets on design, repair and maintenance of brick paving, which you can download free on their website www.brick.org.uk.

Bricks combine the hard-wearing characteristics of quarry tiles with the rustic appearance of terracotta. They are available in earthy reds, browns, blues, greys and cream and can be laid in a variety of patterns, on curved pathways and as an edging to other paving. (Image: Artorius Faber)

by Artorius Faber

Reclaimed bricks can often be found in salvage yards.

Flooring bricks are engineered pavers and are normally frost-proof. Keep them clean with a stiff bristled broom and occasionally with a bleach solution or with a high pressure jet twice a year if you wish to deter moss.

However, if you like a rustic look, use sand between the joints and moss and lichen will appear between the bricks.

Pebbles & Shells

Pebbles have been used for floors since Alexander the Great.

Seashells used with pebbles or beach stones as a mosaic and put into a bed of cement are durable, easily cleaned and resistant to slipping.

Cockle and whelk shells look pretty on their own or mixed with gravel. Cockle shells are seasonal (June-Oct) as are whelk shells, which become available by the end of November from Lynn Shellfish 01553-692367.

Gravel, shingle and other aggregates are easy to lay, maintenance free and relatively cheap. However, if you buy directly from a quarry, there may be a hefty delivery charge.

by Artorius Faber

Most gravel consists of natural rock chippings and is available in a huge range of colours from white and grey to red, brown and black. Ensure you use lots of gravel to avoid paths becoming muddy tracks. (Image: Artorius Faber)

A gravel path needs some type of low edging to prevent chippings from spilling over its borders. You could use an alternate surface, such as brick, wood sleepers or terracotta.

Washed shingle and pea shingle have no sharp edges so are more suitable for children to play on.

Self-binding gravel is unwashed and contains clay, so it forms a semi-hard surface after rolling. It doesn’t deteriorate like loose gravel but still absorbs water.


Timber decks are constructed as raised floors and can be especially suited to areas where the garden is lower than the house and you would like the two surfaces to be levelled, or areas that are sloped or uneven. Look for hardwood or treated softwood which can be stained or left in its natural finish (pictured courtesy of Charlotte Rowe).

charlotte rowe

TRADA, The Timber Research and Development Association, www.trada.co.uk, has a very useful online fact sheet on decking which includes information on how to avoid a slippery deck, the gap size between boards, the recommended thickness of boards and suitable timbers and framework.


Either an immaculate turf lawn or roughly seeded grassy patch makes an ideal outdoor surface.

‘Easigrass’ is available in a variety of lengths and styles and is a no-fuss alternative to real grass. The surface is easily cleaned and pet-friendly and can be used for roof decks or gardens. It has the added advantage of drying out more quickly than normal grass after a rain storm. (Image: Easigrass)

lawn by Easigrass

Important Note

Planning permission is now required to lay traditional impermeable driveways that allow uncontrolled run off of rain water from front gardens into roads because this can contribute to flooding and pollution of water courses.



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