When building a patio or path, one of the more fun but challenging decisions you'll have to make is determining what type of paving material to use. Ideally, the material should:
- Blend in with the architecture and landscaping
- Be easy to walk on
- Not be slippery
- Easy to maintain
- Help with easy, fast drainage
Surfacing Materials for Patios, Paths and Paved Areas
In some regions where drought is a concern or native and drought-tolerant landscaping is preferred, paving materials are a smarter choice than thirsty lawns. Other types of materials for outdoor applications include:
- Decomposed Granite, or DG
- Loose materials, like rocks and pebbles
- Adobe block
Keep in mind you can also mix two or three of the above materials to break things up visually, offer contrast in color, shape and texture. This slideshow provides a look at the wide variety of paving and surfacing materials available. Of couse, there are numerous types out there—this gallery only begins to cover it.
Slabs of square, rectangular and circular concrete get a textural treatment with aggregate—a mixture of rock fragments—that is embedded in the paver. The process is called "seeded" aggregate, which involves embedding various colors of rocks and stones in the concrete. Seeded aggregate pavers are often available in different shades, like browns, grays, tans, blacks, etc.
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Rustic Brick in Mortar
Rustic bricks are set on concrete, with mortared joints, or what we might also think of as "grout" lines or spacing. Bricks can also be placed or butted together and layed out in numerous patterns. These particular bricks have an uneven, textured finish to them, which gives them more of a rustic, or informal look. While each brick is the same width, the pieces are different lengths, and are placed in vertical rows that are not precisely straight. This gives it a more casual look with goes along with the rustic feeling.
Consider where these bricks would be used in your yard. If surrounding a swimming pool or spa, this type of brick would not be comfortable for the bare feet walking across them. However, a textured brick would be fine for a patio.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Gray Stone Tiles
Rounded-corner stone tiles are strong, resilient and versatile. They can be placed in straight but not rigid rows and can be butted against each other or allowed more space around each one for a casual look. The mortar can be tinted the same or a slightly darker or lighter hue to blend in or contrast, respectively. This particular building supply store also carries the same or a similar-looking stone in larger, natural-shaped flagstone.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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They have that familiar rust-red color and rustic texture—are they bricks? Looks can be deceiving. These are interlocking pavers, which are made of a dense concrete that is much firmer than brick. Each piece fits together extremely tight—interlocks. When set on a base of sand and pressed together, interlocking pavers are a much firmer floor than one made of bricks on sand. Unlike brick, it's difficult to dislocate an interlocking paver. They can handle a heavy load while remaining intact.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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A warm, medium-toned flagstone which looks like a reddish sandstone. Here, the shape of each flagstone stands out because the mortar (grout) is a high-contrasting white. Grout or mortar color can completely change the look of your paving material; explore combinations before signing-off on a specific color.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Cobblestones in Circle Fan Pattern
We may know them as cobblestones, but these cobbles are actually interlock pavers with a natural stone look. Cobblestone pavers are either cast concete or cut from stones such as sandstone, limestone and granite. Unlike the more rounded cobblestones found on the streets of European villages, the eastern United States and Mexico, "new" cobbles have a smoother, flatter surface for a more comfortable and safer patio floor or walkway.
Different looks are achievable with the variety of colors and laying patterns available. This pattern is the Circle Fan pattern, a traditional "Old World" style that works well with certain types of architecture.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Rocks in Cages
What looks like rocks of different sizes in wire cages is actually rocks, or rubble, in pallets. If your project calls for lots of a certain building material—like river rock or fieldstone—it's more economical to buy the desired material in pallets, which roughly weigh about 1-1/2 tons.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Pallet of Concrete Blocks
While concrete blocks are usually used for building walls, they can also make a raised patio that's strong and probably a little easier to work with than a do-it-yourself concrete patio.
What are the special ingredients in concrete blocks? They're usually a mixture of powdered Portland cement, water, sand and gravel. The concrete mixture used for blocks uses more sand, less gravel and less water than the concrete mixtures used for general construction purposes. A standard block weighs around 40 pounds, and the standard size block is 8 inches h x 8 inches d x 16 inches w.
Q: When is the best time of year to pour concrete?Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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A closeup view of different cobblestone pavers are often made from sandstone, limestone and granite. Stones that are indigenous to the region are usually less expensive than more unusual or harder-to-obtain stones. Local stones also blend in well the the environment, including other rocks, soil, and plants. Cobblestone pavers can also be cast from concrete molds.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Assorted Stone Tiles
Stone tiles—smaller, rectangular versions of flagstone—are shown in a few of the many colors available. In addition to a beautiful, natural look (because it is natural), these tiles are a safe choice around pools and hot tubs.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Flagstone is a flat, smooth, natural stone—often sandstone—that forms thin layers, which is why it's a popular choice for outdoor surfacing or flooring. Most flagstone is local to your area, so colors and names may vary. Names and types include:
Continue to 11 of 15 below.
- Crab Orchard Blue-Gray
- Ozark Mountain
- Canyon Creek
- Arizona Oak
- Pennsylvania Bluestone
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While larger chunks of lava rock obviously can't be used as a smooth and even patio floor, the smaller, pebble-sized pieces are an attractive textural alternative to pea gravel or river rock. Lava rock is usually a muddy-reddish color or more of a charcoal. Pitting and abrasiveness means lava rock is not a surface you'd want to walk across while barefoot.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Pile of Flagstone
A haphazardly thrown-together pile of flagstone demonstrates just how well this flat stone holds up. A thinner "batch" of it—called veneer—would probably chip and break more easily; veneer typically ranges from 1/4" to 3/4" thick. The type of stone used depends on where it's purchased—local stone that's indigenous to your area and comes from a nearby quarry—will be less expensive than those that come from farther away.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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There's no rule that says you have to use the exact same color paver or cobblestone for one area. Variety is the spice of life, and as long as the sizes are uniform and are made of natural or natural-looking materials, they can look good. These are laid and spaced evenly, with the grout—or mortar—also spaced an even width.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Flagstone has always been a popular choice for patio paving, due to its wearability and elegance. Made from ashlar stone veneer, it comes in a variety of colors and is identifiable by its flat surface and uneven shapes and sizes. This flagstone fits together like pieces of a puzzle. For a smoother, more solid surface, mortar would be used to fill in cracks and give the patio a solid base.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Light Gray Cobblestones
Cobblestone paving has the romantic look of a road in France or Mexico that has withstood decades—perhaps centuries—of use and is still standing. Cobblestones are often used to match the architectural style of a house, usually Old World or European.