Patio Pavers – Facts to Know Before You Get Started

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Patio – the word conjures up thoughts of warm weather, of sitting back in your lounge chair, sipping a cool drink, heaving a sigh of relief, and relaxing. It’s a place where you can wile away the hours watching the grass grow or throw a barbecue on Saturday night. Having a stone patio in your New York yard creates an opportunity to really enjoy the outdoors in comfort. Before you can relax though you need to build yourself a patio. That leads to the question, how will you pave your new patio?

When you plan to pave an outdoor space, the most important decision you need to make is whether to use unit pavers, slab paving, or crushed stone. (Using crushed stone or pea stone on top of a compacted base is a viable third option if you are on a strict budget and the patio is not going to be used for entertaining.) Although pouring a slab of concrete might seem like the easiest thing to do, the benefit of using patio pavers is that they won’t crack like a concrete slab is liable to do. The reason for the cracking is that the earth beneath us is not locked in place. It moves as the soil expands and contracts. Frost heaves are the most obvious results of this cycle of expansion and contraction. A solid slab is not flexible and will crack unless it has expansion joints installed, like a sidewalk does. The joints (spaces) between unit pavers provide flexibility to your paved surface. Unit pavers can be laid in patterns that will make your patio look unique and custom designed.

Patio Pavers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Some of the best and most popular choices are bluestone, flagstone, bricks, and cobblestones.

Bluestone is a beautiful but expensive paver to use for your patio. Bluestone usually comes in regular units 10 x 14 inches or larger, and in thicknesses ranging from 1 inch to 2 inches. It has two basic finishes– natural cleft and thermal. Thermal is usually more expensive and has a smooth, possibly slippery surface. Bluestone looks great in formal garden settings.

Flagstone is flat cut stone that is less expensive than bluestone and comes in shades of red, blue and brown, depending upon where it was quarried. It is a softer stone than bluestone and is available in irregular shapes. It is kind of an old fashioned material–used in many walkways and patios in the mid to late 20th century. It was usually laid into a base of concrete and mortared, making it not very environmentally friendly.

Bricks are made of clay and are probably the most common sort of unit paver out there. Brick is warm in color, and can be paired nicely with bluestone or cobblestones if you want to mix materials for your patio design. Clay bricks are not consistent in size, so they take longer to install. You can even look into buying antique bricks to give your patio a unique historical look. You must use bricks designed for the outdoors, not masonry bricks, which tend to flake and crack when used as outdoors pavers.

Granite cobblestones, which we use a lot of in New England, come in 3 different sizes and are most often used to edge brick and bluestone paving and/or to create design accents within a brick or bluestone patio. Used alone they create a rather bumpy surface which is not so amenable to furniture and high heels.

Concrete patio pavers are now available in many new styles. Some are designed to look like real stone, but most brands I’ve seen look really awful. There are uses for concrete pavers, they can be cheaper per unit than the others; and, because they are consistently sized, installation is faster. Some are made to interlock. I might suggest concrete pavers for a driveway, but not for a patio or walkway.

A more exciting reason to use concrete and concrete pavers is that you can stain them with color. This ability to stain can lead to very creative patio making. The hottest trend for colored concrete patio pavers right now is the making of “area rugs” out of colored concrete unit pavers laid to mimic a rug design. You can also score concrete to create patterns or mimic unit pavers. I have a client who made a driveway of concrete that was scored and stained to look like it is made of gray granite and red brick. Wow!

Patio pavers should never have mortared joints. Mortaring between unit pavers is an outdated method that is losing favor to the more environmentally friendly technique of using porous materials such as sand or stone dust. It is recognized that using a porous material in between your patio pavers actually holds them together like glue if installed correctly, and the porous material allows for superior water drainage.

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