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Choosing the Right Material for your Patio

Adding a patio to your yard is an investment in the value of your home and in your quality of life. A patio is a wonderful way to extend and take advantage of your outdoor living space. Summer evenings spent dining al fresco, sipping refreshing beverages and comfortably watching the kids play in the yard are just a few of the joys of having a patio.

The difference between a deck and a patio is that a patio is usually level with the ground instead of raised like a deck. Patios come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are as diverse as the homes they belong to. Choosing the right material for your patio is an important decision, and there are many factors to consider including: aesthetic, maintenance, durability and budget.

You’ll also want to think about what you will be using your patio for, as this will help you determine what material is most suitable for that purpose. Do you want to create an outdoor dining space? A cozy corner for reading? A place to entertain and kick back as a family? If the answer is an outdoor dining space, you’ll want to avoid a material like gravel as it’s not as stable as stone or cement. If it’s a cozy corner for reading over which you’d like to string a hammock, gravel could be just the thing.

To help you choose that perfect patio material, here’s a look at five of the most commonly used options and their properties:

Stone

Aesthetic: For a luxurious natural look, you can’t beat stone. There are many different types of stone to choose from that range in colour, shape and size. Common choices include limestone, bluestone, sandstone and slate.

Maintenance: A stone patio is relatively low maintenance especially if you enjoy the natural look of moss or creeping thyme between stones. If not, this is simply addressed by applying polymeric sand or stone dust between the cracks. A stone patio should be swept and cleaned every year, but otherwise can be left to its own devices!

Durability: Stone is one of the most durable patio materials available and will last longer and hold its color better than any other material. The wear that does occur over time will add character to your patio without detracting from its usability. If properly installed and maintained, a natural stone patio can last for hundreds of years.

Budget: Natural stone is the most expensive patio material option because it must be quarried and transported to the site, and it is labour intensive to install due to the varying thickness and dimensions of each piece. For this type of patio, you will need to hire professionals.

Purpose: A stone patio is a wonderful choice for a sitting area that blends in with the natural feel of the landscape, or as an accent in your garden. Because of the variation in the surface of stone, it is not ideal for a dining area where chairs will frequently be sliding back and forth.

Patio Pavers

Aesthetic: Patio pavers are manufactured paving stones, and are typically made from concrete, clay, stone or even recycled plastics. They come in many different shapes and colours and are often manufactured to look like natural stone. You can lay pavers in all sorts of patterns and add loads of character to your outdoor space in the process!

Maintenance: Pavers are relatively low maintenance. Like with natural stone, if you want to prevent weeds from growing between pavers, you’ll need to fill cracks with polymeric sand or stone dust. You should also sweep and wash away grime regularly to prevent discolouration. Depending on the material you chose, you will also need to reseal your patio every couple of years.

Durability: Given the proper maintenance and installation, patio pavers can last a very long time — anywhere from 50 to 100 years. Natural wear and tear will occur, but this will not get in the way of your patio’s functionality. Pavers irrigate well and have an element of give which allows them to withstand harsh climates and heavy loads.

Budget: Patio pavers are a lot more affordable option than natural stone, as they are manufactured rather than quarried. They are also much easier to install and repair if necessary, as they come in modular pieces of the same thickness that go down easily and quickly saving you time and money! There are DIY kits available, or you can leave it to the pros.

Purpose: Pavers are extremely versatile because of the variety of shapes, sizes and styles they come in. They are perfect for creating an outdoor dining space or sitting area because of their regularity and durability.

Concrete

Aesthetic: Concrete is a mixture of cement, sand and gravel mixed with water that hardens when it dries, and so can be poured to fit almost any shape. You can dye concrete with a coloring agent and stamp it with a pattern to achieve a more natural look, though it will doubtless feel more industrial than a stone or paver patio.

Maintenance: If you choose to dye your concrete, you will need to reapply the coating every couple of years to keep its colour. Depending on how heavily you use your patio, however, this colour will fade more quickly.

Durability: The major issue with concrete is that they are subject to cracking with freeze-thaw cycles. If you live in a climate that experiences freeze-thaw, concrete is not your best choice. If improperly installed, concrete can develop surface cracks over time and it is difficult to repair by virtue of being one solid piece. That said, in the right climate, properly installed concrete can last 20 – 30 years.

Budget: Concrete patios are typically the cheapest option to build. They can be more expensive if you want a complex pattern or design, and they can also incur reparation costs over time. You’ll need to hire a professional team to pour a concrete patio.

Purpose: If you live in a frost-free area and are looking for a simple hard surface to place some furniture on, then concrete is a solid option. One consideration to keep in mind is that concrete is impermeable, so water runs off its surface which can cause localized flooding. Make sure you have a proper drainage system in place and consider a different material if you live near sensitive wetlands or bodies of water as concrete runoff can carry contaminants.

Brick

Aesthetic: Brick lends a warm, charming feel to an exterior living space. A classic option that complements both traditional and contemporary architecture, over time, brick will retain its rich, warm colour. Brick can also be laid in any number of patterns from rectangular to round depending on preference.

Maintenance: Brick requires a little more work to maintain, as slippery moss can grow on it, especially in shady areas. To combat this issue, use a water-based sealer on your patio when it is first installed. Keep your patio clean by regular sweeping and periodic power-washing.

Durability: Brick is porous so is prone to cracking with wintertime freeze-thaw cycles. Make sure you choose brick that’s rated for outdoor use in the specific climate where you live to prevent this issue. Other than that, brick is highly durable, and damaged bricks are easy to replace. If properly cared for, a brick patio can last over 100 years.

Budget: This option is less expensive than natural stone, and on par with the cost of paver. You can also purchase salvaged brick for less as an eco-friendly option. Brick can be tricky to install, so it’s best to leave this type of patio installation to professionals.

Purpose: A brick patio does have some texture to it and will not be completely smooth, so furniture may be prone to wobbling. As such, it is not recommended for an outdoor dining space, but for a simple sitting area or garden accent, brick is certainly a charming option.

Gravel

Aesthetic: Gravel is a very different option from other patio materials. If you are going for a quaint cottage look, gravel could be just the thing. Generally, there are two types of gravel available: river rock or crushed stone.

Maintenance: Gravel does require some maintenance, as loose stones will occasionally scatter outside the designated area. Semi-weekly raking of the stones to keep them in place will keep the surface level and clean.

Durability: A gravel patio can last forever if well-maintained. Gravel is fully permeable which prevents erosion. You will also never have to worry about cracks or loose stones like you would with other patio material options.

Budget: This is the cheapest option as far as patio materials go, cheaper even than concrete. Installing a gravel patio is quick and easy and can be accomplished by yourself.

Purpose: A gravel patio is not the most furniture friendly, nor is it pleasant on bare feet! Overall, gravel is not the most functional option, but can work well in combination with other patio materials, for pathways, or to as an accent in your garden.

Still not sure what material to choose for your patio? Get in touch with a NeighborScape expert by calling 613-692-7051 or emailing  info@neighborscape.ca. We’d be happy to consult on your project, obligation-free.

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