Which paving slabs are the best for your patio?
Gone are the days when the only choices of patio came down to concrete paving slabs in grey or red. There are now many more options to choose from and each material type has unique characteristics and styles. Some have a great colour variation for you to choose from, some are really hard-wearing and some have the perfect finish. It all depends on what you want to achieve in terms of style and what your patio will be used for. If you are a keen gardener, then your best options are going to be different to someone who uses their garden for entertaining. Before you pick your desired paving, it’s important to know the differences between each type of stone to make a suitable choice for your outdoor space. Let’s go through each type of stone and its benefits to help you decide.
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Natural stone paving
Natural stone has been around for 1000s of years and many wonders of the world have been built using this material. This is because this stone will last for years if it is of good quality. Natural stone is considered a superior and finer product which is why it is such a popular option for use on patios.
Each stone is uniquely formed under layers of earth, making no two pieces the same. Each individual piece will have different veining and layered patterns meaning that every project will be unique. Natural stone paving slabs come in several different stones, colours and finishes to suit everybody’s style preferences.
Benefits of natural stone paving
- The progress of quarrying natural stone is more environmentally friendly than the concrete manufacturing process.
- Considered valuable, it can add extra value to your property.
- Natural stone ages better with time.
- The colour options are varied and subtle.
- Natural stone paving is more resistant to frost.
- The cleaning process for natural stone paving is easier.
Limestone paving slabs
Limestone is formed by tiny grains under the earth which are bound together under pressure. It is a mixture of both silicon and lime rather than purely silicon, which is why it comes in many different colours and textures. Limestone is formed after many years at the bottom of oceans, lakes and rivers when pressure is caused, resulting in these minerals turning into stone. The consistent grains mean that the surface and colour of the stone are more subtle and smoother.
Limestone paving slabs are water-resistant and robust. This stone deals with all weather conditions considerably well but will fade over time when exposed to direct sunlight or acid. Limestone is super easy to work with and is popular due to its range of consistent and interesting colour options, which bring any outdoor space to life. We always suggest sealing your limestone paving slabs to protect them from fading, resulting in a longer life.
Benefits of limestone paving
- Once laid, limestone has very low maintenance requirements.
- Easy to cut and work with and is cheaper to install.
- Ecologically friendly and does not add to a home’s carbon footprint.
- Limestone has a colour palette that is much more predictable in wet weather conditions and creates a more uniform area.
- Due to the very fine texture, limestone creates a smoother surface and soft-looking finish.
Slate paving slabs
Slate is a metamorphic stone which is formed in flat sheets when under pressure. The movement of the earth’s crust squeezes the minerals into parallel layers. Coming in a range of subtle but beautiful colour options, they have been formed from being underground for 100s of years, making them impossible to replicate.
Slate has been used in building for centuries. It is easy to work with and a very popular choice for roofing but can also be used as paving. It is incredibly robust and durable to withstand all weather conditions and comes in a selection of unique colours, creating a beautiful but reliable patio for you to enjoy all year round. Always remember that slate comes from all over the world and varies in quality, so it’s important to know what you are buying and where it is from. Slate paving slabs are a remarkable choice due to their effortless colours and textures formed from the earth that makes a statement in every outdoor space.
Benefits of slate paving slabs
- Slate is incredibly stain-resistant, meaning it will look as good as new years after you’ve purchased it.
- Extremely durable to cope with all weather conditions.
- Eye-catching colours and textures.
- Very low absorption rate to minimise water damage.
- Low maintenance required.
Porcelain paving slabs
Porcelain paving slabs are the only man-made stone. They are manufactured by firing a mixture of sands, clay and other important minerals at high temperatures using a mould to to shape the slabs. This means that you can have identical slabs in any desired shape. This mixture decreases into very fine particles, producing slippery mud without grittiness. Once the material has dried, it is then coloured and texture is added, which can be anything you like and can even replicate natural stone. It is then placed back into the kiln to set and left to cool. The porcelain is then treated with wax, protective coating or sealants for extra protection.
Porcelain paving slabs are highly durable and low-maintenance, meaning they will last a long time and still look brand new. Because this paving slab is man-made, it doesn’t absorb any stains or muck, meaning that when you clean your patio, it will always come up new. Although the installation process is slightly longer and different, with an added step of a primer that needs to be applied to the bottom of the porcelain slab so it sticks, it is extremely hard wearing and scratch-resistant, making it ideal for a busy household. Porcelain can also handle pressure, making it the ideal patio material if you are one for entertaining with lots of family and friends. We can clearly see why it has become so popular in the last few years, making it an industry leader.
Benefits of porcelain paving slabs
- Porcelain is hard-wearing and strong, meaning it will last longer and still look as good as new.
- Due to porcelain being man-made, you have unlimited options regarding textures, colours and patterns. It can also be made slip-resistant.
- Only requires low maintenance and can be cleaned with a brush or pressure washer
- Porcelain remains unaffected by sunlight, so it doesn’t fade or change over time. It is also scratch resistant.
- As porcelain paving slabs are man-made, they can be consistent with sizing.
Are paving slabs suitable for driveways?
You can create beautiful and unique driveways using all the paving materials listed above. Generally speaking, the paving slabs need to be 50mm thick to be suitable for a domestic driveway. However, some contractors and customers prefer them to be 60mm, especially if they own a large 4×4 vehicle. Paving slabs that are at least 50mm thick are stronger, sturdier and will last longer for your driveway. You need to always make sure you have a supporting foundation before laying your paving slabs down.
Can I paint my paving slabs?
Adding paint to your paving slabs can add new life to your garden or driveway while also saving you time and money. Before you paint them, you need to consider what material your paving slabs are made from. Concrete, brick and natural stone can all be painted but you need to make sure you purchase the right paint to get the best finish possible. If you are working with natural stones, you should try and restore them by using a pressure washer, hopefully restoring them to their natural beauty.
Adding a touch of paint is a great way to freshen up your outdoor space and change the style and feel of your home. Make sure you know what material you are working with and purchase the correct paint that will not harm or damage your paving stones.
Are paving slabs heat-resistant?
Heat-resistance is definitely something to consider when you are thinking about adding paving slabs to your outdoor living space. Sadly the answer is no., Paving slabs will get warm on a hot day, so make sure you wear slippers or sliders. All paving slabs get hot but some get incredibly hotter than others. This all depends on if your paving slabs reflect and absorb sunlight. Although the material does play a part in this, the main factor is the colour. This means that the lighter shades will collect less heat than darker shades. So sadly, paving slabs are not heat-resistant but for paving that is cooler, look out for lighter shades that don’t hold onto the heat.
Can paving slabs be laid on sand?
Paving slabs cannot be laid on building sand. Slabs are very heavy and the weight of them alone won’t hold them in place. If you do place them just on building sand, there will be movement. You need adhesive or mortar that will bond the slabs to the ground. We suggest that you add cement to your mortar mix as it will help with adhesion, overall strength and durability of your paving slabs. Remember you should be prepared and have the right equipment, including knee pads and gloves, to help you if you come into contact with wet cement. Place your first slab down and continue adding the slabs ensuring there is a gap of 8 to 10mm between each stone. It will take around 24 hours for the cement to be completely dry Only then can you walk on your new patio.
Now you have read our ultimate guide on paving slabs, we hope you have found what paving slabs are suitable for your project. Each material has different pros and cons depending on the need of your patios and driveways. Make sure you consider each characteristic, including colour, finish and longevity before purchasing the materials. Why not check out our garden accessories, paving risers and garden tools to help you turn your garden into a tranquil outdoor escape.