Choosing the right paving for your project is an important decision as it will form a permanent addition to your garden or outdoor space for years to come, but the colour and aesthetics of your garden paving slabs or driveway surface are only one option to consider.
Whether you are choosing paving for a patio, driveway, path or stepping stone, this short guide will answer some of the most common questions we are asked about choosing the perfect slab from our extensive range of paving.
Concrete, natural stone or porcelain paving?
Concrete slabs are the most cost-effective choice for garden and driveway paving projects, being manmade rather than a natural product. However, the concrete slab has moved on from the dull, grey rectangular paving slab of old – modern manufacturing techniques result in a wide range of sizes, colours and surface textures, designed to resemble real stone.
Concrete slabs are strong, durable, uniform and easy to install. But always choose a high-quality concrete slab, cheaper options often have a lower cement content and are less durable (see below).
Natural stone paving, such as sandstone or limestone, provides a natural finish that cannot be replicated by even the best concrete slab. Because of its natural provenance every piece has a unique colour and pattern, resulting in an unmistakable depth of colour and surface pattern to your paved area unique to natural stone.
Natural stone also weathers better than concrete, which fades over time, indeed natural stone is said to improve with age. It is also more durable than concrete due to its natural strength and composition.
Porcelain paving, described in more detail below, is the newest entrant to the domestic paving market and is an extremely strong, durable slab produced by firing at very high temperatures. Because the slabs are printed with a high-resolution image of real wood or stone before firing, they are available in a huge range of colours and finishes and are often used in more contemporary landscaping schemes.
Porcelain paving may be the most expensive option, but it is by far the most durable, long-lasting and low maintenance choice.
I want to buy cheap paving
You may have seen cheap concrete paving products costing only a few pounds in your local DIY store, or on discount paving websites, but as with most things in life you get what you pay for. Cheaper paving stones and patio slabs are ultimately of lower quality and will chip or break much more quickly than a quality slab.
Paving is an investment in your home which will last for decades (if not longer), withstanding the cold and wet of a British winter. Ensure that your paving has been tested for use in the British climate - paving from a quality supplier such as AVS Fencing & Landscaping will have been tested under these conditions for strength, frost resistance and water absorption.
Much of the cost of laying a patio or driveway can often be taken up by the preparatory groundwork, especially when using a contractor (even for DIY your time is a cost), so to skimp on the final paving is a false economy.
There is also an ethical consideration – some overseas quarries still use child or forced labour, so the provenance of your paving is crucial. At AVS we abide by a Modern Slavery Policy to ensure the provenance of all of our products, which applies to all our suppliers.
Which paving is suitable for a driveway?
Paving on a driveway needs to be much more resilient than that used on areas such as patios and pathways, as the paving needs to withstand the weight and pressure of your car repeatedly driving over it and then being parked. In general, driveway paving is made up from smaller setts or blocks which are at least 50mm thick, laid on a compacted aggregate sub-base of at least 150mm to create a strong foundation for the driveway.
What is porcelain paving?
Porcelain paving is a relative newcomer to this country but is fast becoming the quality paving of choice. In essence porcelain slabs are highly compressed clay tiles that are litho printed with a pattern to replicate natural stone or wood, then fired at an extremely high temperature resulting in an extremely tough, resilient tile with exceptionally low water absorption.
It is this compression and very high temperature firing (vitrification) that makes the difference between porcelain tiles and ceramic tiles that are used indoors. In addition, porcelain tiles can be thinner because of their strength, the industry standard is 20mm – beware of cheaper, thinner tiles which are not suitable for the UK climate.
Porcelain is a very low maintenance paving surface because of its low water absorption, meaning it is resistant to staining, moss algae and frost, and generally will only need soap and water to clean.
Despite its smooth surface, porcelain paving is not slippery. Our Marshalls porcelain range is certified as R11 (the ‘slip skid’ rating of a tile ranges from R9 for dry-only areas to R13 for areas such as swimming pools) making it perfect for outdoor areas that are occasionally wet.
What is a calibrated paving slab?
Calibration is a process most used with natural stone paving slabs to create slabs of a consistent depth. The stone is passed through a strip mill and finely shaved on the underside to achieve a regular depth to the slabs, allowing easier laying of multiple pavers.
What is a riven paving slab?
Real stone paving slabs, such as sandstone, often feature a riven surface. This refers to the natural planes of the rock which result in a textured, natural uneven surface. You may also see a riven effect embossed into pressed concrete pavers.
Ask the experts
For further advice about your paving project don’t hesitate to speak to our experts at your local AVS Fencing & Landscaping Supplies branch. They can talk you through the different options and even place your order in store. Our ranges of high quality paving are all available for home delivery within our AVS Branch delivery area.