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What Material Should You Use for a Patio?

Megan WildA patio is a wonderful addition to any home. It can be everything from an outdoor garden space, highlighting dwarf plants around the edges, to an outdoor room with a fire pit for cooking and a cluster of comfortable chairs and tables.

The versatility of patio uses is reflected in what is used to create it. Patios can be made of a variety of materials, from a simple concrete rectangle to ornate curved and patterned stones. They can be designed to harmonize with your home or to form an outdoor accent.

The choice of materials can also determine how you use your patio and affect its size and shape. Each one has a distinct maintenance profile.

Wondering what you should use? Here’s an overview of five most common materials.

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Source: Pexels

Gravel

Gravel, usually from river rock or crushed stone, is one of the simplest and least expensive patio materials. A patio can be made with gravel laid carefully atop a fabric liner. Gravel has a rustic look that can harmonize very well with a surrounding garden. A gravel patio can also complement a casual home or farmhouse. It’s an environmentally conscious choice, since gravel can easily be repurposed and recycled if a new buyer has other plans for the backyard, or your family outgrows the need for a patio.

Gravel can have disadvantages, though, if your family will be heavily using the patio as a space to congregate. First, it can be somewhat uncomfortable to walk on, especially with bare feet or summer flip-flops. Second, gravel’s uneven surface, attractive from a distance, may make furniture unstable and therefore uncomfortable to sit on.

Concrete

Concrete is a versatile and inexpensive patio material. Because of these qualities, it is also one of the most popular materials for patios. It can be poured in any form, from a standard rectangle to circles and paths. Concrete can be painted different colors or covered in decorative glazed material like tiles. It’s also an environmentally conscious building material, as concrete production causes fewer CO2 emissions than other patio materials.

Concrete has few disadvantages. It should be sealed to prevent against weather damage and discoloration. It can develop cracks from winter freezing and thawing, so regular inspection and maintenance should be performed.

Bricks

Clay bricks make a charming and rustic patio. Bricks can be laid in any pattern, from rectangles to circles. A patio made of bricks does not require mortar, because the bricks are simply laid closely on an even sand bed. Reclaimed brick is an environmentally conscious choice because of its repurposed nature. It can give a patio an antique look as well.

But a brick patio can be slightly challenging as a place for furniture. While the bricks are even, the space where each meets can make chairs and tables sit unevenly. Moss and small plants can also grow between bricks. The challenge there is that plant growth can make the bricks slippery in rain. Like concrete, brick can also begin to crack due to cold weather. Regular maintenance for plant growth and cracking is necessary.

Natural Stone or Flagstone

Natural stone or flagstone is an attractive and durable patio material that can be chosen to harmonize aesthetically with a home. Flagstone is a term used to refer to natural stone cut into flat, interlocking pieces. If your home has limestone on the exterior, for example, a limestone patio can be a nice complement. Stone patios made from Arizona sandstone, Pennsylvania bluestone, limestone, and slate range in color from red to blue to beige to black. The colors can be chosen to accent your home.

Natural stone and flagstone are among the more expensive patio building materials, partly because of the transportation and quarrying costs required. The transportation required also makes it one of the less environmentally friendly materials. Flagstone can split and erode, so proper maintenance is necessary.

Pavers

Pavers are interlocking flat pieces joined together to construct a patio. They differ from bricks in that the pieces are not necessarily uniform, and the material is not clay but concrete, stone, or plastic. Because the pieces are not uniform in size or shape, pavers can fit into many different patio shapes. They can also be made in a patterned design, such as herringbone.

Pavers can spread over time. Homeowners should make sure a patio made of pavers is ringed with pressure-treated material to prevent any spread. Pavers require annual maintenance to prevent cracking and discoloration.

Choosing the right materials for your patio depends on how you plan to use it and how you want it to look. Once you decide what’s right for you, you can fully enjoy your patio for years to come.