If you want to add a touch of class and distinction to your outdoor landscape, paving is a hard choice to beat. Patios, walls, walkways – paving has it covered! Paving equals chic in any landscaping context, whether to create a new a patio, an alfresco dining area, a relaxation area near a spa or pool, flower borders or a parking area. Good planning is the key to making the most of paving’s potentials. Take our tips and advice on selecting paving slabs, pavers and stone to help you create the perfect yard for recreation and relaxation.
Planning is the cornerstone of any successful landscaping project, and all the more so if your project includes any paved areas. To win the whole family’s seal of approval, make sure to consider the following:
The family’s needs
Working out what you and the family want from your outdoor space, and imagining the possibilities given the space available, is a crucial first step. To achieve the goal of enjoying free time with the family outdoors, bear the following points in mind:
Carrying out a paved outdoor project is a considerable undertaking. Budget for the following elements:
Professional landscapers will be able to do certain jobs expertly, although this can involve additional and sometimes substantial costs. Budget for any professional landscaping help you might use. If your budget is limited, remember that a landscaping project can be spread over several years.
The best way to get the most from your yard and its potential is to visualize the space in terms of zones, each for a specific activity. For example:
Draw a scale plan of the front and back yards. Use the building location certificate to draw the boundaries of your property, showing:
Once all these have been mapped, plot any areas you intend paving. Work out the surface measurements in order to calculate the quantity of material needed. Before starting on any work, check local regulations to make sure that any specific features you wish to include conform to local bylaws.
The selection should be based on three main factors:
The least expensive and the most enduringly popular slabs are the classic white squares made of concrete. Since the model has remained unchanged for years, you can always be sure of finding replacement slabs if one gets broken.
For a patio floor, the square or rectangular slabs or slabs made to imitate natural stone give great results and the variety of textures and colours allows you to create some stunning effects. Paving slabs are an ideal solution for covering a large surface with reasonably priced, good quality material. Some slabs are designed to create patio floors with curved contours.
There are two categories of irregular-shaped paving slabs:
Uniform pavers, all the same size and shape, come in a wide range of shapes and colours. They can be used to achieve plain, linear designs as well as elaborate geometric patterns. Experiment with the colours of the pavers to enrich the overall effect.
Modular pavers are sets of pavers of various sizes whose colours match to give a natural, almost randomly chosen look.
There are also pavers specially made for pool borders, which may best be described as a hybrid of steps, curbs and caps. Their rounded edge is not only attractive but also reduces the risk of injury.
Natural stone is the ideal player for rustic landscape projects. Silica, granite and slate, whether rough, cut or hewn are most commonly used. Choose the thinnest stones, between ¾" and 2", for a patio or walkway. Steps will require thicker stones of 4" to 10". Natural stone is a worthwhile investment because the results will last for years. If your budget does not stretch to using natural stone everywhere, stepping stones set in decorative gravel can be an attractive alternative for pathways.
White or coloured pebbles, river stones and decorative gravel are often used along walkways and around the outside of the house. Sold in sacks or in bulk, these stones can be smooth or rough and come in various sizes, depending on the effect sought. Teamed up with plants or larger natural stones, they are also perfect for creating a contemporary look.
Some types of paving blocks are designed especially for building low retaining walls. Assembly techniques vary according to the manufacturer.
It is important to know the height of the tallest wall in your landscape plan since this will determine the wall blocks you select. There are three types of blocks, depending on the height of the wall desired:
Some types of blocks allow you to easily build curved or straight walls, depending on how the blocks are placed.
Caps and borders
Depending on the model of wall blocks you choose, you may also need to purchase cap blocks, which are placed along the top of the wall to give it a neat, finished look.
Concrete borders are also available. While not a necessity, they can add a stylish finish to a landscaping feature by highlighting the contours of a paved area.
If well planned, the work involved in turning your design into reality should be straightforward. Here are a few basic rules to follow.
For low walls, patio floors and walkways, dig trenches of 11" to 15" deep. Line them with a geomembrane sheet and spread it with gravel. Depending on the size of the area to excavate, you might need to rent a power shovel or hire a company to do the work. Tamp the gravel with a mechanical compacter to ensure the paving sits on a solid foundation.
Electricity and irrigation
If your plan includes lighting or irrigation, tackle these jobs first. If necessary, call in a professional to carry out the work. You will take comfort from knowing that it has be done according to safe building practices and regulations.
Paved patios, walkways and low walls
Once your foundations are sound, build your wall or lay your patio or walkway according to the plans. Helpful hint: always set cap blocks and steps in place with mortar to prevent them shifting or becoming dislodged. Likewise, secure any blocks that are liable to be dislodged due to their location.
The yard is where family and friends spend time together enjoying the long summer days, so it is important that the yard meet expectations in terms of style, functionality and comfort.
Once the planting beds have been marked out, your choice of suitable flowers, shrubs and trees will depend on their maintenance requirements, the beds’ exposure to sun or liability to dampness and, of course, on your own horticultural favourites.
Outdoor lighting is essential to make your property safe as well as to highlight the yard’s focal points. The basic lighting you install when the electrics are being done can be supplemented by solar landscape lights or other auxiliary mood lighting to add to the enchantment of your outdoor evenings.
Relaxation or dining areas will need furniture to seat all users comfortably. Choose plush cushions and match fabrics for visual appeal.
A few assorted and practical accessories will give a personal flourish to your outdoor decor. What could be more pleasant than to sit down at a table decorated imaginatively with sunny dishware and placemats? Cushions to sink into in the relaxation area will invite indulgence. A few pots spilling colourful flowers and a foaming trellis will move the mood outdoors. Go with your creative instincts and have fun moving into your backyard this summer!