When you’re designing a new patio, plan the size and shape according to what you want to use it for. You might need a large square space to accommodate dining furniture or just a smaller area to relax on a sun lounger, for example. Depending on which direction your garden faces, it’s also a good idea to plan your patio around where the sun falls. Patio accessories like heaters, lighting and awnings can allow you to use the patio throughout more months of the year.
David Robinson, Garden Designer from Up the Garden Path in Staffordshire says: “People tend to keep their patios close to the house and stick to square and rectangular shapes. If you want a more unique garden, experiment with different shapes and customise with plants.”
Stone patios – granite, limestone and slate are expensive but durable patio materials. Traditional British stone has been overshadowed in recent years by imported options, as Rob from Plantazia Patios and Walls in Kent points out: “Sandstone imported from India is the most popular kind of patio material at the moment; it’s the cheapest stone and comes in many colours.” Another alternative is to use recycled stone that has been salvaged from old streets, gardens and homes but make sure you buy from a reputable company to get the best quality.
Concrete block patios – “The cheapest option for patio slabs is probably concrete,” says Luke Wilkins, from The Driveway Company in Milton Keynes. Concrete slabs are also easy to install and come in different colours and finishes; the only drawback is that the colour can fade as the concrete wears away.
Clay slab patios – clay tiles or slabs are similar to concrete in thickness and durability, but the pigment runs throughout so the colour of your patio won’t fade over time.
Solid concrete or tarmac – these are cheaper patio materials but aren’t used often as they’re not as attractive.
A well-laid patio sits on a sub-base which is traditionally made of a broken brick, stone or a concrete mix called hardcore which is compacted and levelled out. A layer of mortar or sand is then applied to cement in paving, leaving a small gap between the joins which is filled in with mortar or sand afterwards. “For patios and paths we use a laying system of hardcore base, concrete and then the slab,” Luke says.
It is a good idea to hire a qualified paver or patio installation company as they will ensure a proper fitting with a slope of 1:80 to aid drainage and will not breach the damp proofing course. Rob advises: “You should always hire a professional to install any kind of hard landscaping, if you choose to do it yourself and it goes wrong it will soon start to lift.”
If you live in a listed building you must apply for planning permission before installing a patio. Otherwise it’s not necessary as long as your patio doesn’t involve significant embanking work. To comply with building regulations you must also be careful not to make access to the home more difficult, by adding steps where there used to a be a ramp for example.
You will need to weed and sweep your patio regularly and if it’s made of paving blocks it will require regular weeding - only use weed killer as a last resort as it contains harsh chemicals which may damage the paving. Rob says: “You can also use a jet washer once a year or so to really blast the patio of dirt and grime.”
The cost of installing a patio will vary depending on the material, size and shape. As a rough guide, concrete and clay are cheaper materials than natural stone, Luke suggests that: “Concrete slabs can be as cheap as £12 per square meter whereas natural stone starts at around £25 per square metre.”