Garden flooring – the essential guide

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  • Flooring ideas for your outdoor space, from garden decking to block paving

    Looking to update your garden surfaces? We got the lowdown on four surfaces to lay underfoot, from traditional garden decking to stylish block garden paving.

    1. Garden decking

    What is it?

    Hardwood garden decking in ipe, iroko or balau has natural oils that make it suitable for exterior use. Softwood decking, cut from coniferous trees, is cheaper and comes treated for a long lifespan.

    Pros

    Quick and relatively cheap to install. The ground beneath doesn’t require levelling, so you can cover an uneven surface, or even an existing terrace. It’s warm underfoot and good for roof gardens.

    Cons

    Needs regular oiling to maintain its colour. Can be slippery. Hardwoods can be tricky to cut. Cheaper woods tend to warp and move over time.

    What’s new?

    Composite garden decking, made from resin and reclaimed wood fibres, doesn’t need to be stained or sealed. ‘It’s fine in shady areas as algae can’t grow on it and it’s UV stable so won’t change colour,’ says Katrina Wells of Earth Designs.

    Cost example Around £60 per sq m, Millboard Decking.

    2. Stone garden paving

    What is it?

    Sandstone comes in several colours. You can also try limestone, slate, basalt or travertine. Traditional British stone is more expensive than stone from India and the Far East, which isn’t the same quality.

    Pros

    Hard-wearing and gives a unique look that can be contemporary or more rustic, depending on the stone you choose. Lasts a lifetime, improves with age and covers a large garden area quickly.

    Cons

    Can be expensive. Must be installed by an expert on to a specific substrate. Can be slippery. Pale stones need regular scrubbing.

    What’s new?

    Companies can now supply stone in shapes other than traditional square or rectangular flags. Slate ‘decking’ (long, slim slabs), for example, is a more contemporary option.

    Cost example

    Around £25 for a 120 x 60cm black-riven slate outdoor flag, Mandarin Stone.

    3. Decorative aggregate

    What is it?

    Aggregate can be made from crushed natural stones including basalt, flint and limestone, rounded pebbles, crushed sea shells or even recycled glass.

    Pros

    Good budget material that comes in different colours and is ideal for creating curves and shapes. Free-draining, takes no skill to install and only requires a woven membrane underneath.

    Cons

    Can spread and get kicked around. Shoes and wheels can sink into gravel. Might be best avoided in an area with lots of cats as some like to use pebbled areas as litter trays.

    What’s new?

    A honeycomb firming system that claims to create a more stable surface for aggregate. Try CED’s Cedagravel Gravel Stabilisation System.

    Cost examples

    Slate chippings, around £7 for 20kg; Atlantic pebbles, around £6 for 20kg, Marshalls. Basic pea gravel, around £3 for 20kg, Homebase.

    4. Block garden paving

    What is it?

    Block paving and cobbles are sometimes called setts and are available in all the same stones as slab paving, or as concrete blocks or bricks.

    Pros

    Can be laid around curves and used to create garden paths or edge details on areas of larger paving. Gives more scope for decorative designs and rustic charm in the garden. Lots of joins make the surface reasonably non-slip.

    Cons

    Laying is labour-intensive and should be done by an expert. More joins mean there is more opportunity for edges to break.

    What’s new?

    ‘Vietnamese Blue marble and Indian sandstone are popular choices,’ says Jo O’Grady at Stone Age. ‘They’re both hard-wearing and complement modern planting schemes perfectly.’

    Cost examples

    Driveway setts, from around £55 per sq m, Wickes. Ballanstone tumbled limestone 20 x 10cm cobbles, around £45 per sq m, Mandarin Stone.

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