Jim Fogarty has tips on everything you need to know about paving – the different material options plus all the decorative patterns used to lay them.
Paving is a dominant feature in gardens that needs special attention if you want to keep up with garden trends. There are endless options with products, sizes, and colours and it can be a headache sorting through the myriad patterns to make the final choice for your project. Getting the design wrong can have disastrous results so it is important to do your homework before deciding on the materials and laying pattern for your project.
Bricks are relatively cheap, and being small are easy to handle on-site. They come in a range of earthy colours and are perfect for paths and driveways. Second-hand bricks are cost-efficient and offer another alternative worth considering. They can be laid either on a concrete and mortar bed or a screeded sand bed on compacted crushed rock. There are many laying patterns for bricks with the most common being stretcher-bond and basket-weave. Bricks are also good for using as borders to paving and garden bed edging as well as detailed inserts into large format-paving designs.
Stone pavers range from locally sourced to imported products and each source will vary in the type of stone, texture and finish of the final product. Stone comes in varying thicknesses and can be uniform in size and shape (saw cut) or random (crazy stone). The most popular types are sandstone, bluestone and granite, remembering that different forms of stone will vary from each quarry. Local quarries are a good place to start and the colour variances of each product provide even more choice. Limestone is another option but being white and soft will mark easily as a paving surface. Stone also comes in the form of cobbles and quarried pebbles that are excellent as paving details and textural additions to an otherwise flat paving surface.
Slate is a softer form of rock formed by the metamorphosis (heating) of clay. It tends to split along the planes of stratification, giving it a unique natural surface for paving. You have the options of using slate in regular sawn sizes or as irregular shaped ‘crazy slate’.
Large-format pavers made by using reconstituted, man-made concrete are a popular form of paver in Australia. Sizes range from 250mm squares up to 1000mm squares. Remember, though, that the larger the size the greater the chance of cracking and larger pavers will need reinforcement adding to their substantial weight. Large format pavers should always be laid on a mortar bed and concrete sub-base to prevent any movement and potential cracking.
A popular choice in modern gardens, given the flexibility of colour and finish options, is concrete. Concrete can be exposed, tinted, polished, stencilled or just plain saw cut to give the look of paving. Concrete is stable and rigid and forms a practical, hard-wearing and long-lasting surface when laid correctly.
There’s more than one way to lay a paver, and some of the fancier patterns cost more to lay than the simpler ones, but choose wisely and paving can go from boring to brilliant.
Stretcher bond: this is the most popular form of paving pattern and is laid as you would see bricks in a wall, so that each brick or paver overlaps the next by half. The overlap can however vary for design detail. The key with stretcher bond is strength and this is important on a driveway that may have substantial slope. Stretcher bond also helps to disguise continuous grout lines if you run the laying pattern across the line of view.
Parallel bond: also called stack bond, this is best used for larger format paving but can also be used for bricks. Parallel bond is a basic laying pattern and not the most attractive but will usually be the cheapest for labour costs as it is easy to run along string lines. However, if the laying job is not good and grout lines do not match it can look terrible, so be wary.
Header and stretcher courses: some paving patterns are intricate and involve many cuts around garden beds and house edges. Small cuts on edges are weak and can be dislodged easily by cars. To strengthen the edges of paving, borders of paving are used to help visually tie the paving surface together, but importantly they add strength to the edges of a paved surface. There are two types of borders that are used for paving. A header course is a border of bricks laid with their sides abutting (allowing for grout) and the bricks can be laid either flat or upright for a thinner profile. A stretcher course is bricks that laid end-to-end, allowing for a grout gap.
Basket-weave: this is a perennial favourite for brick paving. It is simple to lay and adds a textural component that helps to disperse the eye. Basket-weave helps make paved areas look bigger and more relaxed. The pattern is comprised of bricks laid in pairs, alternating at 90°. A border of bricks laid as a header course will help to frame the pattern and lock the pavers in.
Herringbone: laying a herringbone pattern involves laying two bricks in an ‘L’ shape and continuing the pattern. This pattern can be laid on a 90° or 45° format and will involve much planning and cutting when you get to the ends. The finished product looks amazing but laying costs will be higher. If you are using bricks, a header course will help to lock the edges in as cuts on edges can weaken and dislodge.
Tip: large-format paving can also be used in a herringbone pattern but the paver width needs to be half the length minus grout (if grout is 10mm then the width of the paver needs to be 5mm shorter than half the length of the paver)
Crazy paving: this is a style used for random shaped pieces of stone. Some stone might be more angular in shape giving a sharper, more defined look, and some stone may be more rounded in shape giving a softer feel. Crazy stone paving is all about getting the grout gaps correct. Larger grout gaps will increase the dominance of the grout in the finished job and tighter grout gaps will let the stone take prominence. An ideal grout gap is around 10mm. This laying pattern takes skill as you cannot run straight string lines to assist with levels, and it involves a lot of stone cutting. Owing to this, laying costs tend to be down the higher end.
Ashlar: this pattern has been adapted from a walling pattern commonly used in stonework and is now a popular way of laying stone and large-format paving. Ashlar paving comprises a mix of random square and rectilinear pieces of stone that configure into a random laid pattern. For instance a modular configuration might comprise 250mm x 250mm; 250mm x 500mm; 500mm x 500mm; 500mm x 1000mm; and 1000mm x 1000mm, where all these pieces fit together like a random jigsaw puzzle. Ashlar paving looks smart, and fits with both traditional and modern designs. This pattern has no continuous grout lines in any direction, making the finished product ideal for expanses of area.
Combination: all these materials and patterns can of course be combined to add detail and emotion to an otherwise bland area of paving. Remember that paving needs to be more than just something that is walked on. From a design point of view, it is a way of interacting with people, a way to encourage movement through a garden, and a way to evoke emotional responses to a garden.