Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners favourite paving choices & the difference between driveways and patios.
When deciding to go ahead with a new patio or driveway the choice of paving types out there can be mind boggling at the best of times. Whether its paving slabs or block paving the question is which is best for which scenario and what is the best value for money? Although these questions can raise some complex scenarios we have broken down the fundamentals for you here.
There are two fundamental differences between patios and driveways many people do not know about. These are flexible and rigid construction. Block paving represents flexible construction allowing very small amounts of movement within the surface to accommodate extreme loads such as that of cars. This is why most driveways are built with a build up of at least 150mm mot compacted type 1 and a 50mm layer of compacted sharp sand. The sharp sand allows for tiny amounts of movement from vehicular traffic and is the typical build up of block paving driveways.
Mortar or concrete based laying methods are the most robust building method by far however to ensure no cracking appears under extreme loads such as cars an exceptionally deep excavation with reinforced concrete would be the only way to ensure no cracking. This is why typical driveways are laid with block paving and patios are laid using the rigid construction method with a 40mm consistent mortar bed.
In Buckinghamshire and the Chiltern areas much of the bed rock is of solid chalk bed rock which can be extremely robust. I have seen block built sheds laid directly onto chalk and are still standing 50 years later. Even though chalk is much more robust as a base for driveways and patios than sandy or clay soils the correct construction type for the correct situation is very important. I am sure we have seen the sink holes which have swallowed up whole driveways in recent times including the one in High Wycombe where a whole car disappeared into the ground. There is no way you can reinforce a patio or driveway for such movement but it goes to show how chalk and calcareous bedrocks are prone to disintegration by ground water movement.
Patios should be laid on a consistent layer of mortar on at least 100mm of compacted type 1 and suits most situations where traffic is people. I personally find the best option on the market today is Indian sandstone paving. Firstly I would like to mention natural stone is always best. Reconstituted concrete cast slabs with aggregate and dye will always eventually fade as the dye inside will be bleached from the suns uv rays. Acidity in the rain will always eventually eat into the wearing surface of reconstituted slabs allowing algae to get in and give a dirty look. Indian sandstone usually comes in the usual buff and grey colours which complement the colour of our homes and is always affordable at about £30 per square metre. The colours do not fade with age so I always recommend Indian sandstone as the best affordable paving patio option.
When it comes to block paving I have to say I think the red and purple ‘brindle option is always the best for two reasons. Firstly the colouration usually compliments the home normally matching the roofing in colour. The second is the brindle colouration is best to hide the stains created by dripping oil from motor cars. With block paving (being also pre cast concrete with colour dyes) the same rules applies to paving, the sun will eventually fade the colour. Examples of colour faded drives are so common just walk up any street in suburban Buckinghamshire. This is why I always recommend paying £5.00 more a metre and going for the grey cobble effect tegula blocks. The grey tones are already the faded concrete colour so fading is not an issue and I feel they have a much more refined aesthetic fitting modern housing styles and more traditional cottage styles.
If you need help planning a new driveway or patio do not hesitate to contact Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners for a no obligation consultation.
Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.