A Granite Tile Guide: What You Need to Know

The Basics of Granite Tiles

One of the more elegant and desired home improvement materials out there is granite. Granite is a natural stone that actually forms from hardened magma (liquid rock). Granite is incredibly hard, as it is composed of many different rock types, including quartz, feldspar, mica, and more. It can be used for many home improvement projects, and it is a popular choice for those who want to make a statement with their home. Thus, this article will discuss the basics of this elegant and beautiful, but expensive, material.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Granite

Granite has been used for centuries due primarily to its versatility and its strength. Granite is so hard that it will withstand almost anything your or nature can throw against it. Thus, it can be used for both outdoor applications and for indoor ones, as you won’t have to worry about the effects of weather or of messy children on your granite projects. Granite is also beautiful and value, and it makes a statement to any onlookers about your style and class.

There are a few drawbacks to granite that you need to know about. First, due to its hardness, it is not easy to cut the material, so your ability to customize the tiles on the fly is very limited. In addition, you will be relatively limited in the colors of granite available; however, this is a small price to pay for the beauty and quality you will receive when you use this material. Finally, as we’ll discuss later in this article, granite is notoriously expensive, so it shouldn’t be something you should go into debt over!

Note as well that granite is very heavy, so it may be difficult to work with if you don’t have the right skills, tools, and equipment. This is why, in most cases, installing granite tiles is not a simple DIY project and will require the services of a professional.

Projects With Granite – Esp. Granite Tile Flooring

Granite can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications. In this article, we are going to focus mostly on the outdoor uses of the material in the form of tiles, but we must make a few notes about its use indoors. Granite tiles can be used for indoor flooring just as it is used for outdoor flooring. Granite can also be used for other structures in the home; perhaps the most popular are granite tile countertops. This is due in part to its resistance to heat, its strength, its durability, and its beauty. Note however that granite can stain due to its highly porous nature; thus, you will want to seal the surface with a water-based sealer to help prevent the stains from setting.

However, in this article we’ll be focusing mostly on the outdoor aspects of the material, and in particular its use in granite tile flooring. Granite can be used for many structures outside the home, including patios, walkways, walls, veneers, pool decks, garden and landscape structures, and much more. Note that you can also used granite tiles not just for flatwork (i.e. floors) but also for walls – you can use the tile for outdoor (and indoor) wall veneers to give the structure an elegant and natural look.

As with the indoor projects, you’ll want to make sure that the outdoor granite is sealed to prevent stains, especially if the granite will be used in an area that may be exposed to oils, paints, heavy dirt, etc.

Designing With Granite Tiles

One of the things you need to decide on when it comes time to deciding on your next granite project is the finish, or outward texture and appearance, of your granite. There are four main kinds. The first is polished, which is the smoothest and shiniest. Next is honed, also known as matte. It is also smooth, but it has a more complex texture than simple polished. Next come the last two, more textured varieties: flamed or brushed. These two varieties do not reflect much light at all, so they are not shiny, and they may have rougher, less elegant edges, sides, and backs.

The kind of finish you pick will depend on the project. In general, the flamed and brushed finished granite tiles are best for outdoor projects, such as walkways, benches, patios, external flooring, decks, and more. This is because they will be more slip resistant and will require less maintenance to keep up their beautiful appearance. The honed surface can also be used for indoor and outdoor flooring and sidewalks, so it can give you a good balance between smooth finish and durability. Finally, the smoothest, polished granite should be reserved for indoor applications, primarily counter tops, vanity    tops, and other three dimensional structures, though you may use these polished granite floor tiles for flooring that receives low daily traffic. Polished granite tiles are generally not recommended for bathroom flooring – this is because they will get slippery when wet, providing a significant safety hazard.

Granite tiles also come in a few shapes and sizes, but due to the hardness of the material, it is not at all easy or cheap to customize the size and shape of it. If you want something that you can modify on the fly, you’ll want to go with a softer natural stone or even concrete. Some common sizes include 12” x 12”, 16” x 16”, 18” x 18”, and 24” x 24”. Note as well that the thickness of the tile may also vary; common thicknesses include 3/8” and 1/2″.

Note that for some projects, you may have to have custom sized and shaped granite. This is possible to do, but you’ll have to work directly with a supplier or manufacturer to make it happen. You will also have to pay more for this than if you simply bought the material ‘as is.’

You’ll also have to decide on the granite colors you want to use for your project. In general, you will find colors in the range of blacks (such as black galaxy), greys, tans, blues (such as blue pearl), yellow, brown, and other natural colors. Note that getting consistent color within a pallet of granite can be challenging, as it is with any natural stone, so make sure you don’t rely on a picture only when making your color decisions, as the actual color of the material when it’s on the ground may appear very different.

Next, figure out the square footage of your project. In general, you’ll want to make sure you order plenty more above the square footage of your project, because you DO NOT want to be short in material. Getting replacement material that will match the texture and color of your granite will be very hard. You’ll also want to make sure you have plenty of granite tile edging – machine cut, smooth, or whatever – you need to finish the structure off, if this is something you need (particularly necessary for indoor projects).

One final note: don’t forget that you can get granite in other shapes than simply ‘tiles.’ One example of this different kind of material are granite pavers, described in this article on this site. Another example are granite slabs may be very useful for some outdoor and indoor installations, so consider that size as well when designing your project. Note that these slabs are much harder to work with, as they are relatively large (around 105” x 54” at the minimum) and can weigh hundreds of pounds each. Thus, this material may work best for large scale projects.

The Cost of Granite and Finding Granite Tiles for Sale

One of the biggest drawbacks of this material, as mentioned above, is its price. Granite is simply expensive, and it may not be as good of an investment as you may think or hear it to be. Granite tile prices, for just the material itself, may run you anywhere from $3 to $10 per square foot or more. The actual price will depend on the color, quality, finish, total square footage, and other factors. This price doesn’t even include the cost for shipping and installation, which could triple or more the total price per square foot. Thus, expect to pay in the neighborhood of $10 to $30 per square foot. I know this is a large range, but it’s so hard to give you an exact price given all the factors that could affect the final tally. Just know, going into your project, that you could be paying a decent chunk of change for your granite vision.

One of the main reasons for this high price is the transportation costs required to move the material from mine to factory and factory to your home. Granite is found all over the world, but you may end up ordering it from mines and factories in China, India, and Brazil. Thus, the high cost of this material is simply sunk, and lost, in these transportation costs.

Still, it may be worth it to do your homework when it comes time to find granite tile for sale. While you may not find discount granite tile, you may be able to get a cheap deal from one site for the exact same material that you find for a higher price on another. You will also want to consult your local mason supply yards and home improvement stores for local quotes, though you may find your best deals could be direct from manufacturers online. This is because shipping direct from manufacture sites will lower the cost of shipping, thus passing on the savings to you. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on Craigslist; a homeowner demolishing an old granite installation may have some material left over to sell to you for reduced cost.

You may be tempted to go with super cheap granite to save a buck, but make sure you’re not compromising on quality. Make sure that your granite is, preferably, mined without dynamite or explosives, as this may cause invisible fractures in the material that could haunt you later. Make sure the granite is cut with water cooled, not kerosene cut. Make sure the quality and standards of the granite are properly controlled and inspected. If the granite passes these tests, then go for it, but if it doesn’t, you may want to hold back even though you think you’re getting a great deal. The deal may not be so great a few years from now when the granite starts to crack, rust, and give you problems.

Installing Granite Tiles

Granite tiles are generally laid or installed according to a ‘wet’ method. Unlike concrete pavers, you cannot simply lay them and compact them together with sand between the joints. You must use mortar and/or grout to hold them to the ground and to hold them together as one unit structure. While it is possible for a homeowner to install this material him or herself, in general its best for a specialized contractor to come in and do the work. This is because the quality of the project depends so much on the quality of the installation, and you don’t want to risk the big money that you’ll be spending on the material simply to try to save a few bucks on the installation end of the process.

A Travertine Tile Guide: What You Need to Know

What is Travertine Tile?

Before we discuss the tile, we need to discuss what they are actually made of. Travertine is a natural stone – a kind of limestone, to be exact – that is formed in mineral and hot springs. It occurs when carbonates rapidly precipitate (or fall out of solution) from the water, which then deposits and builds up to form the natural travertine deposits. Travertine can be found naturally in many places, though Italy is well known for these deposits. While Italian travertine is highly sought after, you can find travertine deposits in many areas of the United States. However, note that much of the travertine in the United States is imported, not only from Italy but from South America and the Middle East. Thus, the travertine will be shipped to whatever location it is needed, and the costs for this transfer may be higher as you move farther away from a mine or deposit.

Note that the formation of this stone means that the material is relatively soft compared to other stone. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see it cracking and breaking all the time, just that it may be prone to wearing away. In addition, the surface of the travertine may change its appearance as it wears and new holes and air pockets are revealed. There are ways to prevent this from occurring, which we’ll discuss in a bit when we talk about maintenance. Still, travertine, being a natural stone, will stand up well to all that nature and humanity can throw at it, so you’ll have an indoor or outdoor installation that will stand up well to the test of time – it’ll probably outlive you and your descendents!

Uses for Travertine Tiles

Travertine has been a popular building material throughout the ages. Given its presence in Italy, the Romans made heavy use of the material for temples, statues, fountains, bath complexes, theaters,  aqueducts, and even the Colosseum!

This stone is still used today for many other buildings – all you need to do is look around and you’ll probably find it everywhere! However, you are probably not interested in building a structure with travertine – that would be quite expensive – but instead using it for flatwork.

Let’s discuss the indoor variety first, as you don’t need to limit your use of travertine building material to outside projects! One popular use for this material is as flooring. Travertine tile flooring can be used in kitchens, entrance areas, and bathrooms – travertine tile showers are especially popular. Note that travertine can also be used for other structures and fixtures in the home, but we won’t be discussing them in this article.

Travertine tile and the other forms of this material can also be used for outdoor hardscape projects such as walkways, patios, garden paths, and the like. They are also popular for pools, given that they stay cool even in the harshest sun, and they are slip resistant so you don’t have to worry about anyone falling near the pool.

Travertine Tile Colors, Shapes, and Sizes

Travertine tiles can come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes to satisfy any project demands. Sometimes you may hear to this material referred to as ‘travertine limestone’ or ‘travertine marble,’ though technically this stone is a limestone and not a marble.

The first thing to realize is that this material is naturally derived – this means that the exact colors, shapes, and textures cannot be totally controlled. Obviously, cutting, selecting, and polishing can change the appearance of the material to a point, but if you’re looking for consistency in your building material when it comes to aesthetics, you may want to settle for a ‘manufactured’ product such as concrete pavers or other paving stones.

In addition, due to the natural development of this material, and due to wear over time, travertine will usually exhibit pits and troughs in the surface. If you like the way this looks, then you don’t have to do anything – the material will still be strong as ever. But if you want a smooth look, you can have the holes in the surface of the tile filled in with grout. This is why you can buy travertine in ‘filled’ or ‘unfilled’ varieties. If you really want the material smoothed out, you can get the tile ‘polished’ for a very clean and smooth finish. If you want an ‘aged’ or ‘weathered’ look, you can also find tumbled travertine tile. More rugged stone will be in the “chiseled and brushed” category, a kind of travertine that is best for outdoor projects, while “honed and filled” stone will be smoother and less maintenance, thus perfect for indoor applications.

Travertine, since it is quarried and removed from the mine, can be cut or shaped into whatever shapes, sizes, thicknesses, etc. that you need for you project. Note that custom formed travertine will cost more than getting the ‘standard’ sizes. As for the ‘standard’ sizes, it varies, going from somewhere as small as 4” x 4” to 6” x 6”, 12” x 12”, 16” x 16”, and 18” x 18”. Other sizes and shapes will also be available, so check with your manufacturer or supplier for a full menu of options. For instance, check out the ‘travertine pavers’ that I, even as the owner of Concrete Pavers Guide, would recommend!

The natural colors for travertine generally are white, tan, cream, and other related hues. However, you can get this material in other colors as well, from everything from grey to red. Thus, note that the colors and textures of the material will vary greatly, even within the same ‘kind’ of tile. Thus, don’t 100% trust the image of the tile that you may see on a website or in a photo – what the material looks like in real life may be very different, both due to how the material looks in the photo as well as the natural variation in the stone itself. Thus, you’ll want to peruse as many travertine options available to find the variety and style that’s just right for you and your home – there is no one size fits all option!

How to Install Travertine Tile

Travertine tile installation can be a DIY paving job for many homeowners as long as you are comfortable with ‘wet’ installations – using mortar and grout, that is. For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume that you are installing travertine tile floors – installing travertine patios, walkways, or three-dimensional structures will have other requirements! At this point, we are not going to give a full discussion of how to lay travertine tile, but we can give you the basics.

First, you’ll want to make sure that the underlying foundation is sound. Make sure to remove all flooring and subflooring to reveal the surface below. You may then have to prepare the surface to be ready to hold the weight of the tiles, such as adding cement backing to the floor. You may also use special “membranes” to help keep the structure together, manage water vapor, etc.

Next, inspect all the tiles to make sure they are in good condition before you lay them down. Sketch out the layout of the tiles with chalk lines. Make sure to leave some room for the grout when you do this. You may have to cut the tiles using a wet saw in order to get them to fit into corners or fit into the pattern you’ve selected; make sure the tiles are dry before you lay them. Then, apply the thinset adhesive to the underside of the tiles and lay them in the design you’ve drawn out. Let them sit for about a day, then apply the grout in between the cracks to hold the floor together strongly. You may then want to seal the tile immediately, though you should make sure to test the sealer on a small, hidden part of the floor to make sure it doesn’t damage the surface.

A Travertine Tile Cost Estimate

The price that you’ll pay for your travertine tile will vary widely, due to many different factors. We could write a whole article about this topic alone, but for now we’ll just settle for a general discussion of travertine tile price.

In general, expect a range anywhere from $2 – $5 per square foot, though sometimes you’ll find particular varieties closer to $10 per square foot. Note that these travertine tile prices does not include two major factors: shipping and delivery costs, which can cost just as much as the material, and installation costs, which can be high, due to the fact that installing travertine tile can be a challenge, as the material can be brittle until it is put into the ground. In addition, the tile must be laid by hand in the precise travertine tile patterns that are desired by the customer. You can expect this installation to run you another $3 – $4 per square foot, though this price will depend on a ton of factors too. Thus, all told, you may be looking at anywhere from $10 to $20 per square foot for the laying of your travertine tile bathroom, shower, floor, patio, or whatever.

There is actually quite the market for travertine online, so if you are looking to buy travertine tile, especially for cheap, you may want to start there. This is especially important because you can avoid the ‘retail game,’ where you pay much more per square foot due to dealing with the ‘middleman.’ Your contractor may also help you find the material for a discount, as they may know where to find your choice of travertine tile for sale without having to go through the retail outlets.

Designing With Travertine

If you want some travertine tile design ideas, then look no further. Here are a few ideas that we’ve discovered or invented that you might find useful for your next project. Even if you don’t use them, at least it’ll get you thinking about the creative ways you can use this awesome material.

*One great aspect about travertine is that it can be used inside and outside, so why not make a seamless transition between an indoor party area and an outdoor patio, all using the same flooring?

*If you have the budget, consider mixing different kinds of natural stones, such as marble, slate, flagstone, and granite, to get the best balance of warm colors, natural, old-world charm, and beauty.

*Don’t limit your travertine tile bathroom ideas to simple floors – travertine can be used in showers, in basins, and in many other applications! This goes for the rest of your house, indoor and outdoor, as well.

*For 10 great travertine paving ideas, check out this article!

Maintenance of Travertine Tiles

Note that any natural stone will stand up well to the rigors of its environment, so constant maintenance won’t be needed. However, even a little amount of attention will go a long way in preserving the beauty, strength, and appearance of your tile. One great way to protect your stone is to get travertine tile sealer. Sealing travertine tile is almost a requirement, especially in bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor environments, due to the possibility of foreign substances hitting the ground. This will help protect the surface of the material from stains; being porous, travertine can often suck up stains very easily, making it hard to remove them. Sealer will help prevent the stain from setting deeply. This is also true about dirt – dirt can often be grinded into the surface of your travertine, especially in outdoor structures, so you’ll want to make sure the surface of your travertine is kept relatively clean. Never use acid cleaners on your project, as the acid will totally eat away and damage your travertine. (Remember, it’s made from calcium carbonates, and these don’t mix with acid at all!!)

In addition, if you are finding that your travertine is wearing away to an unacceptable degree, you can have it polished or honed to bring back the smooth finish.

Natural Stone Steps Information

One of the more interesting and elegant projects you can add to your yard, landscape, and hardscape are steps. If you have an area of your yard that is at higher grade, or a path that travels up or down a rather steep slope, you might consider adding steps to the area. And one of the best materials you can use for these new steps is natural stone.

Note that natural stone is actually a broader category that encompasses many kinds of natural stone. They all share the fact that they are quarried from the earth and cut into the shape you need. Thus, how the natural stone will look, how easy it is to work with, and the price you’ll pay for it will all depend on the specific type of stone you get, from cobblestone to flagstone and everything in between.

The Benefits of Natural Stone Steps

Natural stone offers you many benefits that other materials options, like concrete and brick pavers and regular concrete, can’t offer you. Like the other hardscaping options, natural stone is durable and strong. It will resist the weathering effects of wind, sun, and rain, and you won’t be able to crack the stone or chip it. Think about it – it’s a material that’s stood the test of time for eons, just waiting to get to your yard. You can thus be sure that your natural stone steps will have a long life, so you shouldn’t expect to have to reinstall a new set of steps again unless you want to change up your yard.

Another advantage of natural stone over its competitors is its beauty. Sure, concrete pavers can compete with natural stone in terms of the ‘ordered’ and ‘manufactured’ look, but if you want a material that captures the beauty and disorder of nature, you’ll want to go with stone.

Finally, stone can be cut and shaped into whatever forms you need it. Thus, you’ll be able to build your steps according to your own specifications. If you do like regularity, of course, you can by stone pavers that work much like their brick and concrete brethren. However, if you want a more free form and ‘natural’ looking staircase, as if it were already there in the natural world, you can also go with irregular block and slabs of stone.

Designing With Natural Stone

The main variable when it comes to designing a natural stone step, besides the dimensions (i.e. length, width, curves, size of step, thickness, etc.) is the ‘regularity’ of the project. This largely depends on the kind of stone you buy. If you buy stone that is regularly cut, almost slab or paver-like, you’ll get a ‘regular’ looking set of stoops. However, if you buy irregularly shaped stone, stone that seems to have been ripped straight from the ground with little ‘manufacturing,’ you’ll have an irregularly laid step project. There is of course a continuum as well between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular,’ and where your project sits along this continuum depends on your tastes and needs for the project.

While we can’t give you every single stone type that’s out there, we can at least point you in the direction of some popular choices. What may be available to you will depend on what’s available in your local area. Some popular stone types include: sandstone, slate, granite, limestone, chilton, bluestone, cobblestone, flagstone, and much, much more. Certain natural stone suppliers may also have ‘branded’ types of stone that are particular to that company.

Also realize, besides the different kinds of stone out there, that you can also get different kinds of stone colors and textures, even within the same ‘family’ of stones. This is why it’s important to shop around and see sample products in person. Pictures can lie sometimes, despite best efforts, so it’s always good to preview the stone in person to get a better idea of its properties.

Note that you can also get natural stone veneer and tiles that you can use to face old concrete steps and stoops. This is a great way to capture the beauty of natural stone without dealing with the heavy expense that’s usually associated with it.

Natural Stone Steps Cost

The main disadvantage of natural stone, and one that prevents most interested homeowners from pursuing the material, is its cost. Natural stone prices do vary depending on the kind of stone, but you will pay more than other options, regardless of whether you get finely cut natural stone pavers or ‘irregularly shaped’ stone. Even if you get the stone for sale, expect to pay $100 to $200 per step, or more, for materials and installation. The exact number you’ll pay will depend on the contractor you hire as well as other factors in your local environment.

Building Natural Stone Steps

While you can work with natural stone as a DIY paving project if you have the skills, most homeowners will not want to attempt to build natural stone steps themselves. Instead, they should find a contractor who can do this kind of work.

A word of caution. All hardscape projects – patios, driveways, walkways, and the like – have a certain element of ‘artistry’ involved. In other words, a good contractor is not only skilled at doing the work; he also has an eye for the artistic and aesthetic aspects of the project. This is very true when it comes to natural stone steps, as there’s an art to making your steps look ‘natural.’ So when you’re evaluating a contractor for this work, make sure you see samples of previous job’s he’s done to make sure that he will craft something beautiful and according to your expectations. While natural stone can never be boring, it can certainly be laid suboptimally.

If you want to learn more about patio steps, including how to build them yourself, follow this link.

A Definitive Driveway Paving Guide

The first thing visitors and passerbys will see when they look at your house – besides your house, of course – will be the driveway. A well designed and well installed residential driveway, made from quality materials, will accentuate the fine appearance of your home, even taking a modest home and turning it into something more. A pathetic driveway, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect – a crumbling mess can make even the nicest home look less valuable.

So, you’re probably considering a new driveway paving project, either for functional or aesthetic reasons, or perhaps both. Fortunately, and unfortunately, there are plenty of driveway paving materials available for you to choose from. Fortunately, insofar as you’ll be able to pick the perfect driveway for your home, given your budget, but unfortunately because the inexperienced homeowner may feel overwhelmed by choice. Paving a driveway is a complex affair: Which material should you use? Should you install it yourself as a DIY paving project? How do you hire a contractor? These and many other questions might be going through your mind right now. To help you out, this driveway paving guide will help you sort out the various aspects of this process, both to help answer questions you have and to better inform your ongoing research process.

A driveway is a huge investment in your home, both in your time and financial resources, so you’ll want to spend time doing your due diligence. The more research, the better. We hope that this article reveals and guides you in your quest!

BUDGETS AND COSTS

Before going further, you’ll need to sketch out your basic budget. Obviously, you’ll want to have a range, as sometimes costs can add up faster than you expect, especially if your job will require special work.

Which material is the cheapest? This is a different question from “which material is the most valuable?” You may pay more money, in absolute terms, for one material, but end up making more in the long run given the quality of the material and the potential to increase your home’s value. Thus, don’t necessarily think only in terms of sheer prices per square foot, but rather in short and long term costs and value.

If you’d like a general cost estimate to get you started, here is a general scale for price for the most common driveway materials for both materials and labor, all other things being equal: To

Stone < Asphalt < Concrete < Concrete Pavers < Brick Pavers < Natural Stone Pavers

To get a more specific estimate, you can read this article on driveway paving cost or you can find  a cost calculator for these products for a decent guide, but the only true measure will be an estimate from a local contractor.

Let’s talk about the relative merits of each material.

WHAT DO YOU WANT IN A DRIVEWAY?

After budget, the next questions you need to ask yourself are about performance and looks. First, performance – you’re going to be driving and parking on this surface, so you want to make sure it won’t break apart. Most driveway materials will have no problem standing up to this kind of abuse – as long as they’re installed in a proper manner. This is why it’s critical to find a skilled contractor – if you look for a bargain, you may get a disaster instead. Go with quality.

Next, aesthetics. This may be a very small concern of yours after the above two – paving cost and how well and long the driveway holds up – but it’s still important, especially considering you’ll be living with the driveway for many years. In general, go with the materials that have more design options – usually, these are your paving stone materials, as they come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and thus give you more freedom to create.

Depending on your project and circumstance, you may have other concerns to consider. For example, you may have environmental concerns to balance; in this case, you’d want to avoid materials like asphalt that damage the environment or any driveway material that isn’t permeable in order to allow for proper water drainage. A good material to look into in this case are grass pavers or other permeable alternatives.

DRIVEWAY PAVING MATERIALS

As stated in the cost section above, the most popular materials for your driveway include loose stone (gravel, for example), asphalt, concrete, concrete pavers, brick pavers, and natural stone pavers. The material you choose will depend on a large number of factors, not least of which is your budget. This will probably be the main determinant of your final selection. Truth be told, if you had an unlimited budget, you’d surely go for one of the pavers options, and probably with the most expensive option – one of the natural stone pavers. However, most of us need to settle with more affordable options, which is why concrete and asphalt, in particular, are so popular.

For a long discussion of the relative merits of each material, check out this discussion on the merits of stamped concrete vs pavers and a comparison of all the other materials mentioned above in terms of strength, durability, maintenance, price/value, and more. Note, however, that there also other materials out there, from paving flags and concrete slabs to macadam and block paving and everything in between. Thus, this discussion isn’t exhaustive, but it will at least highlight the most common and popular material types available.

Even if we go with these inexpensive options, we still shouldn’t settle for “cheap” necessarily. There is a big, big difference between high quality and low quality asphalt driveway paving, for example, so keep this in mind when shopping around with potential driveway paving contractors.

MAINTENANCE AND YOUR DRIVEWAY

The sticker price you pay at first installation may not be the only money you lay out over the lifetime of the driveway. Consider what maintenance costs, both in dollars and in your time, may also come with that material. It may be prudent, for example, to invest more now for a low-maintenance material (concrete) than to pay a little bit now for a material that won’t hold up as well over time and will require more maintenance and repair (e.g. asphalt).

Blacktop, for instance, will require periodic maintenance to keep it looking fine. Over time, it will fade and crack, showing the aggregate within the structure, and will thus not look as nice. To keep it looking great, you’ll probably have to get some sealcoating or resurfacing work done; if you don’t, that’s fine, but be ready to deal with a less than optimal driveway. Even paving stones will require occasional concrete paver sealer; usually homeowners will be able to go on sealing pavers themselves, so it usually is not much more of an added expense aside from the time spent working on the project.

TEN DRIVEWAY PAVING IDEAS

To finish this article, we’d like to leave you with ten design ideas and construction tips that you may want to consider when getting your new driveway. Of course, these are just suggestions, but hopefully they’ll spur your own ideas and thoughts when it comes time to craft designs and plan your own outdoor creation.

1. If you’re going with the traditional materials, like concrete or asphalt, don’t limit yourself to the standard iteration of these materials. For instance, you can get stamped concrete to look like paving stones at a fraction of the cost. You can also use stains and finishes to make your concrete look totally different from the typical drab, grey appearance.

2. Consider adding a walkway, patio, or pool deck at the same time as your driveway. You can have an integrated project while also saving more money overall if you get it all done at once.

3. Watch out for scams, especially for companies that will come in, excavate your old driveway, and leave you hanging for weeks or even months while they get other jobs in the area, all just to save them a few bucks. Read reviews, do your research – for instance, here’s some information on how to hire the best paver contractors. These questions can be asked of any contractor, as well.

4. Consider matching your new driveway with new landscaping.

5. Don’t just automatically copy the old design for your new driveway. Consider making the driveway bigger or smaller, depending on your needs, and think about the design flairs you can add, such as curves and sections.

6. You can mix and match options – if you can’t afford driveway pavers, for instance, consider mixing an asphalt or concrete driveway with a paver apron, border, or walkway. Thus, you can capture some of the beauty of this material without the full expense.

7. Don’t balk about hiring professional design services if you need the help. For a small investment up front, you can have a driveway created for your that will go best with your decor and your home’s style and theme.

8. Consider adding other flairs to your driveway, such as fans, circle kits, benches, retaining walls, and more.

9. Pick a color that complements, not necessarily matches, your home’s colors.

10. Finally, if you really need to save money but want to use a brilliant material, consider the driveway a do it yourself project. If you know how to pave a driveway yourself, and have the skills and experience and tools to do the job safely and correctly, you can save money on labor, making a job more affordable, though of course you’ll be paying some of the ‘cost’ of the driveway in your time.

The Asphalt Driveway: What You Need to Know

One of the more popular options available for paving a driveway is asphalt. These types of residential driveways are ubiquitous throughout the world due to their cheap price, durability, and relative easy of install. This article will describe what you need to know about the asphalt driveway – what it is, its benefits, its drawbacks, its prices, and what to look for when getting a driveway installed.

More information on other driveway materials, such as driveway pavers, can be found at these links.

The Benefits and Drawbacks (Pros and Cons) Of Asphalt

The major benefit of asphalt is its durability and resistance to vehicular traffic. You can park and drive on it with no problems. It is also very easy to install, as long as the company or contractor knows what they are doing, and the material is also cheap. Thus, prices for the installation of asphalt driveways are usually low, especially if you get contractors to bid against one another. The installation can be finished quickly, so you won’t have to wait for days for the project to be completed. (In theory, at least – see the ‘Scams’ section). Another benefit is that you won’t have to worry much about stains, even of oil, because they will usually blend in with the black of the asphalt. Maintenance is usually quite easy, too.

Asphalt also does well in many climates, as it can resist cracking due to cold and be flexible in hot environments due to the composition of the driveway. It is easy to remove snow from, with shovels, plows, and deicing salts, and absorbs the sunlight in the winter, helping to melt snow and ice.

There are some drawbacks to asphalt, however. Though maintenance is easy, you will still have to seal the driveway once a year, or at least get someone else to do it. While it’s not necessarily required, the proper application of asphalt sealer will help keep the driveway looking great and being strong for years to come. A little investment now could spare you the costs of replacing the driveway well before its time.

Another drawback of asphalt is that it doesn’t look as good as other driveway options. It is certainly outclassed by paving stones, and even concrete, especially if it is stamped or colored, can be more interesting to look at than asphalt. Indeed, asphalt is kind of generic, but this may not be a problem for you if you just want the job done and don’t want to invest into the looks of your home. Just know that your design options will be limited – in the patterns, shapes, and colors you’ll have (or rather lack) at your disposal. If you are looking for more flexiblity and creativity in designs, go with concrete, paving stones, natural stone, or brick pavers.

Like concrete, asphalt may crack due to freeze-thaw cycles. This is a common problem in areas with cold and wet climates, but it can happen anywhere. Whether or not this happens depends on a number of factors, including random chance, but the most important factor is the quality of the base on which the asphalt is installed. When looking for a contractor, make sure he or she knows the importance of the base, and is willing and able to put in the time necessary to prepare it properly. You may want to subcontract out that part of the work to someone who is great at preparing bases if you don’t trust your contractor’s ability to deliver on this.

Asphalt may also have issues in hot climates. If it gets too soft and too much weight is put on it, it may form ruts or dips that can be unsightly.

One other disadvantage is that you can track in oil and grime from the driveway into your home and other clean areas if you are not careful about taking off your shoes. For instance, it’s totally possible to track in seal coating into your home, especially if it’s a hot day and the asphalt is soft or just recently sealed.

If you are concerned with the environment, asphalt may not the be best choice, as chemicals and oils will leach into the ground. However, if you use recycled asphalt, you will help save the environment by using fewer fossil fuels. You’ll also save a few bucks, too!

Finally, you will not be able to install asphalt yourself unless you have the tools and experience to do so. Thus, if you are looking for a DIY driveway project, asphalt may not be the choice for you. If you do want to get asphalt done, you’ll have to hire a pavers contractor – and that comes with the obvious drawbacks of that process.

Asphalt Driveway Cost Estimate

Asphalt is usually one of the cheapest options out there, though the price will vary depending on many factors. One of these factors is the price of crude oil. Components of oil are actually important components of blacktop, so as oil increases in price, blacktop increases in price. Other factors include the size of the job, the season, your location, the contractor you hire, and the specifics of the job itself. In general, however, the cost per square foot for most driveways will range from $1 to $6. The exact cost will depend on the estimate you receive from a contractor; you may also be able to find a cost calculator as well to give you a more specific, but still rough, estimate.

If you get an old asphalt driveway resurfacing, you’ll pay much less in the short term than if you got a new driveway. However, realize that many of the flaws, like cracks, may come through the new layer, despite the contractor’s best efforts, so it may pay in many cases to get a totally new installation.

A more in depth look at the asphalt driveway cost can be found at this link.

Asphalt Driveway Maintenance and Repairs

Asphalt benefits from periodic sealing, though it is by no means required. If you want to extend the life of your driveway, or if you want to protect it from water damage, have it sealed every year or two. However, wait at least a year before sealing a new asphalt driveway. You will want to to do this when the surface turns a bit more grey and when you can see the small stones coming to the surface. If you don’t want to hire someone who specializes in sealing asphalt driveways, it is possible for you to do the work yourself as long as you follow the “how to” directions listed on the sealant product you purchase.

If your driveway does get cracked, chipped, or otherwise damage, it is possible to hire someone who does asphalt driveway repair; you can also do the work yourself, if you know how. Simple crack filler or patches might not look great, but they will look better than the unfixed alternative; they are usually relatively easy for you to DIY.

How Do These Driveways Compare to Other Materials?

What about concrete vs. an asphalt driveway? These are two of the most popular options for driveways, not counting concrete pavers and stone.

Asphalt is very similar to concrete, in that they are both a mixture of sand and stones, but asphalt is bound together with asphalt cement instead of Portland cement. Asphalt is, in a sense, “concrete asphalt,” in that it contains similar components to concrete and is bound together in a similar manner. Despite the minor differences, both are strong, and asphalt has the added bonus of being quite flexible.

Whether you pick asphalt or concrete is up to your budget, design ideas, and home style and theme. Concrete is usually slightly more expensive than asphalt, but this may not be true all the time. You’ll have more design options with concrete, even if you do pick special colored or stamped asphalt, but the installation and maintenance of your asphalt will probably be easier.

Note that asphalt and concrete are both different from a crushed asphalt driveway, also known as tar and chip or macadam. Instead of mixing the stone, sand, and binding agent before laying the driveway, the stone and sand are laid on the driveway first and then ‘sprayed’ with the cement.

A more in depth comparison of hardscape materials can be found here.

What About Asphalt Driveway Scams?

Asphalt driveway paving is big business in the home construction niche, so you’ll have no shortage of people willing to do the work for your home. However, many people report having many problems when dealing with contractors, everything from delivering substandard work to excavating an old driveway and then waiting for months to finish the job, leaving the homeowner with a dirty and dusty driveway throughout that time.

One of the main reasons this happens is that certain unscrupulous contractors will wait until they score multiple jobs in one area before laying down the asphalt. This is because asphalt must be hot in order to be laid, and it is more convenient and efficient to lay more than one driveway at a time. Thus, they will often excavate a driveway, wait for more homes, and then finish the job days, weeks, or even months later. This is why it’s so important to get reviews of contractors’ work before you commit to them. You need to make sure you are getting good value, and not getting scammed, so do your homework and ask for referrals from friends and family who’ve had good work done in the past.

When picking a contractor, the most important factor is how much attention they pay to a base. The base of the driveway should be around 8 inches of well compacted gravel or aggregate base. In addition, this base should extend farther than the actual driveway in order to give a little edging around the structure. Don’t let the contractor install the new driveway without assessing the thickness and the strength of the base – if you are getting a new driveway because the old one cracked, you’ll want to make sure you get a full checkup, even if this will cost you more in the short term.

Driveway Materials: What You Need to Know

If you’re thinking about or have decided to build a new driveway, one of the big decisions you have to make is which driveway materials to use. Your choice will impact how much you pay, its aesthetics (how it looks), maintenance required, and how long the driveway will last until you have to replace it. Thus, there are a lot of factors to juggle. Here is a brief run down of the driveway materials you may want to consider for your next project. At the end there will also be a brief discussion of some of the other material you may have to purchase or use in order to complete your driveway.

Concrete Driveways

A standard driveway material that has stood the test of time. If installed correctly, it will last a very long time, though cracking could be an issue in certain climates. Can also be colored, stained, and stamped in order to increase the aesthetic options, as the plain grey concrete can be rather boring. This is a relatively cheap material as well, though a homeowner will usually not have the skill to pour all the concrete by him or herself.

Asphalt Driveways

This is a great material for many driveways, as it will not show stains well and it will resist cracking. This is one of the most cheap driveway materials, so pick this if looks and overall durability aren’t your main focus. Do realize that you will probably have to repair, maintain, and eventually replace this project within a relatively short period of time compared to other options, especially depending on how well the project is installed.

Concrete Pavers Driveways

The benefits and advantages of concrete pavers have been explained in many places on this site. Overall, this material is a great balance between value, price, durability, beauty, and design flexibility. If you need truly permeable material, you could go with grass pavers. These are also eco friendly driveway materials, as they allow grass to grow between the honeycomb structure while also letting water easily drain through.

Natural Stone Pavers Driveways

This is a very expensive option, but perhaps the most beautiful out of the entire list. There are many different types of stone that can be used for driveways – such as cobblestone – and they bring the beauty of the natural world to the front of your home – for a price, of course.

Brick Pavers Driveways

Related to concrete pavers, these are not as strong, but they are generally a bit cheaper. They may also require a bit more maintenance. Made out of clay.

Gravel and Stone Driveways

These driveways are cheap and last forever.  There are many different types of stones you can use, from gravel to small stones like bluestone. These stones come in many sizes and colors to fit your design and aesthetic requirements. Combined with borders for the driveway, these stones can be kept relatively well contained in most cases. They require some maintenance when the stone goes astray, however, and it may not work with certain decors. Another idea is to have a plain driveway made out of recycled concrete. This is a great idea to save you money; plus, you’ll be using recycled driveway materials, so you’ll also be doing your part for the planet. The only disadvantage here is that the final product may not look great. If you just need function, though, it may be just fine for your purposes.

Macadam/Tar and Chip Driveways

This driveway type is essentially a mix between asphalt and stone driveways, as stones are poured on top of the hot asphalt. These are alternative driveway materials, as they are not as popular as the others discussed above – there’s not much information out there about this type. However, it is a very cheap kind of material, and it enjoys some benefits over its close neighbor, asphalts.

Other Necessary Materials

When installing a new driveway, there are some other materials you may have to use to complete the project. You may need fill if you need to do heavy excavation. You will need a sub base, such as one made from recycled concrete or crushed aggregate. You may also need sand in order to lay down the material, such as for concrete pavers. You may also need topsoil to fill in your landscaping once the driveway is completed in addition to flowers, trees, plants, and other landscaping necessities.

Further Considerations

Realize that there will be many factors that will affect your final decision. Besides the obvious ones (budget, looks, taste, function), there are some more subtle ones. For example, environment – if you have a lot of water in the area, you will need a driveway that drains well. Solid surfaces, like concrete and asphalt, will not drain as well as more porous ones. Do you need to use the driveway for specific purposes, like playing basketball? Will it see heavy vehicular traffic? How much time do you have to invest in maintenance? How will the chosen material affect the property value of your home? These questions and others will be important to think about when you make your final decision.

Patio Steps: What You Need to Know

If you are building a new patio out of any material, you may want to add patio steps to your creation. There are a number of places where and reasons why you will want to install these steps. Some enjoy putting them as an entrance to the home. Others like putting them as an entrance to another part of the yard, or towards a lower, pool area. Some patio steps allow movement to different areas of your backyard, perhaps to a walkway or the backyard itself, if the patio is raised above the rest of the year. Other patio steps will allow you and your family and guests to comfortably and safely enter and exit your home, especially if your doorway is high above the ground. It can also help you keep your home clean, preventing people from dragging in mud and dirt.

Whether or not you have to install steps depends on the grade of the area. If your backyard slopes, and you want to install a flat patio, you will need to install steps to get to the other areas of the house and yard. This means that you are in essence installing a raised patio.

Patio Steps Ideas

The types of materials you can use for your patio steps are many. The material you choose will depend on the height, dimensions, specifications, and requirements of your stairs. Obviously, aesthetic considerations will also come into play – you want to pick the stairs that look the best given your home style and theme.

The first decision you have to make is what material to use for your patio steps. Your decision will be affected by the material already in place for your patio, your home’s general theme and design, and your budget. One popular choice for materials is the concrete patio steps. These are quite generic, and can go with nearly any patio and decor. However, aesthetically they are a bit bland, and are more functional than anything else. Homeowners may also have trouble building such steps themselves, especially if they don’t have the skills and experience.

Another popular choice are paver patio steps. These offer more opportunities for patio steps design, as you can lay them in different patterns and in many different colors. There are also special patterns, like circles, that you can add to your steps to give them a unique flair. Paver patio steps are very durable and can withstand weather and foot traffic. They go best with concrete paver patios, but can fit with any decor as well. They are a bit more expensive than concrete, but they also can be laid by a homeowner who is committed to learning how to do it and to doing the job right.

Another option are brick patio steps. These are also quite cheap, and can be laid in many different patterns. However, they do not look as nice as concrete pavers, and there are fewer color and shape options. Thus, if you have a lot of patio steps ideas that you want to play around with, your best bet is to select paving stones for your steps.

If you have a small drop off, you may only need to lay a few brick or concrete block down to act as a mini-step. Don’t get more complex if you don’t have to!

You can also go with wooden steps. Though they are cheaper than stone steps and may look nice at first, over time they will not hold up as well as concrete, brick, and paver options. You could also purchase metal steps that you simply lay in the area you need them, though these don’t look as nice as customized options do.

There are also a number of different materials you can use to face or veneer the steps. First install concrete steps, and then you can put a number of materials on top of it, including pavers, stone, and other material.

When picking the material for your application, you will also want to consider how much maintenance you want to put into your stairs or stoop. Some materials and installations will require more maintenance than others. Wood, for instance, will need periodic sealing, where concrete and concrete pavers will not need it as much, if at all.

Consider also the weather factors and other wear and tear that may be put on the steps. If you expect to use the steps for work or to bear heavy loads, go with heavy duty materials.

Patio Steps Installation Tips

If you want to know how to build patio steps, you first need to know what the design of your area is. You need to measure out the dimensions in all three ways – length and width of the entire installation as well as each step, and the height of the entire project as well as each step. You need to figure out how big the landing will be and how big the steps will be. There are certain minimum safety requirements you will need to consider, such as the length, width, and depth of the individual steps. Most people are used to a 6 inch height for steps and a 15 inch width, so change them at your own peril – people are ‘used’ to walking up and down steps a certain way, so don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Then, you need to determine what material you will use for the steps, some of which are detailed above.

If you have DIY experience, you can install the steps or stoop yourself. However, you may find it necessary to contract some or all of this project, as installing steps can be tricky. You can easily combine this project into another project, such as a patio, walkway, pool deck, or other application to save money and time.

Most installations will require poured concrete regardless of the surface or veneer material. Many will also require the use of mortar to keep the bricks together. If you have no experience with these materials, don’t mess around with stoops. Since many people will be walking on them, and safety will be a primary consideration, don’t skimp on this.

Keep in mind that you may also have to install hand rails if the height of your steps is big enough. This will prevent people from falling if the steps are obstructed or slippery. There may also be other codes and regulations that you need to follow, so it may pay to consult with a contractor or other professional to find out before attempting any installation yourself.

Grass Pavers: What You Need to Know

Original photo here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmr/3485316730/sizes/m/in/photostream/

The installation of a grass paver driveway.

If you have an area that requires detailed water management and drainage, needs to withstand heavy traffic and abuse, and doesn’t need to be aesthetically exquisite, grass pavers (also known as turf pavers, pervious pavers, and porous pavers) may be the best choice for you. The grass paver  differs from concrete pavers in that they are hollow and “grid-like,” as you can see in the picture to the right.

There are many different uses, both residential and commercial, for turf paving stones. They have been most commonly used in commercial applications, particularly in places where lots of driving and parking occurs. However, they have also recently gained in popularity for uses in the home. At home, these pavers can be used for driveways, walkways, garden applications, landscaping projects, patios, and many other ideas. Commercially, grass pavers can be used anywhere high vehicular traffic can be expected, such as parking lots or construction sites, or anywhere soil or grass erosion can occur. Other common uses include:

  • trails
  • emergency access paths
  • golf cart paths
  • sewer access roads
  • barn flooring
  • drainage channels
  • parking lots
  • and more.

For those with environmental concerns, grass pavers are one of the best ‘green’ options out there.

The Benefits of Grass Pavers

Grass pavers are primarily used in areas where soil erosion or water drainage is of paramount concern. For example, grass driveway pavers help stabilize the soil in an area where lots of vehicular traffic may unsettle and damage it. Water can also drain easily in between these paving stones, putting less pressure on water draining systems that would otherwise have to accept all of this rainwater running down grade. This can help with containing and controlling water pollution, as runoff from asphalt driveways can be very polluting due to all the chemical it carries. Grass pavers, however, allow water to drain free and clear, and thus represent an environmentally friendly driveway and paving solution.

Another example of where this material may be used is where there is a hill, slope, or other slight grade that might run off or erode due to wind, rain, or other inclement weather or abusive forces. Grass pavers keep the area secure and stable while also providing a sleek look.

A final example is any area that is flooded often. Normal paving options – concrete, asphalt, or even concrete pavers – do not drain water as well as regular ground, as the water will often slide down the grade. However, turf pavers provide both the strength and durability of concrete pavers with the drainage capability of grass or soil – a useful combination for some applications.

Another benefit of these permeable pavers is how they support and protect the grass roots system. Constant driving and parking on the grass can easily tear it apart and damage it beyond repair. This can look ugly and require work to replace if you ever want to have grass in the area again. Well-installed grass pavers will help protect this grass and prevent major damage due to ruts and tears caused by moving wheels.

Different Kinds of Grass Pavers

Grass pavers are made out of many materials depending on the needs of the project. One common option is concrete, much like standard paving stones. Another choice is plastic; this is often used for applications that don’t need as much strength and need more subtlety instead (i.e. so they can’t be seen as easily by the naked eye). Plastic grass pavers are often used for areas like backyards that need the soil protection and water management but not the strength intended for vehicular applications. These “lawn pavers” actually leave more space for the grass in between the plastic, letting you get the benefits of the permeable paving system without the robust quality of the concrete variety.

Grass Turf Pavers and Design

Grass pavers, because they are functional, do not focus much on looks, so you won’t find much variety in color, shapes, or sizes as you will with other concrete paving stones. If looks are a concern to you, you may want to look elsewhere, though there is certainly something to be said for the simplicity and utility of these grass paving stones. However, some people do enjoy the natural ‘grassy’ look of these pavers, especially as the grass grows over time. It can also help you blend in different areas of your yard regardless of whether or not you park on those areas – instead of installing a concrete or stone driveway to accommodate extra parking, for example, install grass pavers and you won’t have to have a jarring concrete blob on your property.

Installation of Grass Pavers

Luckily, installing grassy pavers is quite easy compared to other options, and can often be completed by the homeowner. You should still consult your local contractor or paver manufacturer for assistance with your particular project. Maintenance is also easy, and you can often still mow the areas where these pavers are installed to keep the grass in check. Overall, grass pavers are often the most environmentally conscious and functionally effective paving material you can purchase.

The concrete grass pavers ‘honeycomb’ is laid first on a graded, properly excavated area. Even though it drains well, it should still have a slight grade away from the home to ensure that the water doesn’t pool or flood. Depending on the volume of water you expect, you may have to install a drainage system and catch basin to help channel the water to where you want it to go. The base will want to be made up of 3/4 to 1″ of gravel or crushed aggregate. You’ll want to compact this surface.

If the grass pavers are the concrete variety, they are laid much like concrete pavers are – by hand, one by one, in the pattern and shape as needed. Plastic grass pavers may be laid in the same fashion, or they may come in a roll (such as EZ Roll), in which case they are ‘unrolled’ around the area as necessary.

Next, sand or aggregate is spread over the system. This material helps keep the grass pavers in place and keeps them strong while also allowing for proper drainage of water. Next, the grass paver blocks are then filled with a top layer of topsoil to allow for grass to grow; however, more aggregate or stones can be used instead of grass isn’t desired given the desired look of the installation. Then, grass may be planted in the area, if desired. You can also roll sod over the top of the pavers as well. Eventually, the grass will grow between the pavers, creating a mixed grass/concrete look that is also quite permeable and durable. (Or, simple stone or sand will fill in the hollow grass pavers network.)

After the paving system is installed, homeowners should check on it over the next few months to make sure water is draining properly and that there are no problems with the installation. After everything checks out, normal lawn and grass maintenance may go on as if the paving system weren’t in place.

Grass Pavers Cost

Best of all, the grass pavers cost is quite low compared to other paving options, and will depend on the usual factors (location, size, complexity, etc.). You can expect to pay somewhere around $2.00 a square foot. For plastic rolls, you can pay anywhere around $250-$300 per 4′ x 24′ roll – this translates into about $2.50 to $3.00 per foot. Installation may be extra for both of these depending on the project. All in all, you’ll probably pay more for grass pavers installation than for other materials options like concrete, asphalt, and the like. Note that you can save money on these projects by finding the material for sale or by laying it yourself – it is definitely a possible DIY project, within the skill of many homeowners.

Garden Pavers – Add Beauty and Functionality

Of the many possible applications for paving stones, garden pavers are among the most interesting, due to the potential stylistic and thematic connections between the many paver sizes, shapes, colors, and designs of paving stones and the garden’s inhabitants and style that you’ve already set up. Garden paving stones can complement many gardens in aesthetic design while also increasing the functionality of the garden, either by providing walking spaces or by protecting the valuable plants inside it.

Garden paving slabs and stone are essentially equivalent to that used for other projects – driveways, walkways, pool decks, and the like. The only difference is in its functionality in the garden itself. The walkway, patio, or garden edging pavers both contribute to and are affected by the design of the garden. Using outdoor pavers not only can protect and beautify the fruits of your hobby, but they can also increase your enjoyment of the home itself, as well as represent a financial investment since the brick, if installed correctly, can increase the property value of your home.

Reasons to Use Garden Paving Stones

Note that there are many kinds of garden paving stones available; each has its own pros and cons. The three main categories of pavers include brick, concrete, and natural stone; a comparison of these materials has been made elsewhere on this site, in particular in the comparison of stamped concrete vs pavers and other paving materials. The major difference you’ll see, aside from looks, is price – landscaping with stone, like cobblestone for instance, will be much more expensive than using manufactured options like concrete.

Pavers, as discussed elsewhere, are strong and durable. You won’t have to reinstall them for many decades as long as they are properly installed. They will stand up to the rigors of their environment, especially if this includes close contact to soil and gardening chemicals.

One advantage of pavers that is important for garden applications  is the balance they strike between smoothness and roughness. They are not too rough as to be uncomfortable if one walks on them with bare feet but they are also not too rough as to be worn down by the elements. Their roughness also makes them less slippery when wet – an important feature if they are installed around pools or gardens. On the other hand, many concrete paver brands retain their smooth finish over time, keeping them beautiful and new looking for many years.

Another good reason to install these pavers is if you park your car, machine, or other equipment in the garden area. Driving and parking over grass and dirt will eventually create a messy area, one that could clash with the beauty of your garden. There are many dedicated grass pavers that are subtle, environmentally friendly, permeable to water, and durable to stand up against any kind of traffic. If you have a high traffic garden (in terms of feet or wheels) you may benefit from installing these kinds of pavers in addition to the typical walkways, borders, and the like.

Garden Design Ideas with Paving Stones

Image labeled for reuse - found on http://www.wickedlocal.com/franklin/fun/gardening/x1194167052/Home-Help-Add-curb-appeal-to-your-home?img=2 through Google image search.As stated above, garden pavers can be used for many applications in your hardscape and landscape. One potential application for these pavers, and perhaps the simplest, is their use as garden edging. These borders made from landscape pavers can  delineate and protect the boundaries of your garden. This will prevent people (or animals) from walking through fresh planted gardens. In addition, the pavers can be used to mark off particular sections of the garden – and the color and style you choose for each section can nicely complement each section as you see fit. Functionally, the garden edging  can prevent dirt and mud from escaping from the flower bed and mucking up your patio or walkway (or your yard or garden itself).

Aside from simple edging, you can mark off the boundaries of your garden by installing  walkways to mark off the garden and provide a place for visitors to walk; another strategy is to install walls or retaining walls if a more heavy duty solution is needed, or if a wall would fit better with the theme you are trying to create in your yard. You can thus use these walls as part of your garden fencing ideas – if you need to keep people or critters out of your garden, you can use beautiful and regal walls instead of or in addition to the normal fences you might use. You can use the same garden brick for flat projects (walkways and patios) as you can for walls, so you won’t have to worry about mixing and matching brands.

Of course, your garden edging ideas don’t simply have to be purely functional – don’t forget about the aesthetics of your garden as well as the experiences it can provide to you and your guests. If you have a large garden, installing a walkway or patio can help you create a special garden space, through which you, your friends, and family can travel or simply relax. Your garden can thus be more than functional, but also aesthetic – you can create a space for contemplation, relaxation, or conversation with the judicious use of a garden pavers walkway or patio. You could also create a central space in your garden to hold parties or bar-b-ques. The only limit is your imagination.

Don’t forget that there are other paving options at your disposal besides pavers. You can also use stepping stones to fulfill many of these functions; garden stones are cheap and easy to install, so they make a great DIY project if you want to lay down a hardscape quickly. You may also find rubber pavers that may be of benefit to certain garden applications.

Note that all decisions should be made in concert with professional landscapers and gardeners who may be able to give you additional backyard landscaping ideas in addition to those you’ve read here or thought of yourself. The more eyes and ideas that come into a project, the better the project will turn out – as long as you have the funds to pay for these services, of course.

Laying Garden Pavers  – DIY or Contractors

Overall, installing pavers, either in a small or large project, may be a great addition to your home and garden. If you are installing the concrete pavers yourself, make sure you follow the directions, and pay special attention to the problems of grading, as you want to make sure water leaves the garden area in the right ways – you don’t want any flooding to wash away all your hard work. If you’re having a contractor install them, make sure he or she knows the specific needs for garden pavers installation, and that they have experience in that particular application. Note that the cost for installing these paving stones will be similar to what you’d pay for any hardscape project, like walkways, driveways, and the like, though you may have to pay more if you need to protect your delicate creations during the process, as this will require more effort and time. You can also lower the overall price you’ll pay for the installation if you lay the material yourself; you can also save money if you find cheap pavers for sale, a subject that is discussed in that link.

Retaining Wall Pavers: What You Need to Know

One great use for paving stones is to build a paver retaining wall. They are used primarily for landscaping in both residential and commercial applications. They have two primary functions. First, they serve an aesthetic end for home gardens and other landscaping and hardscaping projects. A paver patio retaining wall combined with a patio is a great way to mark off an area for friends and family to relax and enjoy. The second use is entirely functional and perhaps the most important reason: it protects dirt or fill from falling down slopes, especially during rain, and generally handles water drainage down slopes. Well-placed paver retaining walls can protect a patio, garden, or other installation from a dirty mudslide. Like all paving stone installations, walls last for many decades – even up to 100 years – though this depends on local conditions.

Walls can be very tricky to install. While we give you some basic ideas below on how to install retaining wall systems, in general it’s best to leave this work to a competent professional, especially for high walls or for walls near sensitive areas.

Retaining Wall Options and Paver Designs

While there are many different materials that can be used for retaining walls, pavers retaining walls are becoming a popular option due to the variety of designs options and general ease of installation. Retaining wall pavers are available in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. You can use the same concrete pavers and paver colors for different projects around your yard, ensuring that there will be harmony and order around your yard.

If you purchase the retaining wall systems, they are also quite easy to install, as they are often just paving blocks that need to be stacked together. Each brick in the set will have a specific purpose and can be installed more easily than having to use mortar to hold everything together. They are ‘interlocking’ just as interlocking pavers are in flatwork.

When planning your paver retaining wall, determine its height first, as the height of the wall will have implications for the design and materials required. You may have to use fabric to manage water flows and other details of the installation, such as the stability of the soil. If you want to build a very tall retaining wall, a number of factors come into play, such as the stability of the soil, the slope, water content, etc. As with all projects, consulting with a contractor or paver manufacturer may be a good bet. This is especially true with retaining walls – these structures can be finicky, so you want to make sure to get it right. In addition, walls are often subject to particular rules and regulations of your local area. For instance, walls of certain heights must be designed and approved by an engineer before they are installed. Make sure to check with all the regulations of your local area before you proceed – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Like with other paving stone applications, retaining wall pavers can be laid in many different layouts and patterns. The pattern you select will depend on your tastes, your home’s theme, and any other paver installations nearby. One type of pattern is the “random” or “mosaic” layout. This layout features paving stones of different sizes, creating a natural, handcrafted look. Another pattern is the running bond pattern. In this patter, half of each retaining wall paver covers half of the one before it. One other pattern is the coursed pattern. In this layout, the brick are just laid out in simple rows.

Installing Paver Retaining Walls

Installing a paver retaining wall will be easier if you use segmented brick. These brick fit together easily and stay together. When designing your wall, you may be able to add in curves depending on the particular layout and design of your setup. Before you install the brick, you need to dig a trench to the appropriate depth and width. The general rule is that the trench should be one inch deep for every eight inches of total height of the structure. You will need to add 5-7 inches to this depth for the aggregate base and sand. After digging the trench, make sure to compact the soil. Then add 4-6 inches of aggregate base and compact. Finally, pour a 1 inch bed of coarse sand. You will then need to compact one final time. Make sure the base is secure.

Next lay the first course of brick, making sure to keep them straight. Backfill before moving on to the next course, and backfill more after each row is completed. Finally, put caps on the wall to put the final aesthetic and functional touch to your new retaining wall.

All retaining walls should be filled in with backfill. About one foot of the backfill should be course stone; the rest can be fill. In addition, the wall should be slightly sloped into the backfill. This will increase the stability of the unit. Geogrid or other fabric may be needed for certain installations. You may also need to install drainage behind the wall to prevent any disasters. Consult with a professional if you have no experience in this area.

Though this is some basic advice, you can still use it to install a wall if you are comfortable and familiar with the work. In general, though, stick with a licensed and insured contractor to make sure the job is done right the first time.

Retaining Wall Pavers Cost

The price you will have to pay for your retaining wall will vary due to a large number of factors, many of which are discussed here in this article about pavers cost. Obviously, the price you’ll pay will depend on the dimensions of the wall, but expect to pay in the low to mid 4-figures for the most standard and typical walls. (This is for labor and materials.)

Pairing Walls With Other Structures

One of the best things to do for your new outdoor project is to pair your retaining wall with other flat hardscape structures. For instance, a new patio with new walls is a great addition to any backyard. Installing walls around a pool deck is also a great idea. Most of the time, retaining walls will be installed for structural reasons. This can happen especially when you install a new hardscape or landscape project in your yard – the new structure may necessitate your installation of a new wall. Landscape pavers or garden pavers also benefit from the addition of a wall made from the same pavers. A good contractor will let you know when you will have to install a new retaining wall – some will avoid giving you this ‘bad news’ because they don’t want to scare you away from their bid. However, you may ‘pay’ for this down the line when there is a massive and messy failure in your yard. Thus, it pays to pay up front to help avoid disaster.