Outdoor Living From the Ground Up

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Bucks Country Gardens

Outdoor LivingIn today’s world, the variety of products available for the flooring of your outdoor room is quite extensive. Even with the vast choices available, they can be divided into several categories. Today, the most commonly used materials are clay brick pavers, concrete pavers, natural bluestone, stamped concrete and composite decking. How do you decide which product is right for you?

Clay brick pavers are a traditional material which has been around for centuries and continues to be a mainstay in the modern outdoor living environment. They hold up very well to heavy foot traffic as well as severe temperature and weather conditions. The standard paver size is 4” x 8”, therefore, the patterns can be somewhat limited: the most common are herringbone, basket weave and running bond. There are variations in color and textures, but most brick pavers are produced in red hues which makes them a great choice for historic properties. Installation is available in either dry or wet laid applications.

Concrete PaversConcrete Pavers
The appearance of concrete pavers are similar to their clay counter parts, however they have some very distinct differences. Due to the fact that they are made from concrete, the variations in size and shape is virtually unlimited. The range of colors is very diverse as well, with each manufacturer offering many options. Other differences include texture and finish–from very smooth with sharp edges to tumbled pavers with a soft, worn or aged appearance. This product can be up to 50% more expensive then clay pavers, however, the standards in the production process are well worth the added expense. Concrete pavers are almost always dry laid, allowing for the movement of freeze and thaw without creating the cracking often seen in traditional concrete installations. Minor repairs can be made easily, but tiny joints can also be home to weeds, especially in shady damp areas. Periodic applications of herbicides will keep concrete paver installations looking its best.

StampedConcreteCir2Stamped Concrete
For those looking for a less expensive alternative, stamped concrete will fit the bill. With advances in technology and methodology, stamped concrete has come a long way in the past few decades. It is available in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes–from grays and blues to mimic the look of bluestone, to browns and tans that look like irregular flagstone, to reds for the brick-like look. By simply pressing large rubber stamps into lightly cured concrete, any number of patterns such as squares, circles, irregular joints, can easily be created. Stamped concrete will last as well as any paving option provide it has a good base, regular expansion joints and a regular surface sealing. Installations should always be performed by an experienced stamped concrete installer.

Composite DeckingComposite Decking
Composite decking has all but replaced the pressure treated pine decks of yesterday. Today, there are more then 60 brands of composite decking, each with its own style, color and pattern. Most of these materials are made from a combination of recycled plastic and wood shavings. The strict standards in manufacturing make installing composite decks a snap–sometimes, quite literally. However, the manufacturing process also makes this product much more expensive than standard pressure-treated decking. In addition, decking also requires a building permit from your local municipality. But when your outdoor living space is off the ground, there may be no other choice. As far as maintenance goes, a tip from Orkin Termite Control Services is that it can’t get any easier–simply wash your deck with a hose from time to time and forget about termites and splinters.

PA BluestonePennsylvania Bluestone
Natural Pennsylvania bluestone is a great choice in Bucks County because of its rich farming heritage. The natural stone blends perfectly with most building stones and is a wonderful complement to the traditional Bucks County farmhouse. But this material is not just for older homes–it works well almost anywhere the feel and look of natural beauty is required. Pennsylvania bluestone is commonly available in combinations of blue/blue, random blue/grey/rust, and lilac purple/red. Because it is a natural product, there will be variations in color from piece to piece, regardless of the color choice. Bluestone is available in standard sizes of rectangular cut stones from 12” x 12” to 24” x 36”. Irregular bluestone are random in size and shape and provides a natural look. Both styles of bluestone can be installed either dry or wet laid and are more costly than clay or concrete paver bricks.

Hardscaping
Choosing from all of these options commonly comes down to two factors: appearance and cost. There are, however, existing conditions that often lead to choosing one product over another. And when there aren’t any, cost may still play a back seat. Sometimes it simply comes down to personal preference. A good landscape designer will help you identify yours.

Originally published in the Landscape Issue of Picket Fences.
Greg Hebel
Landscape Design & Sales