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Garden Surfaces: Decking, Paving...

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 24 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Garden Surfaces Choosing Garden Surfaces

One of the key things to remember is that if you’re a keen gardener and/or like to spend a lot of time in your garden, you’re going to need to take into account safety when it comes to laying a suitable surface as you won’t want to trip or fall.

You can choose from a vast array of materials for the surface of your garden and you may also want to combine different surfaces for different areas within it. For example, if you use a heavy wheelbarrow a lot, you’ll want to have a more sturdy and durable surface for the areas in the garden in which you intend to use it.

Cost will also be a major consideration, along with any associated labour costs in installation if you need to source external help from a professional tradesman. You’ll also want to ensure that the surfaces you choose blend in with the other natural surroundings which are in keeping with your garden’s style and overall aesthetic appeal. Then there is the time factor. Some surfaces take longer to lay and to bed down until they can be used. Others cannot be laid when the weather’s bad so if time and cost is an issue, particular with regards to labour costs, it might be worth factoring delays in which are likely to cost you even more money.

Different Types of Surfaces

Concrete often forms the basis of a number of garden surfaces. It’s firm, long-lasting and is very flexible to work with in that it can be moulded into many different shapes. It’s durable and needs very little maintenance. It’s one of the better surfaces if you need to get around the garden quickly and comes in many different colours to enable you to match it to the surrounding environment.

On the downside, it can’t be laid when the weather’s rainy or wet or when there is an extremely cold spell. It can be very messy to work with and, if you have a large area to cover, it can be quite labour intensive. It can also be very slick when wet, and people have suffered injuries from falls as a result.

Tarmac (asphalt) is also very durable and is a better alternative to concrete when it’s been raining as your grip is much better and you can also lay it in the rain. Unlike concrete paving slabs, it must be carefully laid at the correct thickness or it can disintegrate quickly.

A couple of major problems caused by tarmac is that it can be broken up if weeds or tree roots rear their ugly head and damage can often be caused by frost too. It also can become quite tacky or sticky in extreme hot weather which may cause problems with footwear.

Brick

Bricks come in all shapes and sizes and all varieties of colours so they are highly versatile in terms of aesthetic appeal and choosing surfacing that ‘fits in’ with the surroundings. They’re also easy and quick to lay and good for delineating contrasts in terms of patterns, different gradients etc. They also safe to walk on in all types of weather if they’ve been laid well in the first place.

However, you need to be careful when choosing the right kinds of brick. Some are cheap and not really suitable for garden areas. Cheap varieties can also let water through causing subsidence and/or bad drainage and others can be affected by frost. If they’re not laid correctly, you’re more likely to attract moss and weeds than with larger concrete paving slabs.

Paving also comes in many different colours and varieties which are great if you are creative as they make for imaginative design possibilities. Well-laid paving is also safe to walk on when wet and if you need to re-lay any sections later, it is easier to take up than some other materials.

It’s not as durable as concrete however and can break up more easily if heavy loads are carried over it. Weeds can also be more of a problem and if you buy cheap paving, the surface can be slippery, especially over time.

Wood, gravel, cobbles and bark are other surface materials which are often used in gardens. Wood is often used for patio decking these days as well as being used in the design of garden furniture. Blending in with the natural environment of trees, the use of wood in garden design is very attractive but it does have a short life span and needs to be regularly treated. Both gravel and wood surfaces around the garden are often a good deterrent to burglars as neither is easy to walk on quietly and some people choose them purely for that reason.

Gravel is ideal for drainage and it doesn’t get slippery but it’s usually uneven so might be treacherous for people who have walking difficulties. Cobbles have a rough, rustic appeal and can really enhance a garden, for example, set out near a pond or to use as edgings along a path. However, if used as a surface area to be walked on directly, they can be extremely slippery so are not suitable for disabled people or to be used other than decoration if you have small children. Bark has a lot of appeal as a garden surface, especially in a rural or country setting but it needs to be replaced regularly so it can be quite costly and needs higher maintenance.

Ultimately, your decision surrounding which surfaces to use in your garden will relate to your own personal tastes and the mood which you’re trying to create alongside issues such as cost, mobility for those who are going to use it and whether or not the surface blends in to complement the rest of the surroundings.

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