Inherently permanent and difficult to "do-it-yourself," a concrete slab patio isn't for everyone. Alternatives to concrete patios include paving materials that are affordable and accessible to novice builders. The installation of many popular and attractive patio floor materials requires only dry materials, hand tools and beginner-level building skills. Learn about the aesthetic and practical characteristics of alternative patio flooring materials and you can choose the right one for your project.
Whereas standard building bricks often have core-fill holes, paving bricks are solid. To create bricks, manufacturers mix clay and sedimentary rock, form the mixture into bricks, dry the bricks and subsequently bake, or "fire," the bricks. Brick shapes vary from the traditional, rectangular profile to specially designed, interlocking units. Depending on the variety and origin of the clay, clay brick colours range from earth tones to greens. Surface treatments allow manufacturers to add aesthetic effects, such as intentional "weathering" to achieve an aged look. Clay bricks may be installed with or without mortar and directly over a simple base of sand.
The generic term "patio pavers" refers to cement-based paving blocks. Made from a mixture of cement and aggregate, manufacturers pour the paver mixture into prefabricated forms and allow the mixture to harden or "cure." Cement pigments allow manufacturers to offer cement pavers in a nearly endless variety of colours. Patio pavers commonly use earth tones and rounded edges and corners to imitate the appearance of cobblestones. Patio pavers install directly over a base of coarse aggregate and sand, with or without mortar.
Building materials suppliers generally refer to natural stone paving materials by their cut, not the type of stone. Flagstone refers to thin slabs of natural stone with either a square edge or natural, random shape. The term "Belgian block" usually refers to natural stone cut into the shape of a standard clay brick, and "ashlar" denotes natural stone cut into square blocks or alternative geometric shapes. The types of stone used to create patio paving materials range from slate and limestone to granite and marble. Builders often install natural stones over a dry base of aggregate and sand and fill joints with either sand or mortar. Natural stone materials are generally more expensive than cement or clay products.
Manufacturers melt and mould recycled glass into individual paving blocks to create a building material that is figuratively and often literally "green." Glass pavers appear as both translucent, solid glass units or terrazzo-like mixtures of recycled glass and binders. Manufacturers typically shape recycled glass pavers into square or rectangular shapes. Glass pavers may be used to construct an entire patio floor or simply scattered throughout an installation as accent tiles.