Paving and paths provide pleasing definition and give access into your garden, but Kya deLongchamps says you must plan it carefully, or get professional help.

Hard paving and path materials can transform your experience of your garden. 

Adding visual texture, giving access to all areas, and improving the aesthetics of landscaping — the cost can fit all budgets and can be lessened by a little hard graft where possible.

Complement any existing stonework on or around your home, especially the colour of the quarried stone particular to your area. 

Even taking one dominant tone from say the lichen blooming on your sandstone walls, or a thread of quartz in your limestone can be incorporated in your new hard landscaping in silvers and golden buffs. 

Slop a little water on potential paving to see how it look when wet (it might rain sometime — this is Ireland) and off you go.

Concrete choice

Limestone has a timeless beauty and works well with raw concrete and wood.
Limestone has a timeless beauty and works well with raw concrete and wood.

Concrete in its many aggregate forms has long been an affordable contender, and with a growing, new respect for this honest stone porridge, everyone can enjoy patio pleasures of some sort (from €15 per m²). 

Durable, cheap, pressed concrete can be stamped, tinted and cast in infinite ways for edging, pavers, and highly convincing stone styles.

Wet cast from real stone slabs, the random feel of cut quarried stone is highly convincing and when weathered up, it’s difficult to say where stone ends and concrete starts. 

Mixed and poured, concrete paving has a pleasing uniformity of colour, size and depth, ideal for the amateur gardener.

Concrete block driveways are a complex, intricate job — hire a reputable professional unless you’re simply tracing some horticultural pedestrian paths, or attempting low walling. 

Try concrete paving stones mixed through traditional brick for raised beds and paths. Diarmuid Gavin’s Oakstone is a terrific alternative to the traditional oak planked path. www.kilsaran.ie 

Stone me

For a largely unaltered, naturally derived patio and/or paving, Chinese and Indian sandstone is handsome with beautiful striations of colour and it’s very safe underfoot. 

Mix up your colours and sizing for a random, casual finish or choose one colour and slab size for more formality.

An expanse of patio will require careful drainage, bed preparation and grouting for a safe surface. Seal with a brush-on product formulated to fight algae growth to cut down on maintenance. 

From approx €50 per m² ex-installation. Sawn black basalt with a flamed textured top is more expensive, but gorgeous for contemporary gardens in setts, aggregates and pavers.

In a mesmerising blue black, Irish limestone and granite weathers better than imported South European varieties. 

Its colour deepens and fascinates in the rain, and many gardeners treasure weathered-down, stone finishes — mossy and enticing. The most expensive of the lot, Kilkenny limestone starts from €35 m². Price depends on quantity and distance, and your supplier.

Working with reclaimed stone, damage and disparity in depth and finish can add to work and wastage, so get a finished price for the material you choose before work starts. 

Broken paving is an old cottage garden favourite and material can be picked up cheap, or even free, if you’re prepared to hunt around. Installation for granite, limestone is usually €25 per m².

Fencing can be made up in lots of different shapes - here wide gaps allow a glimpse of the interior to add interest.
Fencing can be made up in lots of different shapes - here wide gaps allow a glimpse of the interior to add interest.

Brick Basics

Brick paving can lend itself to a sepia-toned rustic idyll leading the eye into herbaceous borders. 

It’s a strong, relatively dark colour, so keep in mind the hue of the house and surroundings, and consider lighter buff choices to bounce light around a duller, darker aspect on the north side of the house.

If you have a mind to DIY, try a simple brick path laid well to avoid any tripping hazards. Soft joints can help improve drainage in a wetter garden. The hardest job will be lifting the turf and getting the bedding for the path correct.

Any good DIY landscape gardening website, Youtube or book can show you the basics. Be awared, however, that brick paths are treacherous with ice and that needs to be factored into areas used by older or youger person.

Fired clay blocks 50-60mm thick, can handle the most undulating driveway with ease, and systems will include permeable drainage elements to leech rainwater swiftly away.

From €30 per m² without rain water inclusions. Single reclaimed English brick for paving and wall cladding from €1.

Paths less travelled

Porcelain with a good key in a thick baked tile coloured-through, is immensely strong, frost-proof and completely fade-resistant.

It’s now a common choice where large-scale tiling is run out from an open plan area, usually a kitchen-diner, onto a terrace or patio.

If you are setting this tile on a concrete base, choose 40cm-60cm tiles or larger, (up to 120-150mm is more fashionable right now,) and use tile grouting in a matching colour rather than roughty-toughty standard exterior mortar.

Common practice is to rectify these exterior porcelains with closely-meeting seams. Appropriate exterior grade cemented down porcelain from 1cm depths can be used inside to out if you’re renovating or extending.

New products, including the 2cm thick collection from tiles.ie, can be laid straight down on a sand base or used as a floating set, on specialised pedestal supports, to accommodate lighting and drainage parts, www.tiles.ie 

Porcelain requires no sealing finish, prices from €30 upwards for 43.6cm square tiles ex installation for setting on a concrete base.

Fancy gravel?

This gorgeous green limestone comes from www.naturalstoneireland.ie
This gorgeous green limestone comes from www.naturalstoneireland.ie

Look for ‘self-binding’, angular gravel of 10mm or less. These products with their sharper edges lock together rather than sliding away from the foot. 

Dedicated carpeting, edging and boards can further frame its fluid nature into position, and decorative gravels make a beautiful infill with other paving materials. (See pic right)

Best of all — use a gravel stabilisation element before you start. This clever, honeycomb sheeting in planstic is designed to disappear beneath its stoney load, but will hold is tight in place, for years. 

Using steps arrested with environmentally-friendly timber sleepers, you can also walk a gravel path down an incline. 

Be prepared to top up any loose bedding every few years and get some sort of weed barrier in place from the get-go. Prices from €8-€10 for 25kg bags of slate, pebbles, quartz and flint. Gravel is approx €300 per tonne for large areas.

Hard Landscape: DIY or Don’t?

To create curves, use a rubber hosepipe to trace out a line, then spray with a commercial ground marker.
To create curves, use a rubber hosepipe to trace out a line, then spray with a commercial ground marker.

  • Think of the weight and complexity of the materials you are considering. Reclaimed materials create more wastage, can be off-standard, and vary in depth. Large slabs may require cutting with a diamond edge. Take advice, work in slow stages, or bring in a professional. Keep drainage at the front of your mind and, having measured up, buy 10% more than you need in slabs, brick or block.

  • The layer you put your stone, block or brick paving on, is crucial to its success. For ultimate support a cement or water in sand/cement mix is recommended. Hardcore topped by sand is suited to most garden paths with regular foot traffic and barrows.

  • If you want to try walling, keep it low — attempt a raised bed a few bricks high. Ensure you understand the foundation needed for the load, and be obsessive with that level. Dry stone walls without mortar should be kept low, as an amateur effort may collapse. Have a look at the Bricky tool if you are determined on mortar and pointing, €40, wwwbricky.com 

  • Use boards set on edge to guide your path sizing. To go around corners or to create curves, use a rubber hose pipe to find a line, and spray with a commercial ground marking product. Take off the top 10-15cm of soil and make the path wide enough to take a barrow and even a wheelchair to allow the whole family to enjoy the results.

  • Changes in level can be dangerous tripping hazards. After taking the turf off with a spade, dig it out to the point it can take your hardcore, sand or cement mix plus the paving material remaining level with adjacent lawn. A top screed, raked with a board is useful for getting a good level for slabs.

  • If you like a gravel path, use crushed stone and edge with timber planks, concrete edging or a plastic paving product to stop it creeping into beds and on to lawns.

  • Have gravel or any material over a half ton delivered, even if you have a car trailer. The closer they can get the truck to the job, the better, as the lorry can spread as it drops. After that, it’s up to you, a shovel, and a rake. Happy gravelling!


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