In-ground patios and pathways have become an essential part of any residential landscape. Backyards, in particular, create lots of opportunity for stone and concrete accents to balance out plants and softscapes.
There are several different materials you can use for in-ground patios and pathways, but the three most common are slabs, pavers, and flagstone.
Here’s our pros and cons list for each material so you can make the best choice for your backyard.
The Differences Between Slabs, Pavers, and Flagstone
When it comes time to landscape a yard, homeowners can become very quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices they’re presented with:
What plants do you want? What season is it? Soil or mulch? Aggregate? Do you want a feature like a water feature or lighting, and where would you like them? What type of wood and will it be a wooden structure?
It gets exhausting quickly, and most homeowners end up deferring to the experts they’ve hired to make the important decisions regarding design and function.
However, when it comes time to choose concrete, stone, and other hardscaping materials for in-ground patios and pathways, it’s important for residents to provide their input. In-ground hardscapes tend to be the most permanent additions to your yard.
In order to help you make your decision, we’ve put together a handy pros and cons guide to help you differentiate between common installation materials.
Material for In-Ground Patios
Flagstone is solid stone that comes in a variety of natural colours and shapes. It’s quarried in solid pieces from sedimentary rocks like limestone, sandstone, bluestone, and slate.
Due to its weight, size, and colour variances, it tends to be more time consuming (and therefore more expensive) to install, but it’s simply unbeatable if you’re seeking a timeless, natural look.
If you choose flagstone for a patio or pathway, it’s important to remember that flagstone will have small spaces between each rock once it’s laid, allowing for water permeation.
However, you’ll want to choose a material to fill the cracks to mitigate pooling, and to prevent the legs of patio furniture from getting stuck. Some common choices include grass, soil, moss, or hardy groundcovers.
Flagstone can also come in a variety of earthy colours, including browns, reds, grays, and blues.
Benefits of Flagstone:
- Natural look
- Extremely durable
- Broad variety of colours
- Broad variety of shapes (rectangular, square, irregular)
- Grow moss or groundcover between the stones
Cons of Flagstone
- Spaces between stones can collect water or catch patio furniture
- Requires gaps to be filled
- Limited to natural design aesthetic
- Can be more time consuming/expensive to install
Slabs are large (but thin) segmental concrete blocks. Their size and shape (usually rectangular or square) allow them to more easily intermingle with softscapes, helping bridge literal and figurative gaps in your landscape.
Unlike pavers and flagstones, slabs can be laid with or without gaps between them. Pathways can be straight lines or gentle, detached curves, and patios can be spaced-out grids with groundcover or grass between them, or laid with no spaces to create uniform rectangular or square patios.
Slabs are a great choice for unusual or creative pathway and patio applications that intermingle with softscapes; however, their large size makes them prone to cracking if the ground beneath them shifts.
Benefits of Slabs:
- Versatile; intermingle well with the landscape
- More customizable spacing
- Relatively formal look
- Variety of colours
- Best choice for balconies or rooftop patios
- Can be laid on shims or pedestals
- Usually least time consuming installation depending on the design (lowest cost)
Cons of Slabs:
- Less durable for heavy traffic paths such as driveways
- Prone to cracking if ground shifts due to large size/surface area
- Less flexibility for curves and patterns compared to pavers
Pavers are small, segmental blocks with a wide array of applications. Their small size allows them to be used to create lots of shapes and patterns.
Pavers are interlocking, which makes them extremely strong and durable when installed properly. They’re extremely versatile and can even be used to make roads and driveways.
As pathways and patios, they can be installed in curves, which makes them ideal for circular patios and non-linear pathways. Pavers need to be compacted using a plate compactor after installation, and jointing sand must be swept thoroughly between the cracks to prevent soil buildup and weeds. Therefore, jointing sand should be reapplied once per year.
Pavers can be installed in a variety of different patterns. The most common patterns are running bond, herringbone, and ashler.
Running Bond Pattern
|A formal look, but it lacks interlocking strength||Provides the strongest interlock possible and a formal aesthetic.||
A bit more informal with a strong, durable interlock.
Benefits of Pavers:
- More versatile than slabs and flagstone in application and functions
- Suitable for curves and circular shapes
- Broad variety of colours (primarily browns, reds, grays)
- Broad variety of patterns
- Extremely durable
- Best for driveways and roads/heavy foot traffic areas
Cons of Pavers
- Requires yearly jointing sand application for maintenance
- Complex paver patterns can have time consuming installations (increased expense)
- Improper upkeep can result in costly repairs
Need More Help?
Para Space’s accomplished landscape services division is home to a diverse group of qualified and creative installers, technicians, and designers with a broad and varied body of work that stretches across hundreds of homes across the lower mainland. So, if you’re struggling to decide and would like some help with your design, get in touch today for a consultation!