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Outdoor Living Paving Material Options

The Pros and Cons of different hardscape materials for pathways and patios. Along with the benefits of each, and the quality they produce relative to cost.

Pathway Materials;

Gravel- Pros, Quick install, cheap, DIY Friendly, upgradable (meaning add stepping stones or paving stones later). Cons- needs good edge restraint, maintenance intensive (weeds), lacks cleanliness and not the easiest of surfaces to walk on. While the cost of gravel is low, and the installation easy, you may find yourself adding more gravel year after year unless a good edge restraint is used. Also, weeds of various types will also enjoy your walkway.

Pea gravel- Same as above, with a little higher price, hard to walk in,

More design options and styles then typical gravel. Pea gravel is best used between paving stones, or precast slabs as a compliment to their beauty. The best budget option for a balance of style, ease of install and affordability.

Stone Pavers- Outside of standard concrete paving stones are very popular and a growing trend in Portland and the surrounding area. Pros- Many design options and styles, non-skid and non-slip surface, long-term material when installed correctly, low-maintenance, sustainable and green Cons- mid-range price, large areas require pros, require cutting. Paving stones have been a growing trend in Portland for the last 7-8 years. Their versatile design options combined with a mid-range price and their sustainability make them a crowd favorite in Portland. While their quality is high their price point is in the middle and when installed correctly will last a life-time.

Patio Materials;

Bluestone and slate- Pros- naturally beautiful, easy to compliment with surrounding landscape, very small installs are DIY friendly, fewer negative externalities then a “human-made” material, low maintenance. Cons- High price, separation at joints overtime lead to tripping hazards, may be shipped in from overseas or across country, require a pro to install large areas. While maintaining a natural beautiful, plan to spend more on a bluestone install, many Portlanders report the stones separating at the joints causing raised edges and tripping hazards overtime. If natural is your style and budget isn’t an option go with a natural stone.

Stencil and concrete epoxy- Pros- very unique designs, quick transformation to an existing slab of concrete, low-price over existing material, low to mid-range new install Cons-few tradespeople offer this service in PDX, looks fade overtime, can be DIY friendly, not earth friendly or sustainable, potential exposure to unhealthy chemicals used in paints or epoxy. This is often where we find a band aid placed over a boring concrete slab. A stencil or epoxy overlay on concrete only gets a couple of years of good use in Portland until we see peeling, fading and unhappy homeowners.

Cast in place concrete rectangles with grass- Pros- very modern and trendy design, creates versatile spaces, blends the natural with the built environment by balancing your landscape and hardscape, low material price, medium price point. Cons- high maintenance and difficult to maintain, very labor intensive takes a cheap material to a medium price point, taking care of a small 2-inch slice of grass between the concrete is like maintaining a greenhouse of Bonsai Trees.

Concrete flooring with a smooth finish and cut lines- Pros- many beautiful design options, can fit any homes profile, mid-price to high price point Cons- wait for curing after install, often crack break and discolor over time, not DIY friendly, can have high maintenance issues, not sustainable. Did you know if concrete was a country it would be the third biggest polluter in the world. The mid to high price range leads to a nice looking patio at first that slowly degrades over time. Often cracking and breaking with the expansive soils in the Portland area occur after only a few seasons.

Interlocking paving stones aka Pavers- Pros-Small projects are DIY Friendly, when installed correctly last as long as the home, non-skid non slip surface, many design options from modern, to natural and even rustic. Color options to blend with any home. Allow for creating organic curved lines to complement the landscape. 3-4 times stronger than concrete, local, sustainable and permeable, can be repaired on an individual stone level vs complete replacement. Cons- price, requires professional installation for anything over about 100 square feet, requires professional equipment and good ground preparation. One of the biggest popular growing trends in Outdoor living is the use of interlocking paving stones. Because of their design versatility, local and sustainable sourcing and permeability Portlanders simply love them. The balance of a mid-range price and long term performance lead to a great value. Whether looking to go with a modern, rustic or even natural style paving stones are the best option in hardscape. They are a great long-term substitute to any concrete and most decking applications. Using grass or pea gravel between the seams is a great way to blend the landscaping with the hardscape. Therefore, interlocking paving stones are the clear favorites of Sustainable Designers in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA areas.

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