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A guide to different types of patio

A newly installed grey concrete tile patio in the garden of a property in Cardiff, South Wales

Learn about the range of different patio types that are available to help you design an outdoor space that will allow you to enjoy sun-drenched afternoons or al fresco dining in the garden.

The patio first originated as part of early Spanish architecture and was born from the Latin word "patere" which translates as "to lie open". A patio is typically an outdoor space, most often in the garden, that's open to the elements. Some patios have an overhead roof and can be either attached to a structure or detached.

Large central patios used to be surrounded by galleries and porticos and were very popular in many Spanish homes throughout the 15th century. Concrete patios came to prominence following World War II and were often combined with other materials such as brick, bluestone and gravel for a more decorative and visually appealing finish.

The surface of a patio gives it a unique appearance while helping enhance the time we spend outdoors. There are many factors to consider when choosing which patio material type to go for, including location, patio size, budget, colour scheme, personal taste and local building codes.

Read on to learn more about some of the patio material types that you can consider:

Gravel Patio

Gravel patio in Cardiff

Gravel is perhaps not the first thing most would consider when the idea of laying a new patio is touted, as many people assume that a patio needs a solid and uniformed surface. This doesn't necessarily have to be the case, and gravel can actually make for an excellent cost-effective garden patio choice.

If you've been considering laying a new patio or updating an existing one then gravel would be one of the simplest ways to make it happen. Gravel is an inexpensive material that's simple to lay as a patio, and it also offers other positives that can make it a great option. Firstly, drainage through gravel is excellent meaning water won't pool up on top of your patio following heavy rainfall. It also does a fantastic job of keeping weeds at bay as gravel effectively chokes the weeds which makes it a lot more difficult for them to grow.

There are also a few potential downsides to take on board when it comes to a gravel patio. Some people find gravel to be a less comfortable option to walk on, despite it looking visually appealing. For example, it's unlikely you'd find it much fun walking barefoot across gravel so you'd probably want to make sure you're wearing suitable footwear whenever making use of a gravel garden patio. Gravel can also be somewhat difficult to maintain due to the fact it's constantly shifting, so you my find yourself spreading the gravel across uneven patches from time to time or having to face up to losing gravel over time due to winds or other factors.

All in all, if you're looking to have a cost-effective patio that's quick and relatively simple to install, then gravel is likely to be a very viable option.

Concrete Patio

Concrete patio in Cardiff

Just like gravel, concrete is also one of the most affordable ways to install a patio - it's a close call and all comes down to personal preference, but concrete may just have the edge when it comes to more bang for your buck as a concrete patio is likely to have more longevity. It can also prove to be easier to maintain when compared to other cost-effective options such as gravel.

Most are likely to be already aware that concrete can usually be relied upon to last an extremely long time. Provided you offer the correct maintenance, you can expect to make use of a concrete patio for many years. However, as with all options it does have its down sides - most notably that it's susceptible to freezing.

Freezing and thawing cycles over the years can cause a fair bit of noticeable damage to a concrete patio. This may result in cracks that are formed in the concrete and can lead to a weakened overall structure later down the line. This doesn't automatically make a concrete patio impractical in cold winter conditions, but it does mean that you will have to be more vigilant with the maintenance side of things. Some repairs may also need to be carried out over time to keep the patio in the best condition possible.

Sometimes concrete slabs are chosen as the base for a garden patio. Decorative tiles or other materials can then be placed on top of the concrete which can result in a patio having an ornate look that can be more aesthetically pleasing. If you're simply after a patio that's practical, durable and cost-effective then you may want to just stick with concrete instead of looking into additional decorative options.

Pavement Patio

Pavement patio in Cardiff

It's easy to assume that concrete and pavement are one and the same, and can be difficult to grasp an understanding of the difference without knowing more about each option. Concrete can indeed be considered as pavement but there are also pavement options available that are not technically concrete material. For example, an asphalt patio is one choice and this is different from concrete.

There is a wide choice of pavement options to consider and to get the most from a pavement patio you'll want to ensure you hire seasoned experts who have experience in laying this type of material. The wide choice means there will be something to suit every taste and property style, making a pavement patio a very popular choice among homeowners looking to add to their outdoor space. Furthermore, professionals can often lay a pavement patio in a matter of days in some cases, so there's not much of a wait before getting to enjoy the space.

Just like concrete, pavement options are also prone to many similar problems such as freezing. This can cause a headache if you happen to live in a particularly cold area and you may need to carry out regular maintenance to repair cracks that appear over time due to freezing and thawing cycles. Other than that, pavement is quite a durable material that offers most people a very good experience during its lifetime.

Clay Brick Patio

Clay brick patio in Cardiff

If you're after a patio that's built to impress then you may want to consider using clay bricks as the primary surface material. Bricks have a classic timeless appeal to them that really does look truly stunning when used to create a patio area. It's a more expensive option and the process can prove more difficult than other patio methods, but based on the beauty of the completed finish you may be tempted with the clay brick option.

As mentioned, this can be quite a costly option, even more so if reclaimed bricks is the material of choice. Despite this, reclaimed bricks are actually growing in popularity due to the fact they are more environmentally friendly and really do add that wow-factor to any outdoor space.

Clay bricks make it simple for a professional to install a patio in different patterns and designs. Some homeowners prefer a variety of geometric shapes, while others have a specific pattern in mind. A circle should be easy enough to create with clay bricks, or a patio that is oval-shaped. Whatever you decide, it should be easy to make possible with an experienced and creative landscaping team carrying out the work.

Flagstone Patio

Flagstone patio in Cardiff

Another fantastic option for lovers of decorative patios is flagstone. This is another expensive material, but results in a beautiful garden patio that oozes class. There are plenty of different types of flagstone on the market that you can choose from and they all contain different qualities. Thankfully, a choice of different colours and shades should mean you easily find something that suits your personal preference.

Working with flagstone takes a great deal of skill and craftsmanship, so you'll certainly want to entrust the services of experienced professionals. Many types of flagstone carry significant weight which all adds to their overall quality. This doesn't really make them a suitable option for those on a budget and looking to quickly lay down a simple patio, and is aimed more towards those who are really looking to add more of the wow-factor to their patio space.

If flagstone appeals to you then you may want to research a little further into the specific types of flagstone choices that are available. This will help you choose a type of flagstone that is most suitable for your needs, as some are better equipped for warm weather while others are more ideal for colder wintry weather. If you're overwhelmed with the choice or simply want some advice, don't hesitate to reach out to your landscape builders for recommendations.

Tile Patio

Tile patio in Cardiff

Perhaps the patio surface offering the most creativity and an endless range of decorative options is patio tiles. If you're looking for a surface that not only lets your imagination run wild but is also incredibly easy to clean, then you'll be hard pressed to beat tiles. There are many positives to this surface so it's no surprise to see it as a popular choice right across the world.

Patio tiles are usually placed on top of another surface that acts as a base - such as concrete slabs, for example. Laying concrete slabs to form the base is a relatively inexpensive addition and will allow tiles of your choice to then easily be installed on top. When it comes to picking your tiles, there really is a huge range of options from different colours and patterns to textures.

Because there is such a wide range of tiles to choose from it means there should be something to fit most budgets, meaning you can often spend as little or as much as you want, within reason, to find the style you want. Some people choose a very neutral colour with no pattern as they simply want a straight-forward garden patio that's easy to clean, whereas others go all out with wild colours or a combination of patterns. It's really all down to your personal taste.

One downside to a tiled patio is that in some ways it can be unsafe. Tiles are prone to becoming very slippery when wet, and as they are an outdoor feature exposed to the elements this is likely to happen quite often in most areas - especially in the UK! Therefore, the obvious danger is slips and falls, so it's important to be very mindful following rainfall or immediately after the patio has been cleaned with water.

With this risk in mind, overall a tiled patio can be a very visually appealing and fairly cost-effective choice for those who want something that stands out. Tiles can even replicate the appearance of stones or other materials, so the choice really is up to you and what works best for your patio.

Sand Patio

Sand for a patio in Cardiff

Sand is a loose patio option that is perhaps the easiest and quickest option to lay, rivalled only by gravel. Sand is very easy to obtain and inexpensive in price, so is a suitable option for those who are looking to spend very little on their outdoor space.

A sand patio isn't exactly a popular choice in the UK, and isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it is an option so that's why it's in this list of patio materials. It also doesn't come without it's potential problems, as like gravel, it's a material that's prone to shifting while walked on, sat on, or if heavy weather hits. It can also cause patio furniture to become uneven during use due to its free movement. The fact sand also becomes somewhat impractical when wet means there could be lengthy spells where you can't use the patio at all immediately following rainfall, unless it's suitably covered over. This alone can turn some people against the idea of a sand patio.

Despite these drawbacks, there are other creative benefits other than its cheap price and speedy installation. For example, it's the perfect material if you're looking to create a fun beach-themed patio that you'd like children to enjoy and feel safe on - or even play in. This could be a sort of play area and patio space combined into one which could be ideal alongside a swimming pool. Some creatives even enjoy turning their garden into a very tropical looking space, making sand another great material choice to match with the theme. So, forgetting the negative aspects that can come with a sand patio, there are other fun elements that may make it suitable in the right environment.

It should also be noted that sand can also be used as a base to help make other patio surfaces possible. This is often the case with many clay brick patios or for those who choose cut stone materials.

Cut Stone Patio

Cut stone patio in rear garden of a house in Cardiff

A cut stone patio, also known simply as a stone tile patio, is essentially a collection of stones that are cut into tile shapes so that they can be installed as a patio surface. Like most patio materials, there are a variety of cut stone types that you can choose from, so you'll never be short of options that are best suited to your property and taste. There are incredibly impressive cut stone examples, such as marble, alongside other more practical choices, such as sandstone. Whichever cut stone type you choose, you should be able to find something that works within most sensible budgets.

Cut stone tiles are cut into squares, therefore they can be placed into rows while installed. Some people opt to have the tiles fit tightly together whereas others prefer a small gap between each tile. This gap can then be filled with another loose material or simply with sand. How you decide to have your cut stone patio laid is entirely your choice.

Again, there are many cut stone materials to choose from, all meeting a variety of different budgets. This should make it relatively straight forward to find a finish that you like at a cost that makes sense to you. It's a very popular type of patio for many homeowners because it's a surface material that you can't go too far wrong with, and some of the finishes look fantastic so can really add a touch of quality to a garden.

Paver Patio

Paver patio in Cardiff

A paver patio is another popular choice among homeowners as it involves a simple installation process that can be completed in a very short amount of time. The pavers are designed to interlock with each other, creating a visually appealing patio that's no fuss at all.

With numerous styles to choose from there is sure to be a design that suits everyone's taste. Certain finishes can even be somewhat replicated, such as a wooden look, simply by sourcing several options that combine together to fit the bill. Some paver patios resemble bricks, others resemble cut stone. It's an extremely versatile patio surface that will always look great upon completion.

This versatility and easy-to-manage option means that many people use paver patios for a variety of other flooring solutions outside, even something as simple as a pathway. They are convenient to work with and are usually very cost-effective, so you should be able to find something suitable that fits your budget.

If you're keen to discuss your garden patio project and would like help creating the outside space of your dreams, or would like to learn more about the other landscaping services that we offer here at RGB Construction, don't hesitate to get in touch with us today. We serve Cardiff and the surrounding areas of South Wales and ca be easily reached by calling 07946452571, e-mailing or by completing our simple online contact form.

Main image photography by Shawn Eastman


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