If you live in a drought-prone area you’re probably not worrying about it being very wet underfoot. More than likely you’re more anxious about falling down the large cracks in the ground caused by having no real rain for months.

But if it’s wet in your neck of the woods, this may be the time of year when you start thinking that the trudge to the clothesline across a soggy patch of lawn is not very appealing, and something solid underfoot might make life easier.

Assuming it’s not so wet that you need a boardwalk or a bridge, paving is the answer. A few decades ago, that would have meant a seriously large landscaping job that gave you wall to wall concrete or tiles and a somewhat uninteresting result. But these days we’re less inclined to cover large expanses with hard landscaping, and more interested in using different designs and materials to satisfy both the practical and aesthetic aspects of the job.

Today’s trend is to mix and match permanent paving, like tiles or slabs, with loose materials like gravel. Well done, it combines the advantages of an artistic result with a smaller bill. You can more readily splash out for those can’t-live-without-them, gold-plated, diamond encrusted Turkish pavers if you only need a dozen of them to set into a base material.

There are various base materials on offer and the style of your house and existing garden will suggest the appropriate choice. You could use wood chips, shredded bark, gravel, grass, shell, pumice, or even tumbled glass chips. If you’re making a path, a patio or any delineated space from loose material, you’ll need to edge it with stone, concrete, timber or similar to stop your base material from escaping. Setting random pavers into grass is a simpler option.

Once your base is down, you can inset flagstones, concrete stepping stones, bricks, tiles, glass blocks, timber blocks, square decking tiles or even broken pieces of concrete. Should you prefer something completely original and have the skills, you can make your own concrete pavers with a fairly simple list of materials, setting shells, coloured pebbles or broken china into the surface for a mosaic effect.

If your path is winding or random, lay a hose down to get the right line, walk alongside it to make sure it’s easy to navigate, and step it out to work out how many pavers you’ll need. Do a trial run to ensure the spacing is right – it’s frustrating to walk down a path with your view obscured by a pile of wet washing, and find yourself constantly missing the mark.

Similarly, if you’re creating a flat, paved area on which you plan to put an outdoor dining setting, for example, mark it out with string or a hose first, and place the furniture within the boundaries to make sure it fits. Leave room for people to push their chairs out and get in and out of their seats.

It’s not such an issue with paths, which can be undulating, but patio areas are best if they’re fairly level, especially if they’re going to accommodate seating. Invest in a spirit level!

Finally, when you’re buying your gold-plated, diamond encrusted Turkish pavers, take out a small mortgage and get a few extras so that if you have to replace any later, you’ll be able to match them up. God forbid you should have to get rubies instead.


(Order number: paving 4)