If you have any questions about natural stone paving, from what it is to how to lay it, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll also explain its benefits, what it’s made from, how to select the right product, and how to look after it, as well as the different ways it can be used.
What is natural stone paving?
Natural stone paving is a form of outdoor paving that is often used for patios, driveways and pavements.
As the name suggests, the materials we supply are formed by the forces of nature.
Or, to put it another way, it has not been made like equivalent concrete products at a manufacturing plant, and is instead mined at a quarry.
Natural stone paving slabs, or pavers, are comprised of a variety of natural stone including granite, marble, limestone, sandstone and slate.
Once retrieved from a quarry, the stone is cut to shape using special technology.
What are the main benefits of natural stone paving?
Many consumers love natural stone paving for its beautiful, stylish finish.
You can achieve a truly timeless look, or follow trends that are popular now.
There are so many options to choose from – one of its major benefits.
Natural stone paving is more durable than its concrete counterparts because it is the product of minerals formed over thousands of years, perhaps longer.
It has already proven that it can stand the test of time, and some argue that it looks better with age.
Natural stone paving is also kinder to the environment than concrete.
Taken from the ground, it can be processed using low energy machinery as opposed to needing high-energy, fuel-burning processes that pump vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.
As a natural product, natural stone pavers are also recyclable in a way that concrete ones aren’t.
After their initial use, rather than throw granite or other remnants away and send them to a landfill, they can then be used as reclaimed paving or crushed and used for aggregates.
That material can then be used for mixing with an adhesive, such as cement, to form concrete or mortar.
Another advantage of natural paving stone is that it can be installed dry on sand bedding, which allows the installers to easily adjust if they make a mistake.
That’s not so simple when you’re setting pavers in concrete or mortar.
Natural stone paving is super low-maintenance too; you can hose it down whenever you’re worried about moss or mildew.
The product will last for an incredibly long time while still maintaining an elegant and unique finish, unlike concrete which tends to fade.
Lastly, using natural stone materials may add value to your property.
What is natural stone made from?
Natural stone is made naturally during what is known as the rock cycle.
The minerals in stone came from the same liquid and gas particles that formed the Earth.
Over millions of years, a combination of heat and intense pressure generated from the earth’s core essentially created blocks of natural stone including granite, marble, limestone, sandstone, onyx and slate.
Natural stones and rocks fall into three main categories: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic, each representing a different stage in the rock cycle.
Natural stone pavers can utilise stone from any one of these categories, but predominantly the stronger ones:
Granite: also good for outdoors because it is hard-wearing, thanks to a high integral strength and density which also makes them easy to maintain.
Limestone: snapped up by paving companies because it comes in an array of beautiful and unique colour variations.
Sandstone: most commonly used for pavements, but is also for patios and in back gardens.
Is natural stone paving slippery?
Natural stone paving is not at all slippery, even when wet.
What we will add, however, is that some natural stone paving slabs are more suited around swimming or paddling pools than others.
Slate pavers for example are anti-skid, while sandstone can be installed with a coarse surface.
Blue stone pavers such as certain sandstone, slate and limestone, have a thermal finishing to make the stone surface rugged and anti-slip for walkways.
Believe it or not, even marble paving has the same quality.
Natural stone paving maintenance
The beauty of natural stone paving is that it needs little in the way of looking after.
There is no hard and fast rule about how often you should clean your patio, but you can sweep it as often as you like without having to worry about scratches.
Keep an eye out for stains too, and if you think you’ve spotted one, attempt to get rid of it before it sets in.
If you have a hose, you can go ahead and use it without damaging the paving.
That kind of pressure washing can really help get rid of moss, mould and mildew.
If you don’t, then you want to find a pH-balanced neutral cleaner to help remove soils that normal dusting or damp mopping leaves behind.
This process also helps keep your stone free of dust and dry, sandy soil to minimise wear patterns from everyday use.
Uses for natural stone paving
Natural wear and tear eventually damages all materials over time, but natural stone paving is as close as you can get to an exception.
It is sturdy by nature, and can bear heavy loads.
That not only makes it well-suited for walking on, for running or sports, but it is often durable enough to be used for a driveway.
There are other uses too.
When you step out of a pool, swimming pool or paddling pool, you want your feet to grip anti-slip paving, and natural stone can help with that.
It is also a great choice for constructing a fish pond in your garden, be it an elevated one or sunken.
You could make a beautiful mosaic walkway or courtyard.
Tiered walls and steps are an attractive possibility too.
It also makes a raised garden bed if you fancy a change from the traditional wooden type.
You could even make an impressive outdoor fireplace – something you can use all year round!
How to select your natural stone paving
If you’ve settled on using natural stone for your project, you’ve chosen the most attractive and durable paving material on the market.
And one that is worth the investment.
Choosing the best natural stone pavers for your job is easier than you think.
If it’s for a driveway, then they have to be thick enough not to crack under the weight of a vehicle.
Or, for the more technically minded, it needs the appropriate thickness or aspect ratio.
Most small unit pavers will work, but larger size ones that are only 6cm, or paving slabs, are usually too thin.
If you intend to pave an area that is likely to get wet, for example from surrounding a swimming or paddling pool, then you’d be well advised to ensure your natural paving stones are both anti-slip and anti-skid.
When you have a patio in mind, you can be have peace of mind that the material is durable enough.
All you really need to consider is its colour, shape and size.
Of course, natural stone paving covers a host of material that comes in a myriad of looks, colours and finishes for your outdoor space.
The range goes from forest green to ripon sandstone.
Our recommendation is to look online for inspiration before making your final decision.
Pavers come in a multitude of shapes and designs, but they are a million times easier to lay if they have long straight sides, such as with squares or rectangles.
Larger examples are easier to lay, but if you’re paying someone to do that for you then your primary focus will be on how it looks.
How to lay natural stone paving
For a big project, the help of an experienced contractor is mandatory.
But if you’re doing a garden patio, you may consider doing it yourself.
If you plan on hiring somebody, then consider labour costs that range from three days to a full week.
The most important element of laying natural stone paving is, hands down, the planning.
First, you must calculate the amount needed by calculating the square footage (length multiplied by width).
You also need to take care to buy additional pavers to fit any curves and odd spaces.
You may wish to consider the area is properly sloped to allow for drainage and prevent puddling.
Then you need to mark the area for paving.
This can be done by using rope, spikes and lime or chalk powder.
Next, excavate the area ready for your base material.
For general foot traffic, a depth of four to six inches of base material will be just fine.
For your paver base, you should use a coarse, rough-edged gravel aggregate like roughly-crushed stone.
Once the base material is laid, tamper it to make sure it’s both hard and level.
Next lay a sand bedding, 1.5 inches thick (and not beyond).
Now you can start laying.
We would recommend you start at the edge of the patio so you’re not tempted to walk on the sand bedding.
Once a slab is in place, use a rubber mallet to tap it down evenly.
Some sand will come up during the compacting process.
If that happens, simply use a brush and knife to press and distribute it evenly within the gap. Once the slabs are laid, you can then fill more sand into the joints.
Before you seal the pavers, spray a mild jet of water on them and let it dry.
Finally, seal the patio with a high-quality sealant.
Natural stone is a porous material, and sealing it helps to repel water and other spillages.
It also assists with durability in appearance, saving the stone’s color, texture and shine from fading.