It can be tough to know exactly what to go for when selecting the perfect outdoor paving slab. There is such a wide variety available that the choice can be quite overwhelming. Without a clear idea in your head of the project that you are looking to create, the sheer number of colours, variations and products can overwhelming, leading to decisions you are not sure about.
Different paving slabs will create different effect, therefore a completely different environment. A rustic sandstone isn't going to create the same effect as a man-made porcelain, so it's important to know your end goal.
What Kind of Garden Style Are You Hoping to Create?
This is a key question to ask yourself. There are slabs that cover all styles that are very, very different from one another. Are you hoping to create a modern, contemporary space or are you looking to create something more natural and traditional? This will have a big impact on the kind of slabs that would be suitable, which might help you come to a decision more easily.
Outdoor Tiles for Modern or Contemporary Garden Style
These styles often encompass straight edges, smooth surfaces, monochrome or more consistent colour pallets and lots of straight lines. More often this style is made up of a single size slab rather than mixed size paving and is laid in a ‘stretcher-course’ pattern which creates long, straight lines. Ultimately, it's all down to to personal preference, so please interpret this however you like!
In our opinion, the best choice for an outdoor paving slab to create a modern space would be one of the following:
- Outdoor Porcelain Tiles
- Slate Paving Slabs
- Smooth Sandstone Paving Slabs
- Sandblasted Sandstone
Outdoor Porcelain Tiles
An amazing choice to create a modern space. We've written a full guide on outdoor porcelain paving for you to take a look at if you wish, but in general, this is a fantastic option for a modern space.
The slabs are clean & consistent and are perfect for creating exact straight lines.
Slate Paving Slabs
If you'd rather use a natural stone than a manufactured porcelain, then slate could well be the option for you. Take a look at our full guide to the different types of slate available for more specific information.
In general, slate is smooth, decorative natural stone that really elevates an area with an incredible amount of style.
Smooth Sandstone Paving Slabs
Sandstone is not typically associated with a "modern" space, but there are specialist sandstones available that can be used to great effect in a modern space.
The first example of this is smooth sandstone. Also know as 6-side-sawn, this sandstone is smooth on every edge: top, bottom and sides. It's different to the typical "honed" sandstone that's available on the market as it isn't buffed and polished to give it a reflective surface. The benefit is that you still end up with a smooth stone, but it doesn't age as badly as a honed sandstone.
Sandblasted Sandstone Paving Slabs
The next option to modernize your sandstone patio is to opt for sandblasted finish. We've written a brief guide on what sandblasted sandstone is and why it might be the best option for you, so check this out for a bit more information.
Sandblasted sandstone is incredibly decorative natural stone that has clean, consistent edges with a beautiful blend of colours, enhanced by the sandblasting process.
Outdoor Tiles for a Traditional Garden Style
Traditional paving slabs often consist of earthy colours, or a rough, natural surface texture. In order to fit well within a traditional setting, the slabs need to feel natural. Anything that takes away from the natural feeling of the space isn't a great option.
These slabs are perfect for an older property. The style often consists of mixed patterns, hand finished slabs and natural stone that looks slightly more aged and rustic when installed. Options include:
- Riven Sandstone paving slabs with traditional colours.
- Natural Limestone paving slabs
- Rustic slate paving slabs
Riven Sandstone Paving Slabs
The most popular type of paving on the market. It suits almost any project and is friendly on the budget. It's easy to see why this stone has risen to the top of a lot of peoples preferences. We've written an extensive guide on sandstone which is well worth a read if you get the chance.
Sandstone is an incredibly natural looking stone which is available in a wide variety of colours and will add a splash of colour to any project where it used. The best options to create a traditional finish are sandstones with more traditional colours such as Raj Green or Fossil Mint. They are what people normally associate with a sandstone such as York stone, or chalky sandstone and will fit very well in a traditional space.
Tumbled Limestone Paving Slabs
Natural limestone is a similar alternative to sandstone paving slabs, but does have some slight differences. In a constructional sense, they behave in pretty much the same way, but visually they are slightly different. While sandstone has a lot of colour variations, limestone tends to be quite consistent in colour.
When used well, Limestone is often the perfect option for a traditional space. As they get older, they only look more and more traditional, and when paired with an antique/tumbled edge, Limestone paving slabs are an amazing option for a traditional space.
Rustic Slate Paving Slabs
Slate paving is a great option for traditional spaces as well. Slate can form in rough, riven sheets which results in an incredibly natural feeling stone patio - a fantastic option for a traditional space.
The most traditional option for slate paving is what we call Vijaya Gold slate paving slabs. They have an almost rust-like appearance with layers of copper and gold across the stone which make them look natural, and antique from the moment they are installed.
Outdoor Tiles for Balanced Garden Style
Sometimes you won't want your space to be strictly traditional, nor will you want it to be overly modern and clinical. This is where you need to take a balanced approach and opt for something that will suit a variety of environments.
Your slab choice shouldn't be overly rough and rustic, but neither should it be to clean-cut and unnatural. There is art to getting the balance right and the follow options to the job well:
- Neutral Limestones
- Colourful Sandstones
- Natural Slates
Neutral Limestone Paving Slabs
Limestone is a very versatile product which can be used to create a number of different styles. When used correctly limestone can be used to suit any style garden, so it's important to make sure you opt for the right stuff.
The best option when trying to create a balanced space, is to go for a neutral and consistent colour palette. So a blue limestone is going to be the best option in this case. It doesn't look overly modern, but also isn't an old-school option like a traditional sandstone.
Colourful Indian Sandstone Paving Slabs
Indian sandstone paving was mentioned previously, but it can also be used to create a more balanced finish than what is more typical a traditional affair. There are so many ranges of Indian Sandstone that you can create a huge amount of styles.
By using stone which is made up of more colourful slabs, you can avoid the stone looking too traditional when that isn't the effect you want to create.
Natural Slate Paving Slabs
So Which Paving Slabs Are Best For Your New Patio?
The beauty of creating a new patio, is that there is no right answer. You can go with almost any slab you like and, as long as you like it, you will have created something to enjoy.
The only two things you need to remember is to be honest with your budget and honest with your time.
Know what you want to spend. If you overstretch your budget and spend more than you were willing to, you might end up being hyper critical of your project as you stretched yourself to far. So make sure you opt for something you love, at a price you are happy with.
All slabs will change over time - anything left out in the elements for 365 days is going to take quite a battering and won't look the same as they day you laid them. However, this affects some slabs more than others, so make sure you do your research and know how much work the slabs will take to maintain, and whether you are willing to spend the time maintaining them!
For example, Black Limestone slabs will need constant care and attention to keep them looking fresh and new. But something like an outdoor porcelain will look brand new for a very long time, without much input from you.
Ultimately, it's all about picking something you love. If you love the style of the slab, then you will love your new patio when it is installed. The guide above should help educate your opinion, or point you in a few different directions. But ultimately, this is a decision of the heart, not the head.