With so many material options available for patios these days, it may be hard to narrow down the choices. Each material will have its own pros and cons, along with unique qualities and imperfections that give it character. Two of the most popular materials for modern patio designs are flagstone and concrete. Here is a little bit about what makes either one a great choice.
Flagstone is not the name of an actual rock. Several types of rock split easily to make thick, sturdy, flat paving stones for walkways, gardens and, of course, patio designs. Your choices are generally based on what is available at your local quarries:
If you are willing to pay for freight shipping, you can get flagstone from anywhere in the country. This would allow you to take advantage of regional qualities such as flagstone from Montana’s Bitteroot range, or Iron Mountain flagstone. Costs vary by stone, color, quality, and availability.
Benefits of Flagstone
Flagstone can be machined to make neat squares and rectangles, or left in its natural state to form free-flowing, random patio designs. Flagstone gets its coloring naturally from the rock, so you can find an entire earth-toned rainbow of greens, reds, browns, grays, and even blues.
Natural variations in the stone lend interest and personality to your patio. You can specify that the flagstone be one tone, or accept striations and inclusions. Pennsylvania Bluestone, for example, can lay out as a completely monochromatic blue patio, or you can ask for it full-color, which includes the stone’s natural range of hues.
Flagstone is extremely durable, and slip-resistant even when wet. Extreme heat and cold do not tend to split paving-sized pieces. Professional installation to ensure a firm bed beneath the finished surface will keep flagstone patio designs looking beautiful for decades.
Drawbacks of Flagstone
Preparing the sand and gravel bed for flagstone is a challenge. Individual pieces may vary by several inches, making perfectly smooth finished patio designs the mark of an expert contractor. For a homeowner who values precision and the feel of a completely flat patio, a flagstone surface may not be ideal.
Flagstone is a natural stone, so it will have variations even when hand-picked for color uniformity.
Since concrete is a man-made material, it can be colored and shaped to just about any look. Your patio can be cast as a single pour, with expansion joints built in to prevent cracking. Your patio designs can also be laid out with cast concrete pavers to mimic natural stone.
With the uniformity and regularity possible with concrete, bed preparation and paver installation is straightforward. For the homeowner wanting a flawlessly flat surface, concrete is the material of choice.
Benefits of Concrete
Complete control of color and texture are two major benefits of concrete. With concrete stamping, patio designs can be stamped into the finish while curing. Examples of these patio designs include natural shapes such as wood planks, geometric shapes, or textures that mimic natural stone or brick.
Unlike individually laid stones, a concrete patio will not sprout weeds. When sealed, the surface resists dust and dirt as well as any natural stone would.
Drawbacks of Concrete
Stress fractures are the most common complaint with concrete patio designs. With careful installation of expansion joints, cracking can be minimized.
Concrete’s surface can be deliberately roughened to improve traction when wet, but this adds a risk of abrasion if people happen to fall.
Should your patio designs expand or change, a poured concrete patio does not lend itself to easy modification. Flagstone can be added or taken away, but concrete must be broken up with pneumatic tools for haul-out, and new forms set to add surface area.
Flagstone and concrete can both be customized to fit your specific taste and space requirements. No matter which material you choose, you are sure to end up with a stunning space that is ready for entertaining and relaxing.