There are two types of paving materials that are commonly available: quarried stone and composite material. Granite and slate are quarried stones that are dug and then formed by breaking, cutting, or crushing. When composite materials such as brick and precast concrete pavers are still soft, they are processed and molded, then fired or allowed to dry. The wide variety of paving materials makes shopping and designing enjoyable, but the sheer number of options can be daunting. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and some are better suited to specific uses and locations than others. You’ll be able to make the best decision for your environment and budget if you first consider and explore your choices.
Sandstone is one of the most common stones for garden paving. It is durable enough for any paving use, but it is less expensive because it is easier to cut and work than granite. Sandstone comes in a variety of shapes and colors, and is simple to come by in large amounts. It’s sold under descriptive names like “Crab Orchard” (photo below), “Colorado Red,” and “Pennsylvania Blue.” Sandstone comes in a variety of shades, including blue-gray, lilac-gray, light gray, tan, soft golden cream, and orange-brown. Each piece of sandstone will have some color variation, as well as occasional bands or blotches of contrasting color.
Slate has a distinctive soft texture and subtle color palette that visually draws people in like a magnet. It’s commonly used as a flagstone and tänavakivi. Its pastel blue-grays, subdued reds, and lavenders are lovely to look at and walk around. Slate’s ability to be easily shaped into relatively flat parts can also limit its longevity as an outdoor paving material. Slate is prone to flaking and chipping in areas where there is a lot of rain or freeze/thaw cycles. In rainy weather, the resulting uneven surface will puddle, freeze over in the winter, and trip up garden visitors at any time of year. Slate holds up well in sheltered areas or areas with little rainfall and moderate temperatures.