Concrete or stone paving slabs, which are the best? Take a look at the difference between manufactured & natural stone paving slabs. It will help you when choosing which are the best paving slabs for your patio, garden or driveway.
Concrete or Stone paving slabs?
You have literally 100’s of different kinds of paving slabs you could decide to buy. Every manufacturer and retailer will say there’s is the best, will look the most satisfying or there’s is the cheapest. But what should you consider and which type of paving slabs should you buy? Concrete or stone paving slabs?
We can put paving slabs into two categories. Man-made concrete or natural stone.
Is There a Difference Between Concrete & Stone Paving Slabs?
At first you would think that there is not a lot of difference between concrete or stone paving slabs. Apart from the material they are made from. And you would be right. As far as cost go, you can now buy natural stone paving that is imported from India or China that has reduced the cost to buy natural paving to that of man-made paving. Visually they look similar, they can have similar colours and both can be used for commercially or domestically for pavements, driveways and patios. But there are some differences.
Choosing the best paving slabs can be decided by considering a few things. What material you would like the slabs made from. What strength the paving has to have. The colours of the paving. The surface finish, smooth or riven and of course the price to buy.
What are the best paving slabs to buy. Concrete or stone paving slabs?
To help you decide we have listed below some of the considerations you should think about to help you choose what are the best paving slabs for you.
Manufactured Man-Made Concrete Paving Slabs
Choice – You are spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which concrete paving slabs are the best. They are made from a concrete mix of various sized aggregates and different coloured pigments. Although some are made from rubber, plastic and porcelain. The aggregate mixture can include recycled materials. Such as recycled stone, concrete or even glass mixed up with cement to form a man-made concrete paving slab.
How are they made – The concrete is often first mixed with colored dyes then is placed or cast into a shaped mould. The mix is then either pressed or vibrated to give strength to the slab then allowed to dry. Sometimes additional colours are then added to the surface of man made slabs to give the required finish.
Surface texture – The surface of concrete paving slabs can be manipulated to have many designs and features incorporated into the surface.
You have a choice of surface textures to choose from when deciding to buy man-made paving slabs.
- Riven. An uneven surface made to look like freshly quarried natural stone.
- Smooth. Perfectly level and even surface.
- Shot blast. To give extra anti-slip. These can give the impression of being sand blasted.
- Tactile. Textured, ribbed or dotted. Raised surface that is used an an underfoot indicator.
- Washed. The surface cement is washed off to expose the aggregate.
- Polished. Perfectly smooth, allows the stone & cement mix to be highlighted.
- An imprinted surface. To make them look like block paving or tiles.
- Imprinted with pictures of animals. Popular with garden stepping stones.
A great way that imprinted surface slabs are used is with the manufacture of ribbed or dotted surface. These are called tactile paving. These are often laid to show people with limited vision where a pedestrian crossing is located. Or with paving slabs with a polished surface that can give the impression of marble. This effect can be made extra special when used with coloured glass.
Colours – Because concrete slabs are manufactured you get a great choice of colours. Often the budget priced paving slabs will be a single colour. These will be buff, red, charcoal or natural concrete colour or grey as they can be called. The more expensive paving slabs will have mixed colours and tones. These mimic the natural colour variations you get in natural stone. After a length of time the surface colours of concrete paving slabs can wear away. This allows the concrete mixture to show through. This can be true where vehicles or foot traffic persistently use the same area of slab.
Shapes & Sizes – Man-made paving concrete paving slabs can be formed into many shapes and sizes. With popular shapes being circles and curved shapes. But they can be made to replicate many other items. Some of the popular designs of decorative ones are artificial logs and sleepers. Animal and foot shapes. The choice is only limited by your own imagination. Often these are used in flower borders or as stepping stones in gravel & garden lawns.
There are many sizes of man-made paving slabs. In fact, too many to list them all here. Depending whether you are a metric or imperial size fan. They range from small 50mm x 50mm (2inch x 2 inch) up to and beyond 900mm x 900mm (3 ft x 2 ft). But as a rule nearly all manufacturers will have (these sizes are in feet and inches) – 1×1, 18inchx18 inch, 2×1, 2×2, 3×2.
Cost to Buy – There is a big variation in costs to buy new concrete paving slabs. You can choose budget slabs which can cost as little as a few pounds each up to mixed coloured and textured slabs at a cost of nearly £100 per square meter. The expensive man-made concrete or porcelain paving slabs can often be difficult to tell the difference from real stone. They are available to buy at all builders yards and DIY centre’s in the UK such as B&Q, Wickes, Jewson, Homebase, Builder Centre and many more outlets.
Summary – Man-made paving slabs do have some advantages and disadvantages when choosing them to lay on a patio or driveway. They can be beautiful to look at and almost replicate real stone (although the fact that they are trying to look like real stone makes me want to choose real stone first) .They can be cheaper to buy, especially the budget ranges of slabs. You will have a lot more choice of different surface textures and designs. They can incorporate recycled material into the composition so you could argue that some manufactured paving slabs are more Eco-friendly than others. There is also an argument for being able to keep them cleaner and that they are easier to seal with a sealer but that totally depends on the brand chosen.
Deciding which are the best paving slabs to buy that are manufactured can be a difficult choice. Simply because there is so many styles and colours to choose from. My recommendation would be to have a look at some of the online brochures that most manufacturers produce to help you decide.
Natural Stone Paving Slabs
Choice – There is a fantastic range of natural stone paving slabs you could choose to buy. They not only look beautiful but are now a cost effective alternative to man-made concrete paving slabs. Nearly all paving retailers will sell natural stone paving slabs.
Some of the best types of natural stone paving slabs are made from sandstone, granite, limestone, slate & marble.
Natural stone is a great material for paths, patios and driveways. You can buy them in different colours, sizes & textures. You have a choice of choosing naturally quarried stone slabs that are a little rough on the edges or stone slabs that have been cut to an exact size in a stone cutting mill. The ones that have been cut to an exact size are often used commercial on high streets and in shopping precincts because they are very hard-wearing and can be laid without the need to be pointed with mortar.
How are they made – Natural stone paving slabs occur naturally in the ground and have been quarried by man for thousands of years. Check out ancient Rome where many are still in-situ today. Often the paving can be taken from naturally occurring seems in the rock. The stone can be easily split along the seems either by hand or machine to give us the slabs. Other types of slabs have to be cut out of blocks of stone with a diamond blade or splitting machine to give them their shape and size.
Surface Texture – You are bit more limited on the surface texture of natural stone than manufactured slabs. The most popular choice of surface is riven (slightly uneven, ridged surface). This is because 9 times out of 10 that’s how they are when they are naturally quarried from the ground. You can have perfectly smooth quarried slabs but in most cases the smooth finished slabs are polished, sanded or rubbed smooth with a machine before being sold. You can also buy natural stone paving slabs that have been sand blasted or shot blast to give them a course, textured finish to the surface of the slab. These are popular choice where added anti-slip properties are required.
Colour – You can find a big range of mixed and single colored natural paving to choose from.
One thing you will find when choosing which is the best colour of stone paving slab is that every seller will have a different name for the colours depending on which builders yard or retailer you visit.
Some of these colours can be called –
Light in colour – Buff, Mint Fossil, Sandstone, Golden Sandstone, Golden Leaf, Whitby, Natural, Grey.
Darker in colour – Raj Green, Raj Brown, Autumn Brown, Modak, Kota Brown.
Very Dark – Kota Blue, Kota Black, Charcoal.
Cost to Buy – Once upon a time natural stone slabs used to be beyond the budget of many a pocket (Some still are as with the case of Yorkshire mill stone slabs) and many kinds are still more expensive to buy than than typical concrete slabs. But now we are importing stone paving slabs from India and China. This has made a real difference to the costs to buy natural stone paving. You can now buy Indian paving slabs for under £20.00 per square meter. The quality and practicality of Indian and Chinese stone paving is good enough to rival any naturally occurring paving anywhere in the world. Although we do have stone quarries in abundance in the UK it seems a shame that Chinese & Indian paving slabs are cheaper to quarry then transport half way around the world than quarry our own.
Summary – There are many advantages and some disadvantages to consider when deciding if natural stone is the paving to buy. The look, the strength and the choice you get adds to the appeal of natural stone. But the cost and sometimes difficulty in laying can put many some people off. The best thing about buying natural stone flags is that although the initial outlay is often dearer, the paving will still have a value after a number of years. Whereas concrete slabs loose much of their value once they have been laid.
- How to make a patio with paving slabs
- Look at different kinds of stepping stones here
- How a charity is helping make paving from waste plastic
Most manufacturers will sell natural stone & manufactured paving slabs
Nearly all paving manufacturers will make one kind of man-made paving slab to sell alongside natural stone paving slabs. Some of the larger manufacturers will have a range of 10 or more different kinds of man-made paving slabs to choose from. Often they will range from cheap budget paving up to an eye watering price range with anything in between. Some of the largest companies making paving slabs in the UK include, Marshalls, Bradstone, Stoneflair, Lakeland, Brett, Stonemarket, BS Eaton and Barleystone.
Bespoke made-to-order paving slabs
If you look, there are some small bespoke manufacturers that will tailor make your paving to your design requirements. But costs can be expensive for bespoke paving. But they can make architectural, landscape and one off designs of slabs that can be truly stunning. You will have paving like no where else.