Whether you want to build a gazebo, lay out a patio, or pave an entire driveway on your property, natural stone pavers offer versatility and aesthetic appeal. But with so many options available, how do you choose the best one for your project? Vision, aesthetics, and budget each play a role in helping you determine which type of natural stone pavers to use for an exterior home project. To help you lay it all out, here’s the ultimate guide to choosing natural stone pavers.
What Are Natural Stone Pavers?
Natural stone pavers are slabs comprised of natural stone. They come in a variety of types, including:
Natural stone paving is a process that uses slabs of these stones to pave outdoor areas like patios, walkways, and driveways. Natural stone provides character and a high level of visual interest to an outdoor space. It has various features that make it appealing. It’s eco-friendly because it comes from a natural source and can be processed using low-energy machinery. It has a timeless look with elegant finishing. It’s also more durable than processed material like concrete and has proven that it can stand the test of time. Installing natural stone can also add value to your property and make it more marketable if you want to sell it.
Natural Stone Pavers vs. Manmade Pavers
Types of Manmade Pavers
Manmade stone pavers come in two types: concrete and porcelain. Thanks to modern technology and manufacturing techniques, both are available in various sizes, colors, and surface textures. They can even be made to mimic the look of natural stone. While one may resemble the other, natural stone and manmade stone have very different characteristics.
Concrete and porcelain are manufactured tiles made by compressing a combination of raw materials and then exposing them to extreme heat. Unlike natural stone, in which each piece has a unique charm, manmade stone tends to lack character due to its uniformity. For concrete or porcelain to bear an actual resemblance to natural stone, it needs to be put through further processing. If you’re big on using eco-friendly materials, natural stone is the way to go.
For concrete or porcelain to resemble certain types of natural stone, it needs to have pigments or dye added to it. On the other hand, natural stone comes in a vast array of colors and textures that each have its own natural properties and characteristics. It has proven its ability to withstand weathering over time, but the coloring added to manmade stone will fade at a much faster rate. While dyed manmade stones will fade over time, natural stone often looks better as it ages, and keeping up with proper maintenance will help it look even better.
Installation and Lifespan
Manmade stone requires less preparation to install, which leads to lower installation costs than natural stone. They also require less maintenance. While natural stone requires a bit more work overall, its adored for its unique qualities and characteristics. It’s also highly durable as it was already formed over thousands of years, withstanding nature’s harshest elements.
Reasons to Choose Natural Stone Pavers
There are many reasons to choose natural stone pavers for your home exterior. Here are some of the best ones.
One of the best features of natural stone is that it has already aged for hundreds or thousands of years, so you know you’re getting a paver that can stand the test of time. While the hue may change slightly with time, most people agree that natural stones look even more appealing as they age.
An Array of Style Choices
Unlike manmade stones, which are manufactured uniformly, natural stones offer a wide array of style choices. You can choose from flat or irregular surfaces as well as varying shapes and natural colors. These choices provide much more versatility in designing your home’s exterior, whether you’re looking to build a unique wall or want to add a pattern to your patio floor or even create a timeless, natural-looking walkway in your garden.
Natural stone is a much more sustainable option than manmade pavers. They’re naturally sourced, require much less processing, last longer, and are recyclable.
While some natural stone types will add more value than others, all of them will add some value to your home and property. Using natural stone pavers is a worthwhile investment as it won’t only add value to your home but also increase its marketability. Natural stones are regarded as being high-quality, elegant, and sophisticated materials that will add a level of distinction to your home.
How to Choose the Right Natural Stone Pavers
Since there is a range of natural stones that each come with their own set of distinguishing features and characteristics, it can be challenging to decide which one to choose for your design. Here are some of the biggest things to consider when choosing a natural stone paver.
Consider the Space
Different types of stonework better than others for various surface areas. Here’s a general guide to help you narrow your options based on the area you’ll be using natural stone pavers:
- For walkways, pool decks, driveways, and other high-traffic areas, granite, travertine, and slate are excellent options
- For architectural elements like trims, posts, stacked walls, and stone-based furniture, look at bluestone, sandstone, and limestone
- For exterior wall cladding, headers, and window sills, marble makes a beautiful choice
- For patio paving, any natural stone makes a good option
Select the Hue
Natural stones come in a spectrum of stunning hues and colors. Which ones are best for your project? Use the guide below for some style ideas.
Choose a darker shade of your favorite stone if you’ll use it where there are chances of staining, such as countertops and tabletops or flooring where children will be playing.
Dark colors are perfect for hiding fingerprints, dust, and watermarks. Choose dark colors for outdoor areas where you might be hosting many parties or where there’s an outdoor barbeque area.
Light and Bright Colors
Light and bright colors are great for creating an illusion of a larger space. They also give a sense of calm and elegance to an area, especially in spaces containing natural greenery. Use light and bright colors in places like swimming pools and patios.
Choose a Texture and Pattern
Each natural stone forms its distinct textures and patterns based on the geological process it went through. Decide whether you want a stone with grains or veins or a stone that’s foliated vs. non-foliated. Granite is an excellent example of a grainy stone, while marble is certainly veiny. Foliated rocks will have a straight striped pattern, while non-foliated ones appear to be colored in shades that blend together.
Consider the Stone’s Effects
You can use various combinations of natural stones to give your space a specific effect. Here are some examples:
- Give your space a rustic effect by using stones in earthy colors with prominent textures on the surface
- Create a casual effect by using natural stones for walls, pillars, floors, steps, and other structural features
- Give your space a warm effect by outfitting it entirely in a combination of natural stones
- Create an inviting effect by decorating a space with travertine flooring, granite wall claddings, and pillars or columns made with stacked stones
- Give your space an elegant effect by using fine-textured marble flooring, countertops, or tables
Select a Finishing Treatment
All types of natural stones require a finishing treatment and sealing. There are different types of finishing treatments you can choose from depending on its application:
- Natural finishing is ideal for patio and path paving as it leaves the stone with a matte, natural look
- Tumbled stone finishing is ideal for rustic areas as it gives the stone an aged look
- Bush hammered stone finishing is ideal for creating non-slip surfaces as it generates craters of different sizes in uniform patterns
- Sandblasted stone finishing is similar to bush-hammered, but its craters are comparatively smaller to highlight the color of the stone
- Mushroom stone finishing gives the stone a rustic appearance
- Flamed stone is ideal for outdoor applications as it adds a slight roughness to the top layers of the stone’s surface
- Sawn stone is perfect for external paving as it gives the stone a matte finish with small furrows
- Honed stone finishing is ideal for staircases and stepping stones as it can provide a flat, matte, or satin appearance
Check the Hardness, Durability, Strength, and Stain-Resistance
There are ways to check the hardness, durability, strength, and stain resistance of natural stones before making a final decision. Checking these aspects on a sample of the stone can be a huge help when you’re trying to determine which type to place where.
Checking the Hardness
The hardness of a stone refers to its capacity to be scratched. Since a more rigid material will always make a scratch on a softer material and not vice-versa, you can check a stone for scratch resistance with a simple test. Use glass or steel to try to scratch the surface of the stone. Never use a softer stone where there will be a high amount of foot traffic or activity.
Examining the Durability
Check the stone for splitting, crumbling, or cracking. Some types of natural stones are more prone to splitting and crumbling than others. Check the durability of the stone before deciding to use it for specific applications.
Naturally-occurring cracks called fissures can happen to any rock, but if there’s a break that originated from a human, that’s a crack. Check ready-to-install stones for cracks and fissures before having them installed. While fissures generally won’t be an issue unless they run through the stone’s entire surface, either will affect the stone’s appearance and should be replaced before installation.
Measuring Strength Properties
There are two types of strength properties for which natural stones are tested. Make sure you check the strength properties of a natural stone paver before choosing it for an application.
Compressive strength measures the crushing load of a stone. A high compressive strength means that the rocks can’t be crushed easily, even under high pressure. Granite and slate are among the natural stone types with the highest compressive strength, while sandstone, limestone, and marble are lower on the scale.
Flexural strength tests the capacity of a rock to rupture against bending. A high flexural strength value indicates that it’s not easy to bend and break the stone. Again, slate and granite have the highest flexural strengths. Marble, limestone, and sandstone follow, with sandstone having the lowest flexural strength.
Checking the Level of Stain-Resistance
Many natural stones are prone to stains, which can ruin their appearance. Be sure to select stone types for different spaces according to their stain resistance. You can do this by understanding the three main aspects that fix a natural stone’s stain resistance:
- The stone’s composition
- The stone’s appearance
- The stone’s water absorption level
Avoid using stone types that are sensitive to acid in areas that are highly prone to stains, such as barbeques and kitchens. It’s best to choose a highly granular stone of a darker shade in these areas, which is easier to maintain and does a better job at hiding minor stains.
For help choosing the ideal natural stone pavers for your outdoor project, contact EleganceUs. We can provide you with the guidance, services, and materials you need to create the perfect outdoor atmosphere.