Getting outdoor flooring right will ensure you have a functional, durable space. Find out whether you should choose decking, tiles or stone with this concise guide.
Image: Mandarin Stone's Industry Sand tiles recreate the look of natural stone in porcelain, which is easier to maintain.
A decision on flooring for an outdoor space needs to consider a different range of factors than the interior of your home.
Exposed to the elements, durability is a key concern, alongside which each type of material has to offer the look of your landscaping project.
Take a look at the key options, including the pros and cons of each for your garden.
Image: This Character Malmoya smooth terrace decking board from Kebony is made from FSC-certified Scots pine and modified with a bio-based liquid.
Timber brings character and a relaxed, natural look to your garden. For durability and to avoid warping and cracking, invest in high-quality FSC-certified wood. Buy from a reputable supplier that offers good guarantees of performance, and look out for a recognised accreditation scheme such as DeckMark.
Solid hardwoods such as oak, cedar and iroko are expensive but long-lasting and hardwearing. Pressure-treated softwoods such as pine or redwood that have been impregnated with wood preservative are a less expensive, reliable alternative. Timber decks should be sealed every other year to prevent rot and any stains, or paint on wood will need to be refreshed periodically. Boards with a smooth finish look contemporary while ribbed or grooved ones have a more traditional appearance. The wood used to construct the deck’s frame is equally as important, so make sure you choose pressure-treated wood.
Modified wood decking, such as Kebony, combines classic beauty with increased durability, hardness and UV-resistance. Innovative technology permanently modifies sustainable softwood species, resulting in a timber that performs to the level of hardwood. It requires little maintenance and can be left to weather naturally to a silver grey patina, or protected to enhance its natural brown colour. Look for companies that adhere to sustainable and responsible sourcing.
If a deck is higher than 30cm above ground level install balustrades. You may need planning permission, so check with your local authority.
Image: Havwoods' composite decking won't warp, splinter or rot, delivering a durable outdoor surface that will withstand the elements, all year round.
Composite decking is an eco-friendly alternative to wood, made from recycled materials including timber, sawdust and reclaimed plastics. Premium designs boast the aesthetics of real wood combined with durability, and UV- and scratch-resistance.
Image: The London Tile Co's Valverdi Copse is a realistic wood effect indoor-outdoor tile offering the look of decking with less maintenance.
Fired at a higher temperature than other ceramics, porcelain is very tough and retains consistency of colour. As a material, it has a near-zero absorption rate, making it frost-proof and highly unlikely to crack. There are many anti-slip designs available, which is an important factor in outdoor spaces because a tile can perform differently when wet. Porcelain comes in stone effects, wood-effect planks and patterned geometric designs.
Read more: Garden and landscaping trends for 2020
Clay and encaustic tiles
Images: Original Style's Victorian floor tiles are laid individually, which can allow for authentic, bespoke patterns to be created.
Natural clay tiles are extremely hardwearing, and suitable for outdoor spaces. From terracottas styles to decorative Victorian paths, these tiles are generally smaller than other styles of outdoor tiles and slabs.
Many retailers of encaustic, cement tiles say that their tiles are suitable for outdoor use, but they will need regular sealing to help prevent water damage. These tiles are best suited for outdoor locations that are adequately protected, such as on a covered patio, as they can be vulenrable to cracking in frost-prone climates as they are a porous material.
Image: You can choose to seal these Taj tumbled limestone tiles from Mandarin Stone, or leave them unsealed to weather over time.
Stone offers a wealth of choice for patios and terraces with limestone, slate and sandstone options. Surfaces can be textured, riven or smooth. For a modern appearance choose large-format paving; a mix of random-sized slabs gives a more traditional look.
Sandstone is affordable and comes in a wide range of colours. Pale limestone is durable, has an even colour that gives a contemporary look and is a good choice for linking a patio that leads to a kitchen diner, but careful specification is needed to ensure your exterior choice is slip-resistant. Blue-grey limestone is dark and dramatic but can fade quickly without the application of a colour enhancer. Stone needs regular sealing to prevent staining, deterioration and moisture damage.
Read more: Stone flooring: what you need to know
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