A Guide to Paving Materials

concete aggregate pavers

Patio Surfacing and Flooring These seeded aggregate pavers are embedded in concrete and are fairly heavy.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

Aggregate Block Pavers

When building a patio or path, one of the more fun but challenging decisions you’ll have to make is determining what type of paving material to use. Ideally, the material should:

    • Blend in with the architecture and landscaping
    • Be easy to walk on
    • Not be slippery
    • Easy to maintain
    • Weather-resistant
    • Help with easy, fast drainage

Surfacing Materials for Patios, Paths and Paved Areas

In some regions where drought is a concern or native and drought-tolerant landscaping is preferred, paving materials are a smarter choice than thirsty lawns. Other types of materials for outdoor applications include:

Keep in mind you can also mix two or three of the above materials to break things up visually, offer contrast in colour, shape and texture. This slideshow provides a look at the wide variety of paving and surfacing materials available. Of course, there are numerous types out there—this gallery only begins to cover it.

Slabs of square, rectangular and circular concrete get a textural treatment with aggregate—a mixture of rock fragments—that is embedded in the paver. The process is called “seeded” aggregate, which involves embedding various colours of rocks and stones in the concrete. Seeded aggregate pavers are often available in different shades, like browns, greys, tans, blacks, etc.

Rustic Brick in Mortar

rustic bricks for patio paving

Brick Paving Materials Rustic bricks are placed in mortar with exposed “grout” lines for a casual look.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

Rustic bricks are set on concrete, with mortared joints, or what we might also think of as “grout” lines or spacing. Bricks can also be placed or butted together and laid out in numerous patterns. These particular bricks have an uneven, textured finish to them, which gives them more of a rustic, or informal look. While each brick is the same width, the pieces are different lengths, and are placed in vertical rows that are not precisely straight. This gives it a more casual look with goes along with the rustic feeling.

Consider where these bricks would be used in your garden. If surrounding a swimming pool or spa, this type of brick would not be comfortable for the bare feet walking across them. However, a textured brick would be fine for a patio.

Grey Stone Tiles

grey stone tiles for patio flooring

Stone and Tile Patio Flooring Tile and stone are combined in this grey stone paver/tiles.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

Rounded-corner stone tiles are strong, resilient and versatile. They can be placed in straight but not rigid rows and can be butted against each other or allowed more space around each one for a casual look. The mortar can be tinted the same or a slightly darker or lighter hue to blend in or contrast, respectively. This particular building supply store also carries the same or a similar-looking stone in larger, natural-shaped flagstone.

Interlocking Pavers

interlocking pavers, brick pavers, pictures of pathways, pictures of patios, bricks

Concrete Paver Puzzle Pieces Interlocking pavers look like bricks.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

They have that familiar rust-red colour and rustic texture—are they bricks? Looks can be deceiving. These are interlocking pavers, which are made of a dense concrete that is much firmer than brick. Each piece fits together extremely tight—interlocks. When set on a base of sand and pressed together, interlocking pavers are a much firmer floor than one made of bricks on sand. Unlike brick, it’s difficult to dislocate an interlocking paver. They can handle a heavy load while remaining intact.



Paving Materials Sandstone pavers are accentuated with white mortar / grout lines.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

A warm, medium-toned flagstone which looks like a reddish sandstone. Here, the shape of each flagstone stands out because the mortar (grout) is a high-contrasting white. Grout or mortar colour can completely change the look of your paving material; explore combinations before signing-off on a specific colour.

Cobblestones in Circle Fan Pattern

photo of old world-style cobblestones in circle fan pattern

These Cobbles are Smooth “Old World”-style cobblestones are often arranged in traditional patterns, like the Circle Fan, pictured.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

We may know them as cobblestones, but these cobbles are actually interlock pavers with a natural stone look. Cobblestone pavers are either cast concrete or cut from stones such as sandstone, limestone and granite. Unlike the more rounded cobblestones found on the streets of European villages, the eastern United States and Mexico, “new” cobbles have a smoother, flatter surface for a more comfortable and safer patio floor or walkway.

Different looks are achievable with the variety of colours and laying patterns available. This pattern is the Circle Fan pattern, a traditional “Old World” style that works well with certain types of architecture.

Rocks in Cages

paving materials rocks in pallets

Paving Materials Pallets of rocks and stones, ready for a landscaping project.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

What looks like rocks of different sizes in wire cages is actually rocks, or rubble, in pallets. If your project calls for lots of a certain building material—like river rock or fieldstone—it’s more economical to buy the desired material in pallets, which roughly weigh about 1-1/2 tons.

Pallet of Concrete Blocks

pallet of concrete blocks

Concrete Block Patio Flooring Try carrying a few of these blocks in your arms: each weigh about 40 pounds.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

While concrete blocks are usually used for building walls, they can also make a raised patio that’s strong and probably a little easier to work with than a do-it-yourself concrete patio.

What are the special ingredients in concrete blocks? They’re usually a mixture of powdered Portland cement, water, sand and gravel. The concrete mixture used for blocks uses more sand, less gravel and less water than the concrete mixtures used for general construction purposes. A standard block weighs around 40 pounds, and the standard size block is 8 inches h x 8 inches d x 16 inches w.

Cobblestone Pavers

cobblestone pavers

Sandstone, Limestone, Granite and Other Local Stones A closeup view reveals the different stone colours available.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

A closeup view of different cobblestone pavers are often made from sandstone, limestone and granite. Stones that are indigenous to the region are usually less expensive than more unusual or harder-to-obtain stones. Local stones also blend in well the environment, including other rocks, soil, and plants. Cobblestone pavers can also be cast from concrete moulds.

Assorted Stone Tiles

stone tiles in assorted colors for patio

Stone and Tile Patio Flooring Stone tiles offer a natural look to a patio floor.  Lisa Hallett Taylor

Stone tiles—smaller, rectangular versions of flagstone—are shown in a few of the many colours available. In addition to a beautiful, natural look (because it is natural), these tiles are a safe choice around pools and hot tubs.

Grey Flagstone


Stone and Tile Patio Flooring Gray flagstone often looks like slate.  Photo by Lisa Hallett Taylor

Flagstone is a flat, smooth, natural stone—often sandstone—that forms thin layers, which is why it’s a popular choice for outdoor surfacing or flooring. Most flagstone is local to your area, so colours and names may vary. Names and types include:

    • Crab Orchard Blue-Grey
    • Ozark Mountain
    • Canyon Creek
    • Mocha
    • Chestnut
    • Arizona Oak
    • Pennsylvania Bluestone

Lava Rock

lava rock for patio design

Patio Surfacing, Flooring and Hardscaping Lava rock comes in pebble-sized chunks all the way up to larger pieces, and work well in a tropical landscape.  Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor

While larger chunks of lava rock obviously can’t be used as a smooth and even patio floor, the smaller, pebble-sized pieces are an attractive textural alternative to pea gravel or river rock. Lava rock is usually a muddy-reddish colour or more of a charcoal. Pitting and abrasiveness means lava rock is not a surface you’d want to walk across while barefoot.

Pile of Flagstone

flagstone for paving materials patio

Patio Surfacing and Flooring Flagstone is not a specific stone, but rather a name given to flat stones that come in smooth, thin sheets that can be cut easily.  Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor

A haphazardly thrown-together pile of flagstone demonstrates just how well this flat stone holds up. A thinner “batch” of it—called veneer—would probably chip and break more easily; veneer typically ranges from 1/4″ to 3/4″ thick. The type of stone used depends on where it’s purchased—local stone that’s indigenous to your area and comes from a nearby quarry—will be less expensive than those that come from farther away.

Assorted Pavers


Patio Surfaces and Flooring No paver exactly alike — yet they all work well together.  Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor

There’s no rule that says you have to use the exact same colour paver or cobblestone for one area. Variety is the spice of life, and as long as the sizes are uniform and are made of natural or natural-looking materials, they can look good. These are laid and spaced evenly, with the grout—or mortar—also spaced an even width.


terra cotta flagstone pavers

Flagstone Patio Flooring This pinkish, terra cotta flagstone is a popular choice in the Southwestern United States, where it’s a “local.”.  Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor

Flagstone has always been a popular choice for patio paving, due to its wearability and elegance. Made from ashlar  stone veneer, it comes in a variety of colours and is identifiable by its flat surface and uneven shapes and sizes. This flagstone fits together like pieces of a puzzle. For a smoother, more solid surface, mortar would be used to fill in cracks and give the patio a solid base.

Light Grey Cobblestones

cobblestones, mortar, patio materials, paving materials, pictures of pathways

Patio Flooring and Surfaces Cobblestones with mortar in between them instead of sand can make a smooth and charming patio area or pathway.  Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor

Cobblestone paving has the romantic look of a road in France or Mexico that has withstood decades—perhaps centuries—of use and is still standing. Cobblestones are often used to match the architectural style of a house, usually Old World or European.

By Lisa Hallett Taylor