How to buy - Paving, walling & fencing

There are important factors to consider when selecting landscape materials, Sally Drury advises.

Paving: texture and colour should both be considerations when selecting materials - image: CED
Paving: texture and colour should both be considerations when selecting materials - image: CED


Click here to view table of paving suppliers and product information

Q How do I choose the right materials for paved areas?

A Paving is not always just for pedestrians. Yes, it needs to provide a hard, dry, non-slip surface for the safe passage of feet, but you also need to consider what else the surface may have to carry. Ask, what is the function of the surface?

In public areas, the surface may need to carry delivery vehicles or perhaps even provide hard standing for emergency services. The anticipated loading and the type and frequency of traffic will all affect the type of materials you can use and may make it necessary to increase the thickness of the sub-base and base.

Think too about texture and colour. These aspects can be used to suggest direction, while cobbles may say "don't go there". Using different materials, colours and textures can also indicate traffic hierarchy or draw attention to hazards or a change of ownership. Remember that ribbed paving can look nice but will not be appreciated by wheelchair users.

Q What other factors should be considered when looking at the various materials available?

A Strength is important and will be needed where traffic is likely to be heavy. Safety becomes a priority where the public is expected to walk. Also think about how the paving material will react in damp, cold British winters. Some materials weather better than others.

The type of subsoil and any tendency to subsidence may affect the choice of material. It is important to investigate what is underneath in terms of pipes and cables. Where paving is likely to be dug up to access underground services, it is best to choose unit paving such as flags rather than rigid, in-situ materials.

Aesthetics are also important, especially in conservation areas or where a local stone dominates the site. Harmonisation may be the rule. In quiet environments, such as around hospitals, materials should be selected that will reduce noise impact. Light reflection may also be a consideration, especially where there is a high concentration of buildings.

Also think about the life expectancy of the materials and whether you will be able to find stocks to replace damaged sections in the future. Consider how the materials will be cleaned and how they will stand up to being swept and scrubbed with vacuuming or sweeping machines.

Q There are so many types and grades of timber decking. What is best?

A It is great to use timber in the landscape. Choosing the right materials and decking is not only environmentally friendly but also strong and aesthetically pleasing. Decking can be the perfect solution for seating areas in gardens and it

can be just as useful in public landscapes where patterns and angles can be employed to create a safe and artistic surface.

When choosing a decking material, it is important to consider the volume of foot traffic likely to use it and whether changes in level have to be accommodated. In public situations the decking needs to be inclusive, so consider how suitable the surface is for wheelchairs, pushchairs, toddlers and the elderly — as well as bicycles and high heels.

It is important to think about hygiene too. Decking that is intended to support outdoor catering areas must be easy to keep clean. For such areas, smooth boards will prevent food particles from being trapped and will be easier to clean than ribbed or grooved boards. Smooth decking is also more comfortable for wheelchair users.

Decking, whether domestic or commercial, is designed to carry specific loads so it is graded according to distributed and point loads. C16 softwood boards are good for most applications, but choose a higher structural grade for more demanding areas.

Q Are there any rules for opting between walling or fencing materials?

A The choice of materials will depend on the function, required lifespan, available budget, transport, construction or installation skills and maintenance. Consider whether the structure is intended to be a physical barrier to shut something out — or to shut something in — or whether it is required to define a space, mark a boundary, provide shelter or provide a backdrop to some special feature.

In the landscape we are usually concerned with aesthetics as well as function, so design choice and material specification should reflect the needs and appearance of the area. There may be an opportunity to link with paving projects.

Q What factors affect the cost of materials and installation?

A The cost of paving, walling and fencing materials will largely be determined by availability and transport. When pricing up work, do not forget to allow for wastage in terms of offcuts and matching up patterns. Factors affecting the cost of installation will be partly dependent on labour, soil structure and local conditions, plus the complexity of the design.

Q Where can I find out more about stone products and get ideas on how to use them?

A Try the Natural Stone Show at Excel London. It runs from 30 April to 2 May.

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