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Alternatives to Patio Paving Slabs: 7 Cheap & High-End Ideas

From footpaths to garden design, patio slabs have been favoured for a long time in residential and commercial projects for their relatively low maintenance and durability. However, because of their expense, especially with expansive areas, many business owners, homeowners, and contractors seek cheap alternatives to patio slabs.

Inspiration For Gorgeous Garden Patios That Don’t Include Paving Slabs

Whether you desire to build a beautiful brick pizza oven or brick fireplace or invest in a warming heater lamp or fire pit, there’s plenty you can do to your patio to make it look attractive. But are paving slabs the best for patios?

7 Patio Alternatives in the UK

Whether you’re looking for alternatives to paving for residential or commercial projects, here are seven ones to consider;

  • Block Paving
  • Resin Bound Gravel
  • Timber Decking
  • Composite Decking
  • Tarmac
  • Back chippings
  • Artificial Grass

Block Paving

Block paving also goes by the name brick paving. This decorative method of creating a hard-standing or pavement or driveway is beneficial in that you can lift or replace the individual blocks when they become worn or suffer damage and refill the joints with sand every so often.

Secondly, you can achieve several laying patterns, with the herringbone pattern being the most popular due to its strong interlocking bond.

This short video shows how to lay block paving.

Resin Bound Gravel

The use of resin-bound gravel has grown in popularity recently, especially as a driveway surface. Resin bonded gravel, as it is also known, is a mixture of UV stabilized resin adhesive with loose gravel.

A hand trowel is used to apply the gravel mixture across the whole area. The self-binding gravel surface is appropriate for pathways, patio or driveways.

Unlike other options such as concrete, plenty of colours are available to choose from with self-binding gravel.

Tarmac

Tarmac, commonly used in driveway projects, parking areas etc., is the best paving option for heavy traffic surfaces. This excellent alternative for patio slabs offers a flat surface that provides enough grip for most weather conditions.

Naturally dark coloured tarmac can also be available in coloured options like buff, blue, green and grey.

Unlike patio slabs that feature many individual slabs, tarmac has just one layer meaning you can complete it within fewer days.

Because materials needed for tarmac are usually cheaper and laying tarmac takes less time, the general outlay is lower than patio slabs.

If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives that look simple, without any fuss, tarmac might be the right option.

Timber Decking

Decking is a good choice for creating outdoor seating areas and walkways, especially in parks and gardens. Timber decking is an excellent option if you’re looking for several design possibilities. You can opt for stairs that create a multi-level feature or build on one level.

Timber decks are a few inches or a couple of feet above the ground and need a supporting structure below. You’ll need several loads of sand for a raised structure.

Because you’ll need to stain or paint your wood for an attractive look, the finished deck can be in any colour you desire. Every year, you can change the look and feel of the deck.

Timber decking is a quicker and easier construction, particularly if you raise it above ground level. It is less costly, depending on your choice of wood. You should consider this option if you’re into an alternative that features natural-looking material.

Constant maintenance of timber decking, unlike concrete, is its biggest drawback.

Composite Decking

This option is quickly becoming a cheap alternative to paving slabs. This building product features a mixture of plastics, wood fibres and small amounts of bonding agents. The mixture is heated, then shaped into board lengths and cooled for paving.

Their advantage is that these boards require less maintenance compared to other materials like stone, concrete and traditional wood decking. Moreover, they create a more authentic look compared to plastic alternatives.

The plastic content of the material makes them durable and resistant to insects, damp and rot. Sealing, staining and painting are not necessary with these boards. Even in direct sunlight, the boards do not crack or warp.

Additional plastic capping of the splinter-free boards makes them fade and stain-resistant. Because of its minimal water absorption, this decking is slip-resistant.

The different options available include:

  • Uncapped or capped
  • Solid or hollow

Bark Chippings

A great advantage of bark chippings is that they’re effortless and quick to install.

To install bark chippings, all you need to do is lay a black weed membrane since it’s more concealed and then spread the chippings on top. Ensure the membrane is adequately filled with the chippings.

On top of being highly cost-effective, they’re simple to remove.

Too much movement in them is one of the biggest drawbacks of dark chippings meaning constant re-levelling of the pathway is necessary.

Additionally, strong winds can blow the chippings around the house, garden or the whole paved area. For this reason, only use this alternative to patio slabs in your garden’s sheltered areas.

If you want a naturally-looking pathway surfacing that offers subtle paving, you should consider bark chippings.

Artificial Grass

Artificial grass can be handy when building new homes and for home improvement projects such as those touching the patio area. Because of the tremendous growth in manufacturing techniques and artificial grass technology in the recent past, today’s artificial turf looks like the real thing, provided it is laid properly.

If you’re into grassed paving, you should consider this option. Unlike real ones that might wear away, the artificial option, if laid correctly, can handle regular foot traffic.

Moreover, synthetic turf offers mud-free walking and pathway-like hardstanding options such as poured concrete or paving slabs.

You can combine synthetic turf with stepping stones for a unique and attractive look to your paving area. This goes miles to help you achieve additional interest and style outdoors.

Cheap Garden Ideas Without Concrete Slabs

Here are cheap garden ideas without concrete slabs for paving;

  • Herb garden
  • A space for wildlife
  • Raised beds for plants
  • Partially paved
  • Lawn

Herb garden

The recent surge in renewed interest in growing herbs has to do with the huge demand for essential oils.

Some herbs are expensive to purchase individually at the local store, making herb gardening a great alternative. Finding cheaper options is tricky. Moreover, the chances are high that your grocer will not stock all your desired herbs.

Finally, a herb gardening project is a rich educational experience for children and adults. There’s always something new to discover or learn when growing herbs, so get digging!

A space for wildlife

You can encourage insects, mammals and birds to visit and live in the garden by how you set it up. Doing this helps nurture local wildlife, promote the thriving of green spaces and prevent pests by encouraging natural predators.

You can begin the project and create space for wildlife in the garden by doing several things;

  • Leave rotting logs at the garden’s corner to make a home for insects and hedgehogs.
  • Drill holes in pruned logs and branches to provide nesting space and shelter for insects
  • Preserve overgrown areas for animals like foxes or hedgehogs to hibernate or rest
  • Planting a hedge provides nesting places and foods for different insects and animals such as birds, hedgehogs and wood mice.
  • Planting trees in your garden can create a haven for different types of wildlife, from bats to birds and insects. Native species such as yew, hawthorn, and silver birch support an array of insects. Moreover, they provide food for birds and mammals year-round.
  • Finally, you can consider creating a pond in your garden. Ponds and pond plants are a magnet from wildlife by attracting dragonflies, newts, frogs and insects. They also provide water to birds.

This article by the RSPB has some great tips for a wildlife friendly garden

Raised beds

Raised beds also go by the name garden boxes. They’re ideal for small pots of plants and veggies.

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, garden boxes keep pathway weeds from the garden soil, thus preventing soil compaction, providing excellent drainage and serving as a barrier to pests.

Reduction of soil compaction allows air and water to move through the soil freely.

Partially paved

There’s more to a garden path than a pretty sight. Whether you choose poured concrete, bark chippings, paving slabs, gravel or mulch for your garden path, it leads the way to your tool sheds, provides a guided tour of horticultural achievements and prevents the feet from wet grass.

A garden with partial pavers is an incredible idea that you should consider. This option works out cheaper because of the lower amount of labour needed .

Lawn

Lawns are more important than just for the aesthetics of the surface. Maintaining a thick and healthy lawn surface is highly beneficial to the environment. Lawn grass is handy for keeping the air clean, trapping carbon dioxide, reducing erosion from stormwater runoff, and reducing temperatures, making it one of the best alternatives to paving slabs.

Ensure you have a solid edge for a barrier between your lawn and the paved area or driveways by installing edging pavers.

Conclusion

There’s a wide variety of quality alternatives to paving slabs to help you save money. Tarmac is an excellent option for driveways and paved areas with heavy traffic.

Timber decking is appropriate for those looking for natural-looking alternatives to paving with plenty of colour options to choose from. Resin-bound gravel is a good choice for durability, while compost decking needs minimal maintenance.

Choose artificial grass if you want a lush and green look. Bark chippings are the best if you want an alternative for paving that is easy to install.