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If you are thinking of creating a patio, courtyard or path within your garden, then I have some helpful information for you.Where to place a pathHave a good look at your garden, even if you are just viewing from the comfort of your kitchen, this may give you an idea of where paths should be placed. Viewing a curved pathway, particularly one that wraps behind a border will entice the viewer to exit the house and follow the path to discover what lies at its end. You may not end up with a crock of gold at the end of the path but a restful seating area will be a good consolation, and quite a nice focal point. Hardwearing continuous paths can be created from gravel, paving brick, pavers or setts (concrete or natural stone, with granite setts being particularly strong in texture and colour). Gravel paths are the most economical to install. However, I would never recommend laying them within lawns as disturbed gravel may enter the lawn and end up breaking windows or worse, if hit by lawn mower blades.Design tips and hintsI often recommend paving brick for creating both straight and curving garden paths, provided you lay it with clear design rules in mind. Do you have a short garden, which you wish would appear longer? This can be achieved by creating a path running right down the garden laid in a “running bond” pattern. Brick laid in this style runs lengthways in the direction the path runs whilst its joints are staggered for strength. Maybe you have a garden that is narrow causing you to wish it would appear wider; again an optical illusion design trick can be called into play. This time lay the brick in a style known a “stretcher bond”, which has a widening effect. To produce this effect the brick must be laid lengthways across the width of the path in staggered rows.
Both of the optical illusions created by the use of “running bond” or “stretcher bond”, follow a similar rule to one used in fashion, where vertical lines appear to lengthen or slim whereas horizontal lines appear to widen or expand (who says you learn nothing by reading the fashion magazines).If you wish to create a path that will not appear prominent and dominate a smaller garden, I would suggest you install a stepping stone path. This will look quite at home on the compacted lawn beneath the washing line. Stepping stones are laid flush with, or just below lawn level to allow the mower to pass over unimpeded.A site for your patioThe patio is an extension you can add to your home without planning permission; it is your roofless dining area or room outside. We use patios primarily as sitting, sunning and entertaining zones. Your patio should be used as our own personal courtyard linked to our house. With these uses in mind, seek out an area that receives direct sun from the south, the west or a combination of both. Southerly facing patios offer warmth from twelve o’clock onwards, ideal for those of you who wish to tan au-natural. A paved area with a westerly aspect will allow you to enjoy evening sun whilst reflecting on the day, with or without a glass of wine. Sun alone is not enough to make your patio experience a pleasant one; you must also seek out an area that is a refuge from winds or else provide artificial shelter. I come across many fine-looking patios in full sun that I find hard to spend more than a few minutes on, due mostly to the wind chill factor.Selection of materials and laying patternsThe selection of a paving material comes down to your personal taste and what your budget will allow. However be guided by the following pointers, firstly you must realise that the patio often eases the transition from house to garden. So if you select economical concrete or cement patio slabs, ensure they have an appealing colour and texture similar to natural stone. The addition of bands / borders of natural granite setts or cobble stones, whilst linking with the surrounding environment can be used to enrich concrete flags. Indian sandstone flags whilst slightly more expensive than their concrete counterparts offer a natural stone surface which is full of visual and tactile charm. The laying style of paving materials will dictate how you feel whilst seated on your patio. If paving is laid in a diagonal pattern, the sense of movement is minimised which ensures a more restful spell in the room outside. To increase the sense of restfulness on a patio created from brick I suggest using a laying style known as “Basketweave” or alternatively the older “Flemish pattern” style, these styles minimise movement that is normally reserved for paths.Children, the elderly and the non slip patioThe selection of a non-slip material is vitally important especially where young children or the elderly are concerned, as a painful fall can really affect these patio users. Superior non-slip paving materials are those with an exposed aggregate or a sandstone finish. Finally, when deciding on the size of a paved area to create, sit back and ask yourself how many occupants are in your house. Use this rule of thumb; create a minimum of four metres squared of paved surface per patio user. Do not forget to allow for the friends factor, unless you are a “Billy-no-mates”.
If you are without friends, you will not remain that way for long once you create your sun-drenched patio or room outside.
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