How to Pick the Right Floor for Your Garden Room

Every area needs a ground, and outside garden rooms are no exception. Paths, decks, patios, overlooks, and garbage can storage hoses, lawns, ground cover plantings … they’re all floors. If it’s possible to walk it, store something on it or roll up on it, I call it a flooring.

The easiest, cheapest floor material is that the dirt that comes with a home. Unfortunately, the issue with an all-dirt garden flooring isalso, well, it is dirty, even entirely muddy when wet. It does have one redeeming trait: It is dirt cheap. Nonetheless, it’s highly possible you’ll have to select something other than dirt for the majority of your garden. The way to decide, given all of the choices? As with any design decision I make, I look for practicality, beauty and sustainability.

Creative Garden Spaces

As the saying goes, form follows function. First consider how the surface will be utilized and what’s the most appropriate material to support that use.

Loose stuff for much more casual spaces. I considerloose materials like crushed stone, gravel and shale (also bark mulch) when I want an informal garden pathway or lounging area. They usually cost less and require less labor than other materials, and you do not have to become a master builder to make them seem good. But because these materials could be movable after placement, you’ll have to do some care to keep them from drifting away.

Hard materials for more formal places. On the flip side, hard materials such as flagstone, brick, tile, concrete and timber give themselves to more “civilized” applications like patios, decks and entryways. These generally withstand a lot of visitors and can easily be cleaned using a broom, a washing machine down (rather not in water-scarce ponds) or an electric blower, if that is your instrument of choice.

Visual allure. But we seek more than usefulness. The first thing we notice in a garden is its visual appeal and sense of design — not how readily ketchup stains could be vanquished. Take cues in the materials and finishes of your residence in addition to influences in the natural surroundings.

Environmental Effect. Consider where the materials originated, if they come from recycled resources and if they are permeable. If you do not understand, ask.

Price. For almost all of us, cost is the elephant in the room. The best advice I can offer here is to not be penny wise and pound foolish. I have found time and again that a bit more cost (sometimes a lot) on the front end guarantees that you’ve selected the best flooring for the job, the one least likely to come back and bite you later.

environmental concept

7 Materials for Outdoor Floors — and How to Use Them

Stone. Stone is enduring and elemental, taking many forms. Where a thoughtful style is the most suitable, irregular slabs of flagstone edged with yummy ground covers seem right in your home. In formal dining terraces, geometric contours mortared to a slab are a sensible solution, assuring the stones remain in place and supply a level surface.

In regards to selecting the right stone for your project, consider not just the colour, but also its surface texture. Too eloquent and it could pose a slip hazard; too irregular and you’ll have a hard time leveling a desk (or walking in 6-inch stiletto heels — not a issue for me).

Stability and security are paramount concerns, so be sure to place the stepping stones on a well-compacted foundation with some of their mass underground to keep them from tilting and moving around. Check that pathway stones are large enough and ergonomically spaced so you can land them on without needing to finely dance from you to the next.

The colour of the rock must harmonize with the outside of your home, other garden hardscaping and organic elements. You’ll get a wide selection, from nearly black to gray to white, and browns including rusty oxide-infused colors.

Billy Goodnick Garden Design

Brick. Brick is just another durable flooring material that can express the air of a classic garden. If the visible foundation of your house is brick, utilize the same brick as a walkway boundary to permeate the house and the garden into a coherent composition. Or you can unleash your artsy, bohemian style by creating arbitrary patterns and infusing the layout with random sprinklings of different materials, like stone or ornamental tiles.

If you are the one responsible for rolling out the garbage cans in the side lawn to the curb each Thursday evening, you’ll be happy you passed on a pea gravel route and went with a continuous ribbon of mortared brick.

The colour palette for brick requires additional design choices; colors incorporate a selection of black through gray, brown, red and some yellowish tints. Although individual bricks are somewhat rectangular, you will find infinite layouts to experiment with, including traditional running bond, herringbone, basket weave, radial spokes, soft curves and whimsical layouts that look like somebody wrapped down too many beers.

THINK Architecture – John Shirley

In formal situations brick is put to a daybed of sand or mortared on a solid slab of concrete. This approach ensures that the brick will not subside or change, a important detail under chairs and tables. For paths the standard approach is to place the outer borders of brick in a solid concrete base, pave the inner coating with brick put on well-compacted mason’s sand then brush more sand into the joints to lock them into position.

For shady, moist places where moss can cause slip-and-fall mishaps, be cautious about picking materials, like brick, that could withstand a strong blast from a hose or deep scrubbing using a coarse broom.

Caution: Where the earth freezes, loosely put brick could heave, which makes the trail uneven and potentially dangerous. And steer clear of mature trees with surface origins.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

Tile. Tile, like brick, supplies a broad palette of styles, ranging from crisp, contemporary styles to old-world Mediterranean. Because tile is lean and not able to bear much weight on its own, it is always mortared to a solid foundation. Be careful to avoid slick surfaces, since they may get dangerously slippery when wet.


Concrete. Square foot for square foot, concrete is also a smart long-term investment. It starts off in a semiliquid state, meaning it could assume any form. If plain old pavement gray is not your design, concrete could be stained and textured to look like rock, seeded with pebbles, pocked with rock salt or stained with intense pigments to make bold layouts. One problem with traditional concrete, though, is it is impermeable; it sheds water instead of allowing it to percolate into the soil where it could do some good.

Evergreen Consulting / 4EGC

Decking. A builder friend of mine calls wood decks “dry rot in slow motion.” He is pretty spot-on. Conventional wood decks, regardless of how much waterproofing you apply annually, will eventually succumb to nature’s forces (or termites).

But if you’ve got a sloping house, require a level surface for outside entertaining and want to avoid the cost and disruption of constructing retaining walls, decking is the way to go. Since you’re not likely to add on to the deck after it is constructed, now is the time to decide how it’ll be utilized and make space for all of the furnishings you desire.

jamesthomas Interiors

To avoid the effects of weathering and decay, consider building with fabricated plastic lumber made from recycled bottles, plastic bags and wood scraps. It comes from regular lumber sizes, connects with screws and doesn’t rot, which makes it perfect for rooftop getaways.

Frank & Grossman Landscape Contractors, Inc..

Loose materials. Even though they may seem to be a non invasive cop-out, loose materials like gravel, crushed stone, compacted shale and decomposed granite can be an inexpensive yet elegant option, especially when edged with a richer material, like brick or stone. Benefits include permeability, low cost and ease of installation.

However, these materials are more likely to be displaced, especially if water passes over them. And gritty, sandy materials are the very last things you want to monitor onto your hardwood entryway. One of my favorite design remedies for updating crushed rock paths uses enriched thresholds and intersections of rock.

Plants. As well as inert materials, there is all of the living things. Once again, your choice ought to be directed by the intended use: Active recreation, by way of instance, involves the equally mowed surface of a tended yard.

Another consideration is the way “at home” a yard is in your climate. Where rainfall is dependable and plentiful, you should not be too concerned about using potable water for irrigation. And there are plenty of natural approaches to lawn care, so you can steer clear of the old-school arsenal of chemical sprays and remedies that could be harmful to beneficial insects, wildlife and groundwater. But in arid climates, more and more people are moving lawnless to help conserve water in addition to lower their reliance on fossil fuels for both mowing and edging.

CYAN Horticulture

Meadows, using their tussled, just-got-out-of-bed look, are perfect for creating a rustic sense — and can bring in a diversity of beneficial insects and other cool things for kids to discover. You are able to walk through them or mow intimate, sinuous paths to research. If you do not have to ramble through the space, any combination of ankle-high perennials and ground covers can offer color and a open expanse that will take the eye across the garden.

More: How to Decide on a Mulch — and Why Your Soil Wants It

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