Under Foot: Outdoor Flooring Buyer's Guide
What's the best material to build your driveway, deck or patio? We look at five outdoor flooring choices and the cost, pros and cons, and ideal locations for each.
From brick to cedar decking to concrete pavers, outdoor flooring options can quickly get complicated, but when you consider the pros and cons of each, it’s simple to choose a type of flooring and style that fits your space and your budget. We talked to design experts Jeff Wilson, a home improvement expert who has hosted several shows for HGTV and DIY, and Morgan Grimball, ASLA, a landscape architect in Columbia, SC, for the dirt on five outdoor flooring materials.
Pros and cons: Stone can be expensive to truck in and installation is labor-intensive. Local stone from your region (for example, fieldstone in the south or slate in the northeast) costs less and is more eco-friendly. Once installed, natural stone is extremely durable and almost maintenance-free.
Cost: Varies by type of stone and region, but around $25-35 per square foot.
Ideal location: Patios, pool decks, front porches, walkways, driveway accents
Design ideas: Use stones with an irregular shape to create a meandering mosaic pathway; for a more uniform appearance, select cut modular stones. Natural stones have beautiful color variations from gray to red to blue, which can form part of the pattern and overall design of your outdoor space.
Pros and cons: A basic slab of concrete is inexpensive, low-maintenance and a good long-term option, though cracking is difficult to repair. Concrete pavers are easier to repair; simply pull up the damaged section and replace.
Cost: $3.50-4 per square foot for basic concrete; $7-8 per square foot for pavers; $12 per square foot for stamped or acid-etched concrete*
Ideal location: Patios, driveways, pool area, garden paths, front porches
Design ideas: New coloring and stamping options make concrete resemble stone, bricks, or other higher-end materials. Concrete pavers are durable, low-maintenance, and come in a wide variety of designs from brick to flagstone.
Pros and cons: Wood decking is one of the simplest DIY projects, which lowers the cost substantially, but wood requires cleaning and sealing every one to two years.
Cost: Around $6-8 per square foot for the least-expensive treated lumber; $18-20 per square foot for higher-end wood; $20-25 per square foot for inexpensive treated lumber, supports and railings.
Ideal location: Ground level or raised decks, pool decks
Design ideas: Using local hardwood in deck building is greener and can be less expensive, since the wood doesn’t have to be trucked in. If your ground is sloped, consider building the deck in levels to follow the slope.
Pros and cons: Brick gives off a beautiful old-world look and is low-maintenance and relatively slip-resistant, but ground shifts over time can make a brick pathway or patio difficult to shovel snow because of the irregular surface.
Cost: Approximately $15 per square foot, including the base
Ideal location: Patios, garden paths or walkways, pool decks or fountains, front porches, driveways
Design ideas: Brick can be installed in a number of patterns, such as basketweave, herringbone, and circular. Encouraging moss to grow between brick pavers fills in the cracks and helps prevent weeds, but can be slippery when wet.
Pros and cons: Ceramic tile installed outdoors must be highly slip-resistant and able to withstand freeze-thaw cycles. Look for tile specifically formulated for the outdoors, which is dense with low absorption ratings. Tile usually requires a sealant to protect the grout from cracking.
Cost: $12-20 per square foot
Ideal location: Front porches, patios, garden stepping stones, pool decks
Design ideas: Use accent tiles to create a border; lay contrasting tiles in a diamond pattern; create a pathway within a large patio by laying a contrasting color in a walkway formation; use smaller tiles in a mosaic pattern as a focal point.
*All costs for all materials are estimates that include labor and installation. Prices may vary by region, and installing materials yourself will cost substantially less in most cases.