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.

Natural Stone Patio

Natural Stone Patio

Image courtesy of Pottering Around

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 Network, and Morgan Grimball, ASLA, a landscape architect in Columbia, SC, for the dirt on five outdoor flooring materials.

Round In-Ground Fire Pit

Round In-Ground Fire Pit

A round fire pit is set into a patio made of irregular flagstone and created by Southview Design, based in Minneapolis. The fire pit patio is made of Chilton natural stone and the wall block is Anchor's Highland Stone.

Photo by: Southview Design

Southview Design

Natural stone

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.

Colorful Contemporary Rooftop Patio

Colorful Contemporary Rooftop Patio

Bright orange pillows pop against the industrial surfaces on this rooftop patio. Wood, stone, concrete and metal elements all combine to create a tactile, eclectic 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: $4-6 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: 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.

Photo by: Archadeck



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 $8-10 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. Composite decking runs about $35 per square foot.

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.

Kitchen Courtyard

Kitchen Courtyard

Barcelona? Guess again: this Arizona couple evoked Spanish style into their yard to create this gorgeous brick courtyard, complete with a built-in oven, unique vertical planters and a colorful hammock.

Photo by: © 2010, HGTV

© 2010, HGTV


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.

Tiling Outdoors

Tiling Outdoors

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.


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.

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