Flagstones, concrete, bonded aggregate offer luscious colors, textures.
Homeowners planning to build a walkway, patio or pool surround will find myriad choices when selecting materials, from products of nature to man-made synthetics.
There is the old standby, natural stone, in a variety of colors and shapes. Would you like it irregular or cut to shape? Or you might go with inexpensive bare concrete. Too drab? Dress it up with patterns or colors to mimic other materials. Of course you could choose pavers, which make it easier to do the job yourself.
Not dizzy yet? Consider that the type of material you choose can depend on the area it will cover. For example, it's best to have a solid, level surface for outdoor entertainment areas such as patios. That's because it's best to have a smooth surface for safe walking, or tasks such as moving patio chairs. With a rough stone surface, that could be difficult.
Choices? Check out concrete or maybe a bonded aggregate, which uses a fast-grip resin to bond small pebbles to form a smooth surface. These are also popular as a resurface for repairing cracked concrete surfaces.
Coatings near pools
For swimming-pool surrounds you want a smooth surface, but not one that is slippery. You could use brick, interlocking pavers or a flat -- but not smooth or slippery -- stone.
And don't forget the synthetics. These man-made materials are smooth and may even have nonslip characteristics. A great many of these can be found by searching for ``resurfacing'' or ``concrete restoration'' in the phone book or online. They are best applied over existing -- often damaged -- concrete.
``Most of what we do is a limestone coating,'' Schram said. ``Originally developed in Europe, it's actually a liquid about 3/8-inch thick when applied over a concrete base.''
Actually, to call it a limestone coating is really not fair. A combination of limestone, minerals and polymers, it allows a craftsman or artist sufficient time to create a pattern partly because it dries slowly.
Consider labor costs
Flagstone seems to be a popular material. Just ask Mike Linowski, a sales representative for Thompson Building Materials. ``It's really hard to beat natural stone or natural materials cut especially for something,'' he said. ``You often get colors and textures that synthetics just can't provide.''
Larry Bounds, owner of Cleanline Landscape Construction in Orange, Calif., said one thing to consider when choosing a material is the amount of labor involved in installing it. This can vary a lot,'' he said. Labor costs could vary $2,000 to $3,000 or more.
There are some things you may want to steer clear of in certain situations, he said.
``Slate around a swimming pool, for instance, may look nice but it can be pretty slippery.''
Concrete stamping is another surface option. The average stamping job costs about $85 per square foot. (That does not include any repair work that has to be done.) In effect, a hand stamp creates a pattern in the wet (or curing) concrete.
If style and cost are determining factors in what a homeowner chooses for a material, it's also important to have the right foundation for it. This can vary from a poured layer of concrete to a sand bed or mortar for pavers. Foundations are a key to preventing cracks.