Landscaping in St. Catharines and throughout Niagara is always a pleasure, and at Tree Amigos we love planning a landscape renovation and presenting our homeowners with a wide variety of materials to choose from.
The materials we use depend largely on the style of the home involved in the renovation - sometimes our clients already have an idea of what they want to use. Often times though, we present clients with a few choices to consider and research before making a final decision.
Over time, our teams have observed that one decision clients often have difficult making involves choosing which stone material to use for walkways, patios, driveways and garden borders.
Since our Tree Amigos teams work well with both interlocking pavers and flagstone, or natural stone, we thought we’d “pave” the way to an easy decision by listing facts about each material.
Natural material versus man-made materials
Flagstone is a natural stone, which comes in square-cut slabs used in formal settings, or random flagstone which comes in many shapes and sizes, and are great for more informal landscape applications. You may hear it referred to as slate, travertine, bluestone, sandstone, or limestone.
The various types of stone are quarried throughout North America, with some types more prevalent in one area over another. Each type of stone offers different, distinctive textures and colours. Because it’s natural, there will be variations in colour and thickness of slabs and pieces. Slabs or smaller pieces can be laid in random patterns, or cut specially to fit unique designs.
Pavers are usually manufactured from concrete. However, all brands are not created equal. A brand we like, Unilock, is available in slabs and pavers, and offers an Elegance series of products made to look like old world charm, but will stand the test of time. Pavers are available in almost any colour desired, so design possibilities are endless. Versatile pavers can come in precise, square-edged stones and in irregular, tumbled styles that mimic natural stone cobbles or clay pavers. Some designs are more suitable to pavers than flagstone, but both can be used to create driveways, walkways, patios, and fire, grill or water features.
Some homeowners must adhere to a strict budget, which means they are limited in the choices they can make. That’s OK; Tree Amigos teams have worked with some beautiful materials that weren’t the most expensive options available.
That said, our teams are fully aware that some stone materials will be more costly than others. Depending on the scope of the project, it might cost a homeowner double to install flagstone, or natural stone, over the choice of man-made pavers. It all depends on the design and purpose of the stone.
Planning ahead with our Tree Amigos team helps homeowners get exactly what they want: Sometimes, interlocking pavers such as Unilock, or flagstone, must be ordered well in advance of installation time, so it’s always best to plan ahead.
Both types of stone require similar preparation, including excavation, levelling, and adding a base material. Installation and finish work are needed for both flagstone and interlocking pavers.
Flagstone can be laid on a prepared stone base similar to pavers, or mortared on a concrete slab, with mortared or sand joints, like tile. Some applications leave space between slabs, so that natural ground cover, like moss, can be added.
For pavers, the Tree Amigos installation team prepares a compacted gravel base, then tops it with a layer of fine sand or clear gravel for permeable applications or water harvesting. Pavers are installed on top of this, and then another layer of polysand is added to joints, along with water to help bind the stones together.
Following preparation work, it takes a Tree Amigos team longer to install flagstone than it does to install pavers. This is because we are sometimes working with irregular shapes and colours that must be matched, and there is much more labour involved laying out and cutting natural stone as opposed to pavers. Exactly how much longer for flagstone over pavers, it’s hard to pinpoint: It depends on the scope of the project.
Since pavers are manufactured to exact specifications, there is not as great a need to cut and shape stones – except to create patterns or borders as required by the design.
While both types of stone can suffer from settling or disruption by Mother Nature (namely water and freezing or excessive heat), having a properly installed foundation created by our crew is key to a great installation. Both natural stone and interlocking pavers will last for many years with minimal maintenance if installed properly by a skilled landscaping company, often only requiring a quick touch up of the joint sand every few years.
Cleaning is fairly easy for both flagstone and interlocking pavers: Often, a sweep of the broom or a hand-held blower is all you need. If you plan to use a pressure-washer on your stone, never, set the stream to the highest setting: You may end up chipping bits off your natural stone, or washing the sand away from between the pavers.
It’s more labour-intensive, but it’s better to start with a soft scrub using a broom or brush and gentle environmentally-safe detergent, combined with a gentle pressure-wash on the lowest setting. That’s all your new stone surfaces should need to stay clean.
Well, there you have it! Whether you choose interlocking pavers or flagstone for your project, there are advantages to each. If you have trouble choosing, our landscaping team is happy to help you through it.
Our Tree Amigos teams love working with both interlocking pavers and natural stone, while being able to unleash our creativity on choices offered in colour, shape, texture and patterns. The design of a landscaping project itself is a challenge to our skills, and something we’re excited to approach every year with our homeowner clients.
Is there a new patio, stone wall, walkways, built-in barbecue or a new driveway in your future? Our design team at Tree Amigos would love to help you bring your ideas to life!
Want to see some of our favourite projects from last season? Visit the Houzz app and put our name in the search bar. You’ll find photos of our fire features, landscaping design, stonework, decks and much more.