Paving or decking: 5 things to consider before you decide

Paving or decking

The two most popular options for backyard entertaining areas are decking and paved patio or courtyard style areas. Both paving and decking materials can be used to create beautiful and functional outdoor spaces perfect for entertaining friends and family or just relaxing in the sun.

However, choosing which is best suited to your space involves considering a number of different factors including aesthetics and design, ground preparation, construction method, maintenance and more. So, let’s have a look at five things to consider when deciding between decking and paving.

1. The materials involved

Deciding between decking and paving is not just a simple decision between timber and stone. Both decking and paving materials come in a wide range of colours, styles and finishes that will affect the look, construction, maintenance and longevity of the finished surface.

Decking materials are made from either natural timber or composite materials. Common decking timbers include treated pine, jarrah, blackbutt, spotted gum, merbau, stringybark and ironbark. Each timber has different properties in terms of colour, durability and density.

The best composite decking materials are made from a mixture of reclaimed timber and recycled plastics. They are designed to look and feel like timber, without the high levels of ongoing maintenance requirements.

As with timber, there is a wide range of paving stone options. Some common paving materials include granite, slate, travertine, sandstone, bluestone and limestone. Besides natural stone options, there are also manufactured paving products like concrete pavers and brick paving.

2. Aesthetics and design

Both paving and decking provide a natural, although very different, aesthetic. Depending on the style of your outdoor area, one may be more suited than the other.

With decking, you tend to get clean, straight lines with more of a rustic timber feel. A deck can look great around a pool or in a garden area. Decking may also be more suited to timber framed or weatherboard style houses. With the wide range of colours and finishes that timber and composite decking materials come in, you are sure to find a style that suits your home and outdoor area.

Paving materials are also available in a wide range of colours and natural tones that can beautifully complement a garden or pool area. When it comes to paving, the biggest benefit comes from the flexibility of design. Whereas decking boards have to be fixed to an elevated structure, the paving design is limited only by your imagination. This means you can mix and match your paving materials to create eye-catching patterns and designs.

3. Installation and construction requirements

Paving and decking have very different requirements when it comes to installation and construction. But before considering the method of construction, you need to think about where you want to build the deck or paved area.

If you have a sloping backyard or you want to build an outdoor area on a second-storey patio or verandah, decking is the best option as it can easily be built on an elevated support structure.

Paving sloped areas, on the other hand, can involve major excavation, ground preparation and the construction of retaining walls, which can add significant costs to the project.

If you want a surface as close to the ground as possible, then paving is the best option. Decking always needs to be built on a support frame above ground level. The ground beneath the deck also needs to be prepared to ensure proper drainage and reduce the chance of moisture damage to the deck or the stumping.

If you’re considering a DIY project, both decking and paving will present some challenges. Installing a deck requires a certain level of carpentry experience.

Laying paving stones, on the other hand, isn’t complicated work, but it is a labour-intensive process. The ground needs to be leveled and a suitable foundation or substrate layer needs to be prepared before the stones can be laid.

4. Maintenance and longevity

When it comes to maintenance and longevity, paving is the clear winner, especially compared to timber decking.

Timber decks require regular oiling or staining to keep them looking good and to prevent damage from the sun, moisture, rot and pests. This maintenance can be costly and requires the purchase of decking chemicals and oils, which can be bad for the environment.

The longevity of timber decking depends greatly on the material. Treated pine is extremely cheap, but it won’t have a long lifespan. Ironbark, on the other hand, is expensive, but with the right maintenance can last a lifetime.

Unlike timber, composite decking doesn’t require regular sealing, which means the maintenance requirements in terms of time and money are much less than timber. Composite materials also tend to be more durable than most comparable timber products.

Pavers can be expected to last a lifetime without much in the way of maintenance, providing the ground is properly prepared prior to construction. A quick pressure clean is usually enough to keep the pavers clean. Depending on the materials, you may need to get your pavers sealed every 12 months.

5. Consider the cost

As with any building or renovation project, the cost will be a major factor affecting your final decision. Ultimately, the cost of the project will depend on what materials you choose and the complexity of the construction process.

In terms of timber decking, your cheapest option will be treated pine, while composite decking and premium hardwoods, like ironbark, will be significantly more expensive. However, these will last much longer and require less ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Your choice of pavers can also have a huge affect on the cost of the project. Basic concrete or brick paving will be relatively cheap while some natural stone paving, like granite, will be much more expensive. You should also factor in any ground preparation that may be required. Paved areas need to be fairly flat, so if any excavation or retaining walls are required, this will increase the cost of the project significantly.

Getting quotes from decking and paving professionals is the best way to get a clear idea of the costs involved with each option.

At the end of the day, whether you decide on paving or decking for your outdoor area, what’s most important is that you choose the option that will let you make the most out of your outdoor space.