In ancient days, paving stones were just that, stones that had been cut so one side was flat. These stones were placed onto a bed of sand or another leveling agent to provide a durable, paved surface for a road or patio. Today, the term "paving stone" is used generically to refer to a wide variety of paving materials that include natural stone, brick and concrete.
While paving stones have been used for centuries to pave roads, today they are frequently used by homeowners as a quick and attractive means of creating decorative walkways, patios and courtyards. Paving stones are also a favorite tool of commercial building designers who also like their beauty and versatility. Concrete and brick paving stones are a popular choice for driveway applications, while natural and manufactured stone pavers are more suitable for light foot traffic areas.
Although paving stones come in a plethora of materials, the three most popular varieties are natural stone, brick and concrete. Natural stone pavers are quarried out of natural deposits of granite, limestone, marble, sandstone, slate and a number of other natural stones. Because of the cost involved with excavating, collecting and cutting the stones, natural stone pavers can be quite expensive. Brick paving stones are manufactured from a mixture of clay and shale that has been fired at up to 2,000 degrees. Concrete pavers are manufactured by pouring cement, aggregate and color pigment into a mold and firing it. Concrete paving stones cost less than either brick or stone pavers and can be strong enough to use for roads or driveways.
While paving stones have a variety of features that are unique to their origin, all paving stones have a flat finished surface. The surface may be coarse or fine, rough or smooth, but the primary surface will be flat. The perimeter of most paving stones is symmetrical, allowing the stones to fit together in precise geometrical patterns. However, some natural stone pavers are intentionally left with irregular perimeters for aesthetic purposes. The hardness of the stones, and their fitness for particular purposes, is determined by their origins.
Paving stones come is a wide variety of sizes and shapes, with the most common being square or rectangular. These two shapes can be combined to create many popular patterns such as herringbone or basket weave. Pavers can also be cut to any desired size with the use of specially designed hand tools or powered paver saws. Installers will also need half-course square pavers to cobble lock the pattern.
Before beginning a paving project, you need to consider the purpose and use of the area being paved to determine the type of stones to purchase. Dry-laid paving installation allows for easy adjustment if you make a mistake, but advance planning is necessary if you are setting the paving stones in mortar because mistakes are much more difficult to correct. Remember to consider drainage issues and allow a gentle slope to prevent puddling during rainy weather.