Marshalls has the range to help you choose the right paving for the job

Marshalls has the range to help you choose the right paving for the job

Bellamay Paving & Landscaping installing porcelain

When it comes to exterior landscaping, you need to confidently recommend the best paving for the job at hand or at least understand the pros and cons of each material type. With a growing list of options and brands to choose from, this important decision can feel hard to come by, but read on for an insight into the main material types and tips on what to look out for.


Porcelain has grown in popularity as a patio choice over the past few years and is becoming more common for driveways. The main benefit of porcelain for homeowners is that it’s a low maintenance option and one of the easiest paving types to clean.

While many people like the smooth look of porcelain, there are sometimes concerns over it being slippery. You can provide reassurance on this by using the ‘slip skid rating’, measured in “R” values. The slip skid rating goes from R9 to R13; R9 is for dry-only areas, R13 is ideal for consistently wet areas like swimming pool surrounds. As a benchmark, every product in the Marshalls porcelain range is certified as R11.

Recommend porcelain paving for: customers who want minimal upkeep and a sleek and modern finish.

Natural stone

Natural stone paving remains a classic choice, and one which looks great with properties from any period, but especially traditional homes. As with any natural product, there is a variation in how each slab looks in terms of colour and texture; this adds character to the space and is a big selling point for most people but worth making your customer aware before you lay it. Natural stone forms over thousands of years, so as long as you’re buying it from a reputable supplier, you should have confidence in its durability and strength.

If you’re using a new supplier for natural stone, be sure to check it meets the British Standard (BS 7533 Class 2) and ask for water absorbency and flexural strength data, as these are key indicators of how well it lasts. As a guide, all sandstone sold by Marshalls has maximum water absorption of 1.7%; experts suggest that anything higher than this could go green within a few months and could be more slippery. When it comes to flexural strength, a stone less than 12MPa (megapascals) may not be more vulnerable during cold weather.

Make laying stone easier by choosing a calibrated product with an even thickness on the underside. Go for ‘fully’ calibrated stone to avoid what is known as ‘flat bottoming’, which can lead to technical issues. Flat bottoming is where the stone is calibrated to its specified thickness as a maximum rather than a minimum. For example, if a specified thickness is 22mm and parts of the slab were initially thinner than this, they go under the calibration machine untouched and end up a lot thinner than 22mm. Look for a tolerance of around +2mm from the stated thickness.

And last but never least, make sure you’re sourcing and installing ethical stones. Too many overseas quarries still use child labour and operate in unsafe conditions. Any reputable supplier will be happy to share details of their sourcing with you, and passing this information to your customers helps their peace of mind.

Benefits of a properly calibrated natural stone product

  1. Ease and speed of installation – the uniform thickness of calibrated stone means you can screed out the bedding mortar over a large area, allowing quicker laying. If you choose to use units that vary in thickness, you need to adjust the height of the bedding mortar for each slab.
  2. Stronger installation – the ribs from the calibration process give a larger, irregular area on the underside of the slab, helping to achieve a strong bond between the paving unit and the bedding mortar. This gives you a solid and long-lasting finish.
  3. High-quality finish slabs with a uniform thickness and finish enable a better bond with the bedding mortar. Partial contact between the underside of an uncalibrated slab and the bedding mortar can result in surface staining.
  4. Consistency all around – because the product is a consistent thickness, all delivery crates should weigh the same. The pack weight can fluctuate between -20 per cent and +20 per cent for uncalibrated or poorly calibrated products.

Recommend natural stone paving for: homeowners with period properties looking for a garden that stands the test of time, both in style and durability.


Over the years, concrete paving has moved beyond standard grey flags and block paved driveways, although these ranges remain popular. But with new production methods and finishing styles, people are now opting for concrete for reasons beyond its durability.

When it comes to driveways, customers who want the look of natural stone at a slightly more affordable price are regularly opting for concrete replicas of granite, riven stone and even antique cobble styles. Because these are manufactured and not natural products, they are often engineered to be quicker and easier to install, making them a better option for you too.

Sourcing concrete products that are made in Britain increases the availability and lead time for delivery too, which is great for time-sensitive jobs. And, because products are made closer to where they are laid, carbon footprints are lower.

With sustainability a higher priority than ever before, it’s also worth knowing about the permeable options available with concrete paving. Designed to deal with water run-off in a sustainable way, permeable paving also removes the need for planning permission for new driveways, which can be a big bonus.

Recommend concrete paving for: projects where durability and sustainability are a priority. Standard concrete products are ideal for larger new build estates where a uniform look is needed.

Invest in your understanding

While some customers do their own research, it’s likely to be focused on how a material looks. Ease of installation and technical specs are unlikely to excite clients, but they will make a difference to installation time and, ultimately, cost, so use the technical support offered by good suppliers to make sure you have the complete picture.

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