Permeable Paving 101

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As we change our views about what’s practical, responsible and contemporary in landscape design, permeable paving has come to the forefront of hardscaping techniques. Paving that allows water to penetrate soil is not a new concept, but after years of cementing and tarring over soil we’ve come to realize that there are better ways to build outdoor flooring. Solid surfaces only conduct water onto other exposed surfaces. Conversely, rain washing over bare soil tends to cause erosion damage. Covering soil with material that allows water to seep through to the soil below allows rain to be naturally recycled. This is permeable paving.

Using free-draining material is an environmentally friendly way to landscape. It can be made of loose material like decomposed granite or gravel, pavers like bricks, tiles or slabs of stone, man-made plastics, or a mixture of these materials. Using individual pieces of flooring — as opposed to covering areas with solid concrete — not only lets water penetrate between the spaces, but also offers infinite possibilities for artistic design.

Permeable paving is perfect for patios, driveways, walkways or even in lieu of a traditional lawn. Weight bearing paving needs to be placed relatively deep into the soil, but the surface of the ground-covering can be adorned with textures and designs. Great options for this type of paving include: slabs of stone, brick, tile, gravel and any other durable substances. In addition, there are systems made of plastic or vinyl that can be inter-planted with living ground-covers and interlocking pavers or porous grass grid systems that make for interesting surfaces. Or you can lay your own creations, pave with natural stone or mix and match materials to create your own designs and textures.

Permeable paving is an environmentally friendly way to make your garden more artistic. Adding color, texture and design to your flooring surfaces can help decorate your landscape even when your plants aren’t in bloom.

If you want to be even more eco-friendly, consider using recycled materials in your surface designs. Broken up concrete, old road tar or curbing pieces, recycled tumbled glass, plastic, shredded rubber tires and even reclaimed lumber are more materials available for building coverings that allow water to soak through. Just think of all the different ways you can use permeable paving to make your whole landscape more exciting — and easier to maintain!

Photo credits: Jane Gates

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