Cheap paving ideas: 11 cost-effective solutions for patios and paths
From clever design tricks to unique updates, our cheap paving ideas are the ideal way to spruce up your plot on a budget
Cheap paving ideas are a brilliant way to smarten up your outside space and transform your patio, path and poolside terrace without requiring major investment. From the latest tiles, slabs and eco-friendly materials there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to create the perfect seating area or walkway.
Your choice of paving can play a large part in the overall look and feel of your outside space. The color, texture and format alone can either cozy up a vast area – adding warmth and character – or create sleek and clean vibes for a cool, contemporary mood.
There's no escaping the fact, however, that patio paving can be one of the more expensive elements of your outdoor space. But with a little know-how and a few design tricks there are some simple ways that you can make some savvy savings.
Introducing a surprise element of bold pattern or color in just a small area can instantly elevate inexpensive paving, while opting for cost-effective yet stylish materials means you can keep an eye on costs without having to sacrifice on style.
Keep your budget in check with these cheap paving ideas
There are plenty of inspiring cheap paving ideas so you can stamp your personality on a space and truly make the plot your own without having to spend a fortune.
1. Create budget-friendly stepping stone paving
As this stunning garden illustrates, you don't need to pave an entire space to create an eye-catching design.
Adding some simple stepping stone ideas to a gravel path can introduce a more playful vibe to your plot, especially if you opt for a variety of shapes and sizes for your paving.
It's also a great cheap landscaping idea as you can make use of paving offcuts that you might have leftover from another project in your plot, such as a patio makeover.
2. Paint old paving for an inexpensive makeover
How about this for a budget paving idea with a difference? If your existing paving has seen better days and you don't have the necessary funds to replace it, you can give it a brand new look with a clever paint makeover.
First, you'll need to give your paving a really good clean to make sure it's free from dirt, dust and any moss. It's important to remove weeds from a patio and pavers too before you start.
Next, it can be a good idea to use a primer to make sure the paint adheres to the surface before applying two coats of your chosen color. A roller is a quick and easy way to apply it, but you may want to attach your roller to a longer handle if you don't want to spend all weekend on your hands and knees painting the slabs.
This design features a white base layer with a multicolored pattern of contrasting paint on top to create a contemporary terrazzo effect. 'It took me three days to transform our paving with paint,' says homeowner Emily Smith. 'One day to clean it, the second day to apply the white base layer and then a third day to apply the finished pattern. It was worth the effort to transform our paved patio so cheaply.'
3. Use cross sawn logs for cheap paving
One thrifty but attractive idea is to make a woodland-style log pathway. Made from cross sections of sawn logs, it’s one of the most natural looking paving styles you can find.
Place the circular sections onto a firmed and levelled garden path and arrange as stepping stones. Fill any awkward gaps with smaller discs from younger branches and fine bark chippings.
Shown in this delightful wildlife-friendly garden by Tom Massey, the overall look is full of character, natural beauty and feels warm and inviting. The timber will also weather and silver over time, creating an even richer canvas.
4. Take a patchwork approach for an inexpensive update
Add character to your cheap garden ideas with mismatched paving. A great way to make use of reclaimed materials or those leftover from other building projects, you can celebrate the contrasting shapes, textures and colors by laying them cheek by jowl.
Depending on the amount of landscaping materials you have to hand, it’s best to concentrate on one key area of your plot for maximum impact. You can always expand a small pathway to update your patio ideas too as you acquire more supplies.
Seek out large flagstones, worn clay bricks, thick roof or stone tiles, slates or even leftover terracotta pots and pipes and enjoy taking time to arrange them in the most pleasing fashion. To secure them in place, place them on a prepared and compacted layer of scalpings and in fill the gaps with stone chippings or fine gravel.
5. Go for quick-lay paving to cut costs
Installation costs often account for at least half the cost of a new paving, so cut these out by opting for a quick and easy tiling system.
Stores like Ikea have cleverly designed cheap paving ideas that take minutes to put down and take up again if needed. Made with a highly durable plastic interlocking sub-base, provided you have a flat and firm area to lay on, you can easily cover your outside space with these modern paving ideas in an afternoon.
Choose from composite timber deck squares that click into place without the need for any screws, tools or wooden bearers, or porcelain tiles that click into a sub base. Ready to use instantly, you can be enjoying a leisurely catch up with friends the same day.
6. Reduce maintenance costs with durable porcelain paving
Porcelain planks are hugely popular and offer something different to standard shapes. Ideal for recreating the look of timber deckboards and traditional stone paving, there’s a vast range of finishes to choose from, and many of them are incredibly affordable, too.
What's more, they are highly durable and require minimal upkeep, so you won't be hit with huge ongoing maintenance costs. A regular clean and hose down with your best pressure washer should do the trick when it comes to keeping them looking good.
Whatever shape and style of cheap paving you go for, the direction and way the tiles are laid also plays a huge role in the finished look, and can instantly elevate an inexpensive material into something with more of a designer edge.
'Three of the most popular paver patterns used for outdoor tiles are linear, brick bond and offset brick bond,' says Amanda Telford, Marketing Manager for CTD Tiles. 'The more frequently used option is the linear format; this typically works well for all tile shapes and offers a simple and sophisticated finish. For those looking for a more interesting and creative approach, the brickbond and offset brickbond is a more suitable choice and fits perfectly into all size areas.'
7. Focus your budget on a small area of statement paving
One of our favorite cheap paving ideas is to give plain patio flooring a unique twist with the addition of a few patterned tiles. A central panel of a contrasting design – whether it’s a series of mismatched tiles, a simple repeat or a single multi-tile motif – is a great way to add interest and cheat an expensive designer look on a budget.
By drawing the eye, you can detract from other less-than-lovely elements in your garden and firmly put the focus on a favorite feature such as a stunning sofa set or cocoon chair.
When it comes to how to lay a patio, fitting porcelain tiles is a job that can definitely be handled by competent DIYers. Abbas Youssefi, Director at Porcelain Superstore says: 'Preparation is the secret to a successful job. We recommend a 25mm bed of mortar laid onto a layer of compacted MOT hardcore that’s six-inches deep. This will ensure there’s no movement or subsidence underneath the tiles.'
8. Go for interesting shapes to elevate budget materials
Neutral, affordable paving is a brilliant way to create a practical seating area but there are some simple ways to elevate these materials to the next level.
Think carefully about the direction the tiles are laid and the overall shape of the area. Introducing curves or a circular patio design does take time to construct, but it makes a stunning focal point without costing more in terms of materials. If budget allows, edging with contrasting paving complements the smooth finish and striking shape.
We love how the curved lawn and block paved pathway continue the circular motif, adding interest to this small garden layout.
9. Make use of reclaimed brick paving
Affordable and rather beautiful, reclaimed bricks are a great choice if you're searching for eco paving solutions. Small in scale, they create a beautifully uneven surface strewn with subtle variations in color and texture, adding a homely touch to any outside space.
Ideal for paths, small patios or courtyard gardens, laying these clay bricks or pavers is a time-consuming but very therapeutic project. Aim for joints of between 2-5mm, always start laying from two fixed side edges to ensure an even bond before compacting and infilling joints with fine silica sand.
‘For use as paving, clay pavers must be fully frost resistant. Reclaimed pavers can be used with confidence, providing they have been previously laid in an area where they have been fully exposed to the weather,' say the Brick Development Association.
10. Pave a space with cheap gravel
A mass of tiny stones, gravel is often associated with grand sweeping drives and period properties, but landscaping with gravel is a cost-effective paving option for much smaller, informal plots too.
Naturally formed and quarried, the material varies in color, texture and make-up and is often a mix of different stone types. Popular choices include Moonstone – milk white, pale grey and brown tones found in flint; Cornish Cream – with mellow honeyed tones along with Rhinegold an attractive blend of golden yellow, bronze and white shingle. 'This gently rounded 10mm decorative gravel is easy to walk on and simple to maintain. It makes a great choice for patios, pathways and planting areas or borders and is ideal for informal planting,' says the team at Decorative Aggregates.
Sticking to a larger grade of gravel for a patio is a must, as this will help limit the material to one specific area, but there are other tricks to try. 'A gravel garden will need a retaining edge in order to define it and prevent the stones escaping into other areas,' explains Jo Fenton, partner at Fenton Roberts Garden Design. 'We often use granite setts but we also like flexible metal garden edging which is versatile and very easy to install.'
11. Add pebbles between paving to make it stretch further
Make your cheap paving ideas stretch further by interspersing paving slabs with more budget-friendly pebbles or gravel. Decorative aggregates can be bought in bulk bags and are brilliant for covering large areas.
They will need to be laid on a firm surface or at least have a layer of landscape fabric underneath to prevent them from sinking into the earth below. You will also need to include some garden edging ideas to prevent them from spilling out into the wider garden, but once this preparation is in place, they are quick and simple to lay, and easy to maintain. What’s more they also let the rainwater permeate through, helping with garden drainage and any potential stormwater issues.
What are the cheapest paving materials?
Gravel and slate chippings are a cost-effective landscaping idea and an easy way to cover a large area. Creating an attractive and tactile surface it works with most gardening styles. It's also easy to cover any less-than-lovely features such as tired concrete or crazy paving.
One other option for your cheap paving ideas is to use compacted crushed stone. Often used as a base layer for laying slabs and outdoor tiles, it can look pretty smart on its own, especially when smoothed down. Highly durable it’s a practical surface for furniture too, plus you can always pave or tile over it when budget and time allows.
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey, England, and spends much of her time writing about them too.
- Beth MurtonEditor, Gardeningetc
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