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Going Against The Drain: Choosing Permeable Surface Materials For Your Patio

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A well designed, well constructed patio can be a beautiful addition to your garden, but as with any building project the materials you use in the construction of patios are vital. One key aspect to bear in mind is the permeability of the materials you use -- if your patio does not allow adequate drainage of rainwater it can quickly become waterlogged, presenting a serious slip hazard and potentially damaging furniture and other objects (such as heaters) kept on your patio.

As such, it's important to use at least some permeable materials in your patio to provide adequate drainage. Fortunately, patio suppliers offer a range of permeable materials, which can be used on a variety of patio styles and substrate types.

Porous concrete

This specialised variety of concrete becomes permeable as it cures and dried, and provides significantly better drainage qualities than traditional concrete. Porous concrete can be found as paving slabs, or can be poured at the work site to provide a striking smooth finish. While porous concrete tends be more expensive than standard concrete blends, porous concrete slabs are still considerably cheaper than flagstones and other traditional patio surface materials.

Unfortunately, porous concrete tends to come in a narrow variety of drab greys and browns, so it is far from the most aesthetically pleasing choice of material for your patio. While poured porous concrete can be more attractive, it is also much more expensive, and will require expensive labour to lay.


Installing a gravel patio is one of the best ways to ward off patio flooding, as the loose arrangement of stones allows rainwater to pass through to the patio substrate and drain away quickly and easily. Gravel is also one of the cheapest materials available for patio construction, and is available in a vast variety of colours and stone blends to match practically any design scheme. Gravel can also be very useful when constructing more traditional brick or flagstone patios, as it can be used to fill gaps between solid paving slabs. This allows water to drain through the gravel channels without undermining the solid footing provided by these materials.

Unfortunately, gravel patios can be quite high-maintenance, and will require periodic maintenance and repairs to stay looking new. Loose gravel can quickly make a mess of the rest of your garden in high winds, and you should make sure to remove any weeds that sprout in your gravel as they appear. Gravel patios also do not provide the same sureness of footing provided by solid patios, and may not be suitable for elderly people or those who have difficulty keeping their balance.

Grass pavers

These unusual structures are essentially hollow paving slabs filled with soil. Once installed, grass is allowed to grow in the soil-filled hollows and after a few months you will end up with a solid, highly permeable patio that blends in remarkably well with surrounding lawns and foliage. Ideal for a natural looking patio with minimal visual impact, grass pavers are extremely durable and long-lasting, and require very little maintenance. 

The downside of grass pavers is that they have to be laid flush with the ground, so using grass pavers will not give you a traditionally raised patio. They can also be particularly laborious and time-consuming to lay compared to other materials, requiring significant excavation to ensure the pavers are rooted firmly in the ground. You should also stay aware that a new grass paver patio will look distinctly unpleasant until grass and other plants are given time to grow.