Granite is stronger than wood

Terrace coverings: a comparison of the most important materials

Whether stone, wood or WPC: If you want to create a new terrace, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the terrace covering. All terrace coverings have advantages and disadvantages in terms of appearance, durability and price. In addition to personal taste, the design of the terrace also determines the suitable covering. Because depending on whether the terrace is at ground level or is to be designed as a raised veranda, different decking boards and decking slabs are possible. Terraces on the house should match the color and design, while seats in the garden can also be designed differently.

Which material is suitable for terraces?
  • Stone terrace coverings last a very long time and are available in many different colors and shapes. A stable, stable base is important.
  • Decking boards made from local woods such as pine, oak and robinia are particularly inexpensive, but they need care. Tropical hardwoods such as teak, Ipe or Bangkirai are extremely durable and rot-resistant.
  • WPC, a mixture of wood and plastic, is splinter-free, resistant and easy to care for. However, dark WPC decking boards heat up in the sun and many makes are bleached.
  • Gravel and chippings are permanent, pressure-resistant terrace surfaces, but they are relatively difficult to clean.

Good advice helps when choosing the right covering. A consultation on site in hardware stores is unfortunately hardly possible during Corona. However, there are numerous planning tools on the Internet with which the desired terrace can be designed virtually. The OBI terrace planner, for example, gives you the opportunity to compare different terrace coverings with different house facades, kerbstones and more in a 3D view. At the end of the configuration you will also receive a complete material list including self-assembly instructions so that you can take your desired terrace project into your own hands.

Stone terrace covering

Stone terrace coverings are the classics that come in many colors and shapes. Stones last a very long time, you can expose them to the weather without hesitation and you don't have to worry about decay even in wet years. Simply clean and the terrace surface will look like new even after decades. However, stones are heavy and the installation is associated with a high level of effort on raised terraces.

If you opt for a stone terrace covering, you have the choice between natural stones and concrete stones, which are now also available as very good imitation wood. Stones come in many formats, from small mosaic slabs to handy stone paving to large terrace slabs. Combinations of different sizes and types of stone are possible without hesitation. All stones need a well-compacted, stable subsoil, for which extensive earthworks are necessary. No warping, shrinking or swelling - once laid, stones no longer change and can easily be placed directly on the house wall.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of natural stones?

Natural stones come from quarries and are offered as mosaic and paving stones, but also as polygonal slabs or rectangular cut terrace slabs. Whether light gray like quartzite, reddish like granite, beige like sandstone or whitish, reddish, grayish or almost purple like porphyry - natural stones come in many colors and shades, no stone is like the other. All are robust and durable, but this depends on the respective quality and processing. The most durable stones also cost the most. Thinner natural stone slabs are laid in a bed of mortar and thicker ones in a bed of gravel - not that easy with irregular edges. However, if they are properly laid, they will be there for many decades. Depending on the type and quality of the stone, you can expect a material value of 50 to 80 euros per square meter.

The right natural stone slabs can be found for every garden style. Gneiss, for example, is robust and insensitive, while limestone must be sufficiently frost-resistant. Granite is well suited for shady places, as it does not moss so easily - in contrast to travertine, which should only be used in sunny locations. Some stones are imported from countries like India where there is child labor. Therefore, pay attention to seals (for example Xertifix, Fair Stone). In general, when laid correctly, natural stone is the most durable terrace covering of all and is available in many shapes and colors. The stones are absolutely suitable for barefoot, the terrace slabs are easy to clean and, depending on the surface finish, non-slip. Disadvantages are the high price and the high construction costs involved in laying the terrace slabs.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of concrete blocks?

Concrete is robust and weatherproof. As a terrace covering, it can be impregnated so that the surface becomes dirt-repellent. Due to their regular shape, concrete slabs are particularly easy to lay in a gravel or gravel bed. Concrete blocks are produced industrially in huge quantities and are therefore cheap. There are also infiltrating concrete blocks with which the resulting water-permeable terrace is not considered to be sealed. A terrace covering made of simple concrete blocks is available for a good ten euros per square meter, but you can spend up to 50 euros on special colors or wood imitations. Manufacturers often offer other products in the style of terrace slabs, such as matching posts, curb stones and walls.

Concrete comes in many colors and shapes, it is easy to lay, easy to clean and can also be walked on barefoot. Through various processes, some concrete slabs look astonishingly similar to wooden planks or real natural stones, but are significantly cheaper than these. They are even available in a rust look ("Ferro Concrete" from Braun-Steine). Terrace tiles are often offered with special coatings that prevent dirt from seeping in. The colors can, however, fade slightly in the sun. If you choose concrete as the terrace covering, the terrace needs a stable substructure. Concrete slabs are almost only suitable for rectangular shapes, areas with small stones, on the other hand, have more joints in which weeds can settle.

Paving stones as terrace coverings

It doesn't always have to be large-format terrace slabs: Small paving stones can just as well serve as a covering for a seat. Curved shapes or a small, round patio in the garden are naturally easier to build with paving than with rectangular formats. Concrete paving stones are cheap and available from around 15 euros per square meter, granite or basalt paving stones are significantly more expensive. However, depending on the type of stone, the effort involved in cleaning the paving stones varies.

Plaster is placed in a bed of gravel. As always, a good foundation is critical to durability. Mortars with epoxy resin are now often used for grouting. They are available in a water-permeable and water-impermeable form. Advantage: Weeds cannot grow in the joints. When applying this special mortar, however, it is essential to adhere to the manufacturer's instructions. They are also significantly more expensive than grouting with chippings.

Paving clinker as a terrace covering

Clinker bricks belong to the class of paving stones, but because of their mostly warm red color they have a completely different appearance than granite or concrete - although there are also gray and black bricks. Bricks made of pressed and burnt clay with their brown and red tones blend harmoniously into every garden. Over the years, the terrace covering acquires a patina that emphasizes its natural character. Paving clinkers are robust and colourfast, high-quality bricks with a good 40 euros per square meter but not exactly cheap either. They are usually laid in a bed of gravel. Elongated, rectangular shapes that can be set flat or upright are typical.

Once laid, you don't actually have to worry about paving clinker paving - if there are no weeds to settle in the numerous joints between the small stones. Tip: Clinker is often produced during demolition work and can then be obtained cheaply or even for free. They can be reused very well. The old, used bricks have their very own charm - there are even new bricks that are retro-styled to look old.

The trend: porcelain stoneware terrace slabs

Terrace tiles made of porcelain stoneware or ceramic are only two centimeters thick. The tiles fired at high temperatures are insensitive to contamination - even ketchup, red wine or barbecue fat can be easily removed with detergent and warm water. The tiles were originally only laid indoors, but have now become suitable for use outdoors. This makes it possible to use the same material in the living room and on the terrace. Another advantage: the surfaces of the tiles can visually imitate natural stone, concrete or wood surprisingly well. Ceramic or porcelain stoneware tiles are best laid in drainage mortar. Not easy, especially with large panels, so it's best to hire a professional (gardening and landscaping). Laying in gravel is also possible, where they are not as stable as natural stone or concrete slabs due to their lower weight.

What are the pros and cons of wooden decking?

Wood is a natural, renewable material and makes every terrace very cozy. However, one should bear in mind that wood will discolour over the years. A distinction is made between hardwoods and softwoods as well as native wood and tropical wood, whereby tropical wood types are generally hardwoods. Wooden floorboards with a longitudinally corrugated surface have established themselves as terrace flooring, although there are also smooth terrace flooring, wooden tiles or plastic tiles with wooden overlay.

Terrace wood does not get hot, but an airy, stable substructure is necessary for the wooden terrace, as the terrace boards cannot withstand direct contact with the ground and should dry out quickly after rainfall. Wood is ideal for terraces on stilts. Wood works, it expands when it is damp and contracts again after drying. Therefore, you always lay the planks with joints and should not lay them directly on the house wall. But the joints also have a disadvantage: if small parts such as jewelry fall through, it is difficult to get to them again.

Terrace coverings made from local wood

Douglas fir, larch, oak or robinia are ideal terrace coverings - durable and, thanks to pressure impregnation, resistant to fungi. Nevertheless, terrace coverings made of soft wood such as larch or Douglas fir should be treated annually with maintenance oils - and sometimes freed from the gray haze beforehand. Robinia, often wrongly sold as acacia, is a local hardwood alongside oak. Anyone who values ​​the ecological balance of the wood for terrace covering can take advantage of local wood with peace of mind. Because even if you pay attention to the corresponding certificates for tropical timber, there is still an aftertaste of feeling responsible for the deforestation of tropical forests.

Domestic woods are inexpensive, pine is available from four euros per running meter, oak and robinia from 15 euros. Through a special heat treatment, the wood can be made even more resistant to decay, the wood is offered as thermowood. Soft wood such as pine or larch can splinter, which makes walking barefoot uncomfortable. The annual cleaning and maintenance effort is high, terrace coverings made from local woods last five (pine) to ten years (Douglas fir, larch). Oak and robinia easily 20 years.

Tropical wood as a terrace covering

Tropical hardwoods such as teak, Ipe or Bangkirai have a natural wood protection in the form of resins and oils and are therefore extremely durable and rot-resistant. The terrace coverings can easily last for 20 to 25 years. After laying, you no longer have to worry about the wood; over the years it only gets a silver-gray patina, which, however, has no effect on its durability. If you don't like that, you can treat it with care oils. Many species like Bangkirai can even be laid with direct contact with the ground, but a stable substructure is still necessary. The woods are of course also suitable for wooden decks.

Tropical wood hardly splinters and does not warp. The main problem with these terrace coverings is their good durability - the origin. After all, who would want to support the deforestation of the rainforests? To be sure that the wood comes from plantations, you should pay attention to seals of approval such as the FSC and PEFC seals, which certify a sustainable origin. The prices for tropical wood start at around twelve euros per running meter, which equates to a good 50 euros per square meter.

What are the pros and cons of WPC decking?

WPC is an artificial product and consists of a mix of plastic and recycled wood, but also bamboo or rice husks. The composite materials look almost like natural wood, but are more resistant and easy to care for than plastic. WPC decking will last 20 years and more, but like wood, decking needs a stable substructure. WPC boards change their color a little after they have been laid; the final color tone can only be seen after a few months.

Composites like WPC combine the best of wood and plastic. WPC does not splinter, does not require maintenance and does not swell up much. The decking boards get so hot in direct sunlight that you don't want to walk barefoot on your terrace.

Gravel and grit as a terrace surface

The difference between gravel and chippings as a terrace surface? Pebbles are washed round by the water, whereas grit has edges. Gravel is more stable, you sink more into gravel, but it is pleasant to walk barefoot. Grain sizes of 5 to 8 millimeters or 8 to 16 millimeters are best suited for paths and seats. A base layer of coarser gravel comes under the actual gravel. The whole thing can be done well on your own and relatively cheaply. The pebbles are a permanent, pressure-resistant terrace surface, but they need thorough preparation. Because without special honeycomb profiles, the loose pebbles slip and do not stay in place over the long term. However, if you step on it frequently, the upper edges of the honeycombs come to light again and again, walking barefoot is not possible and chairs are difficult to move.

At around ten euros per square meter, gravel is quite inexpensive, robust, durable and suitable for occasionally used terraces and seats in the garden. Chippings get stuck in the shoe profile and are carried into the house. When entering, gravel crunches unmistakably under your shoes. Another disadvantage: gravel and chippings are difficult to clean, dirt accumulates over the years, so that approaching weeds can germinate between the gravel at some point - even if you put a weed fleece underneath. You can tolerate that or you have to weed and pick up the rake regularly.