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Material world


If you have measured your plot and drawn your design the next stage is to consider what materials you will need. Firstly, consider your budget - this dictates the type of materials you can afford within your means.

And then there’s the cost of construction. If you do hire a contractor, it won’t harm to shop around for prices of the materials so when it comes to obtaining estimates you will already have a rough idea. If you are on a tight budget, it’s always worth considering buying the main materials yourself - paving, fencing, bricks - as the builder’s merchant will often give you a discount and will usually delivery free of charge within a few miles radius. Ask your contractor to work out the exact amount of materials you will need before ordering and don’t forget to include other incidentals like sand and cement.

Tip: Winter is a good time to begin the process of obtaining two or three quotes. This way you will be ahead of the game by the time the good weather arrives in early spring. If you leave it much later, you may find that most good landscape builders will be busy.

Shop ‘til you drop

Keep the number of materials you use for fences, bricks, paving etc to a minimum. Three should be enough - otherwise the overall effect will look confused. 

If brick walls are to be used for instance, use the same brick as the house. For paths and patios use local stone or gravel wherever possible, which will be the same colour as your soil.

If the primary reason for fencing your plot is to screen you from your neighbours and to act as security, then look for solid materials - usually suited to urban locations.

In a rural setting, where the purpose of the fences is to keep out unwanted animals, an open style like picket fencing or post and rail would be more suitable, letting you still view the landscape beyond.

The choice of materials on offer today is varied and many. Natural materials are far and away the best but can be costly although there are lots of cheaper alternatives. Take a look at the various materials available on the right-hand side of this page.

Next article: The Little Extras

Dry stone walling from Yorkshire Forward at Chelsea 2003

Dry stone walling from Yorkshire Forward at Chelsea 2003

Different types of materials

Hard surfaces:

  • Paving slabs - natural or pre-cast concrete
  • Paving setts or cobbles - granite or concrete
  • Brick
  • Timber decking
  • Poured concrete

Soft surfaces:

  • Pea shingle
  • Gravel
  • Slate chippings
  • Bark
  • Grass


  • Stone - natural or reconstituted
  • Brick
  • Concrete blocks - rendered and painted
  • Pierced walling units
  • Railway sleepers

Boundaries, fences and edging:

  • Wood - feather edge/larch lap/trellis/
  • Railway sleepers
  • Iron railings
  • Hurdling
  • Picket
  • Post and rail
  • Woven panels - bamboo/willow
  • Gabion - metal cage packed with stones (traditionally used on motorways)
  • Victorian edging tiles
  • Hedges
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