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With the cost of moving house rising sharply in the past few years, house builders are going the extra mile in attracting people to move. Here Malcolm Gough, Business Development Director at Natural Paving Products (UK) Ltd gives some tips on how to maximise outdoor space to create extra living areas and what styles are set to be popular in 2016.

Although the housing shortage is a hot topic in the press at the moment, the sector is showing promising signs of recovery with 143,500 new build homes started up to December 2015 – a rise of 23 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier and up 91 per cent when compared to the low point of 2008.1 This upward trend however, has to battle a growing challenge of increasing moving costs.

Why a patio can sell a house

The cost of moving house has been increasing way beyond the rate of inflation and has risen by 59 per cent in the past decade to an average of £12,000 – rising to a whopping £28,000 in London.2 These significant increases have made house buyers even more cautious about moving meaning the impetus is firmly on house builders to do everything they can to convince people to move.

A popular investment with savvy house builders has been the expansion of ground floor living space through hard landscaping. Patios and courtyards offer attractive additional living spaces without the need to comply with Building Regulations and are becoming ‘garden rooms’, which effectively extend properties beyond the back door. What’s more, this is a very cost efficient solution when compared to traditional methods of increasing square footage.

Hard landscaping costs are very reasonable and it is actually the installation and not the stone that will make up the majority of the overall cost. As a rough idea, a typical installation of high quality natural stone flags or vitrified porcelain paving would come in below £120 per square metre3. If this is then compared to the average single storey extension, costing £1,000 per square metre4, there is a significant saving to be made.

To take advantage of these savings it’s important to know what styles suit various types of property in order to maximise their appeal – matching architectural heritage, environmental surroundings as well as the desired ethos of the house all come in to play. For instance, in modern developments open-plan living is increasingly popular with many properties featuring bi-fold or sliding doors from kitchen-diners onto the garden. In these situations the continuation of flooring material beyond the external threshold can have a striking impact on the sense of space and indoor-outdoor feeling. For this, both natural stone and vitrified porcelain paving can be particularly effective as, if it is offered from suppliers in different thicknesses, it can be used both internally and externally in a seamless fashion. Natural Paving Products has recently added a range of high quality Italian vitrified porcelain paving in 10mm thickness for internal use and 20mm for external use in nine different colours and textures that can be used in this way.

In addition, clean lines and straight cut edges are also very popular in modern homes. Stronger colours and contrasts are also more prevalent, in particular Natural Paving Products’ new Noir Gold granite with its rich black finish has been in high demand recently.

Why a patio can sell a house

Indian sandstone is also doing very well in the current market. With each piece of natural stone offering a unique blend of colours and tones, truly bespoke designs can be realized. What’s more, with the availability of various sized flagstones, in both symmetrical and less regimented patterns, house builders and designers can let their imagination run wild. One particular style that we are seeing increase in popularity is the subtle tones of our Cornsilk sandstone. With a lightly textured surface, Cornsilk sandstone features pale cream and milky coffee tones that work particularly well in softer landscaping situations, such as by water features and raised beds.

For traditional homes, more natural tones tend to be used along with more textured finishes. Cobbles and slates work particularly well in country style gardens and can go a long way to give new gardens an established and homely feel.

Critical to any investment made in landscaping is fixing, treating and protecting it adequately so that it continues to look its best throughout the property’s showing period and for many years to come. Using high quality products for installation is essential and that’s why Natural Paving Products has developed its Pavetuf range of accessories, which includes jointing compounds, mortars, sealers and cleaners.

Sealers are of particular importance to house builders, as many sealants require newly laid stone to ‘settle’ for a minimum of three months before application. The reason for this is to allow potential efflorescence to escape before the stone is sealed. The problem with this however is that it leaves the installation exposed to the elements and vulnerable to discolouration from vegetation, birds, pets and spillages. Pavetuf sealers, on the other hand, are fully breathable (aloowing any efflorescence to rise through the sealer onto the surface so it can be cleaned away) and can be applied immediately.

Attractive and versatile outdoor spaces are not only extremely desirable to prospective buyers but can add thousands to the value of a property, as well as improving the overall experience of living in the home. Good design and choosing the right materials is therefore critical to maximising return. Using a trusted supplier of quality natural stone, porcelain and a good range of accessories is the best way to ensure success on both fronts.

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“We had been thinking about doing our driveway and patio for a number of years. We knew it would be a big investment so we weren’t going to rush into it. Natural Paving were so helpful and provided suggestions, samples and recommended contractors. We finally decided to go ahead and have had both our patio and driveway done and the results are fantastic. We couldn’t be happier with the service and support.”

Home Owner - Dr Pathak, Leicester

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