Plastic tile for garden paths: is the game worth the candle?

Polymers, as the know-how of human thought, are gradually replacing natural materials from landscape design, imitating their appearance, but gaining in characteristics and price. And if people are already used to plastic gnomes and pools, then plastic tile for paths is used less often than paving stones or stone. It is actively being introduced into city squares and streets, and the ordinary summer resident is still cautious or simply not familiar with the technology of laying this material. Let's try to understand the nuances of building garden paths from different types of plastic tiles.

How is plastic tile different from polymer?

On the Internet, often the entire tile, which contains polymers, is called plastic. Therefore, in this category you can see material from 100% plastic and a mixture of polymers with natural ingredients, such as quartz, chopped wood, etc. But the durability and beauty of the coating are completely different.

Pure plastic looks simple, it has low frost resistance, after several winters it begins to burst, crumble, gradually fade, etc. This tile is used as a temporary coating so as not to carry dirt into the house, or in places near household buildings where aesthetics are not so important.

Plastic tiles are available in bright colors and unusual designs, but over the years they lose their spectacular appearance and begin to crack at the joints

The mixture of polymers and quartz sand is highly durable, thanks to the quartz additive, which will withstand frost, and the active movement of people and vehicles. But in appearance, such a tile remains artificial, not simulating any other materials. Its plain relief surface is perfect for paths near pools, ponds, where high humidity threatens natural coatings. But as the main one, leading from the gate to the central entrance to the house, not everyone chooses polymer sand tiles. If the house is sheathed with artificial material, for example, siding, then the coating will look harmonious. But against the background of wooden or stone buildings, such a path will lose in aesthetics.

By the ideal smoothness of the surface, you can immediately find out that the coating is made of artificial components, but the track will not slip in any weather

Decking has the most magnificent appearance - a terrace board, in which wood flour is mixed with polymer additives. Outwardly, it strongly resembles wooden planks, i.e. natural parquet, therefore the appearance of the track is solid and respectable. Decking plastic tiles can only be called a stretch, as different manufacturers add chopped wood and polymers in different percentages. These components can be mixed in a proportion of 50:50, but the closest in texture to natural wood are coatings, where the polymers are only 20%. Accordingly, the styling requirements are changing. The more natural the composition, the more it is afraid of moisture, which means it requires an appropriate basis.

The texture of the terrace board is very similar to natural parquet, but it is laid much easier due to the large size of the tiles

Laying modular tiles: assembly by type of constructor

Modular plastic tiles for garden paths most often have a perforated surface so that moisture and dust freely pass through it. Such tiles are joined together using locks located on the edges of the ribs. Their assembly resembles a game with a children's designer, so that even a child can assemble a track.

Often, for fastening the modules in plastic tiles, additional fasteners are provided, which makes the coating more resistant to stress

Lay the lattice tiles on any flat base, in which the height differences do not exceed half a centimeter. They can be laid both in a straight line and with right-angle turns. On the lawn, tiles are laid out without any preliminary work, since the surface has already leveled before the site is sown with grass.

You can lay a plastic tile on the lawn in just half an hour, but in order to preserve it for a long time, before the winter, you must dismantle the track and hide it in the outbuilding

When laying on the ground, for example, when creating paths between the beds, it is recommended to first lay the base with non-woven material so that weeds do not break through, and on top - join the tiles.

If the site has an old concrete track with cracks and potholes, then first it must be slightly repaired, covering all visible defects with adhesive or cement mortar, and put a modular coating on top. The modular plastic tile is not designed for strong static load, so it is only walked on it.

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Polymer-sand tiles: pavers

A tile made of polymers with quartz additives appeared as an alternative to paving stones, which is able to absorb moisture and from this gradually break down. A plastic coating does not have such a problem. And yet, the technology for laying polymer sand tiles is identical to concrete. It is necessary to create the same trough, sand and gravel cushion, put curbs, etc. Moreover, you can put it on a concrete base, crushed stone or ordinary sand-cement mixture, depending on the load that your path must withstand. We already wrote about all the intricacies of laying in the articles “Technology for laying paving slabs” and “Rules for laying paving slabs on a concrete base”, therefore we will not describe the process in detail here.

We will only say that the quality of laying the foundation in the future will affect whether your tracks keep a perfectly flat surface through the winter. At the seams, moisture will still seep between the tile and the base, and if the sand is poorly compacted, it will precipitate, thereby pulling all the upper layers along with it. Concrete, on the contrary, will not let water through unless drainage holes are created and block it under the tile. And in winter, expanding, the ice will whip your path. The tile itself will not suffer, because it is not afraid of either water or frost, but the path will have to be shifted.

In Europe, they figured out how to get rid of plastic paths from heaving in a completely simple way. Instead of creating a trough and a “pillow”, they remove the fertile soil no more than by the bayonet of a shovel, level the surface with tightly packed sand and lay on top of it extruded polystyrene foam - insulation, which is completely immune to moisture and therefore does not freeze in winter, keeping the structure warm. Next, pour the usual sand-cement mixture, into which the tiles are laid. Seams are filled with sand. This technology is especially in demand in Finland, where marshy soil during the winter raises even concrete slabs at airfields, not to mention lightweight plastic.

Some owners complain that in the summer polymer sand tiles give off a specific smell, but if it is regularly shed in the heat, this problem will not

Decking: decent look + easy styling

Decking is also called a decking, liquid wood or garden parquet, emphasizing its street purpose. It consists of thin strips resembling parquet planks, which are fastened by 4-5 pieces in one tile. Between the slats there are gaps for water passage. The width of the gaps varies from 0.1 to 0.8 cm, and when laying a garden path, they are guided by soil moisture. The higher it is, the greater the clearance you need to choose decking.

There is also a seamless version of the terrace board, which looks like elongated rectangles. But for tracks, this type of decking is still not worth using.

To ensure good moisture removal and ventilation of the material, manufacturers created a square decking of two components: the outer part, resembling a tree, and the substrate. The substrate is a plastic grille with perimeter mounts for joining tiles together.

Thanks to the plastic substrate, the garden parquet retains ventilation properties, removes moisture and thereby extends the life of up to 50 years

Laying the terrace board is necessary on a flat, solid surface, where the coating will not “sink” and maintain air gap due to the substrate. That is why sand is not used as a base. The lattice substrate will simply push into it and cease to fulfill its functions.

Optimum base materials:

  • concrete;
  • boards;
  • a layer of small gravel or gravel;
  • ceramic tile.

Of the above options, boards and tiles are used more often on open terraces, and concrete is poured for paths (if vehicles move along them) or they are filled with gravel (a layer of up to 5 cm is enough).

You can decorate the edge of the track with either a skirting board or side patch strips.

As you can see, polymers are able to acquire completely different characteristics due to the introduction of other components. Therefore, before buying plastic tiles, specify its composition in order to know how many years your path will last.

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