I see a lot of brochures from paving manufacturers and distributors over the course of each season, and not just from those serving the British and Irish markets. Some arrive and, following a brief flick-through, get filed away in the “For Emergency Use Only” box on the basis of “least said: soonest mended” but there are those that, year after year, are a genuine source of joy and delight. The Pavestone annual is usually one of the latter.
It maintains the layout that has been so successful been over recent years. The format is landscape, which gives so much more impact to images, it’s roughly A4, in full colour with a semi-stiff card cover and back. Open it up and straightaway, the index is there on page 3, with products divvied-up into simple, obvious categories: porcelain; stone; edgings; concrete; blocks; walling; and then the tech stuff. It avoids the convoluted artificial divisions of traditional or modern, rustic or chic, and all that other nonsense. It abides by a logic which largely follows popularity, so that means porcelain right up front, dominating the whole brochure, and a more subdued position for the likes of block paving and walling.
The growth in demand for porcelain is something of a phenomenon. If we look back just a decade to 2012, Olympics in London, Super Saturday and all that, there were just a few of us paving anoraks familiar with porcelain for outdoor use, and that was largely based on use in continental Europe, and we’d occasionally while away the time pondering whether it could or would ever be taken seriously in Britain and Ireland. In 2022, it is the overwhelmingly dominant paving format for residential paving (what we’re going to start referring to as Category 1 & 2 pavements when we finally get part 102 of the new BS 7533 wrapped up), taking over 50% of market share in some regions.
That dominance brings its own problems, not least of which is the phenomenal range of choice placed before the dizzy, spinning, bewildered eyes of the average consumer. There is just so much of it, and that means the clever distributors have to be highly discerning in what they offer. The basics need to be covered, there has to be a showstopper or two, and then something that, hopefully, sets the offer apart from everyone else, a tile that will make the buying public sit up and pay attention. I reckon it’s fair to say Pavestone have achieved that with this 2022 brochure. There’s the mandatory timber-effect and stone-effect tiles, some large format pieces that are bang on trend just now, and a fairly decent copy of yorkstone (Yorkstone porcelain: who’d have thunk it!?) which appears to have sufficient variation in the printing to persuade the casual observer it could be real.
I may have mentioned in previous years that I’m not the biggest fan of porcelain, but I do like the fettled edge porcelains (Antico) and the more I’ve seen of it on actual projects, there more I am persuaded it is a valuable addition to the palette of patio pavings that are worth considering. It manages to provide that indefinable “charm” that elevates an average tile to something that little bit special.
How do homeowners choose a tile they like when faced with so much choice? My experience, limited though it is, suggests they often have a rough idea of what they do and don’t like, but they are heavily, heavily influenced by impressive photies of completed projects, and that where this Pavestone brochure hits the mark. The photography is as good as ever, if not better. Some of the “whole project shots” are simply stunning, and that is down to the highly skilled designers, installers and the togfers who understood how to show it all off to best effect.
Rather than attempt (and most likely fail) to describe each of the porcelains, I’ll leave it to the reader to explore the brochure at their leisure and find what tickles their particular fancy, but the new bespoke cutting and finishing service from Pavestone really does deserve a mention. This has been introduced for the 2022 season and is immensely welcome if only because it destroys so many of the pathetic excuses usually proffered by the less competent installers about the standard of finishing on step edges and detailing around awkward curves or drainage fittings. No more bodges! No more threepenny-bit curves, no more hacked tread nosings, no more mis-aligned, mis-fitting cutting-in. That has to be a good thing.
There’s no point pretending that bespoke cutting and detailing is a cheap option: it’s costly, but it’s not expensive, and when you compare it to the overall cost of a well-built porcelain patio, it’s verging on negligible. I looked at some steps for a client a couple of weeks ago. They’d spent £12,800 on the garden makeover, but the angled steps were little short of an eyesore. They could have had the treads bespoke cut and bull-nose finished for just over 600 quid but thought it was an unnecessary expense. They gladly spend 600 quid now, even double that, to have those steps looking as they should. For the homeowner, at least consider the option; for the installer, you most assuredly should be offering this service as an “optional extra” to your clients. Some will, some won’t, but at least show them what’s possible and let them decide.
Moving on, there’s little changed in the natural stone section. The public’s taste has moved on, but stone for paving and walling is hanging on in there. There are some customers who will never consider anything else, but the dizzy era of new stones every other week and endless innovation are probably over….for now. By and large, the Pavestone offer has matured and settled. It now comprises proven performers, flagstones and setts that provide natural charm and beauty with none of the silliness that went on with the likes of Travertine and the truly awful Rainbow sandstone. It’s a competent collection of what 90-95% of clients are likely to ask for, and, given it’s been selected by Pavestone’s astute sourcing team, you know it will be ethical, reliable and sensibly priced.
The concrete block paving, similarly, has settled to a predictable but reliable core, focussed on multi-size antiqued formats that offer the consumer a more decorative option. No place here for the bog-standard 200x100 format, which barely make pennies for both manufacturer and distributor, and are widely regarded by the public as a “basic” or utilitarian paving. The inclusion of the “Hydro-M” finish to the Slimsett pavers means they are less prone to becoming dirty with algae, so less need for the destructive power-washing to which far too many driveways are subjected each year.
Maybe it isn’t exciting and trendy and cool, but concrete block paving should never be overlooked. As I never seem to tire of saying, it remains the most cost-effective and reliable form of decorative paving we have, and, when properly laid, really will last a lifetime.
While Edgings, the next section, has barely changed for this year, the walling is undergoing (or is it “enduring”?) the porcelain revolution with umpteen varieties of tiles to be used as cladding the block walls. It seems to me that it’s either something you like or you don’t. Enough folk seem to like, so it persists, but it doesn’t do much for me, personally. It’s all a bit bathroom-y or kitchen-y to my eye….but that’s my personal taste: it does not mean they should never be considered.
Finally, a mention for the expanded range of “ancillaries”, the cleaners and sealants and jointing materials (the Pointfix two-part mortar is particularly good). All too often, suppliers buy-in a ‘white label’ product that barely performs but offers a good margin. This is a far more considered range, each tried and tested on Pavestone’s own products and selected because they work. This curated suite of products should help avoid the “we don’t recommend that sealant/cleaner/jointing….” excuse that is thrown up as the standard defence whenever something goes wrong. That ought to be considered when looking at any of these ancillary products.
So: what’s the summary? Over recent years, the seriously good brochures have had to up their game and become far more than an album of pretty photies. They’ve had to become a source of inspiration, capable of holding the attention of civilian browsers as well as the more jaded installers and designers. They need to act as a useful guide for essential technical information without reading like a tinder-dry Product Data Sheet, and they must instil confidence in the brand, for both contractor and client. Pavestone have developed the admirable and enviable knack of finding a near-perfect balance of all these demands and setting the bar higher with each edition.
The “Fly Through” (sorry: can’t bring myself to use lazy American spellings) option is invaluable and picks up where the brochure leaves off, carrying us seamlessly from the 2D page to a full panorama 3D, and that’s one of the understated strengths of this brochure. It links in so well with the online world to give customers and contractors alike a near perfect experience of what Pavestone can do for any patio or driveway.
The standard question at the conclusions of these brochure reviews considers its value to homeowners and installers. Some brochures can safely be overlooked as they offer little that is original or innovative, and some brochures are of wider interest because they are from significant players in the paving trade. A few brochures are essential. They are standard bearers, setting the pace for the wider industry, and creating a genuinely invaluable tool for all, those installing the work, and those funding it all. Pavestone almost effortlessly fits into that latter category, a must have, an indispensable aid that will definitely make for better patios, pathways and driveways.
Pavestone Helpline: 01386 848 650