For an outdoor entertainment area (especially for dining), a solid, level surface, such as brick or cast pavers, is best. Flat stones, such as slate, also create an even surface. Fieldstone, due to its naturally uneven surface, will not be perfectly level.
Loose material, such as pea gravel, is not recommended for dining areas because table legs can settle unevenly into the stone. Crushed granite, however, once it is compacted, forms a surface almost as stable and firm as concrete, and water can percolate through it.
Whereas the surfacing material is largely a matter of taste and cost, the foundation upon which the material rests and how the surface is set in place are key structural considerations. The foundation determines the slope of the patio and its levelness.
Excavating a level area and putting in a gravel base topped with sand are essential parts of building any patio, whether poured as a slab of concrete or topped with pavers. Once the base is sloped and smooth, the pavers can be set in mortar or on sand.
Continued on page 2: Gallery of Materials