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One of the following five surfaces should fit your style and budget. Note: the price ranges given reflect both materials and labor, but were compiled from national averages. Actual prices may vary significantly from region to region. These guidelines are provided for comparison purposes only. Variables such as a sloping lot or other site difficulties may also drive up prices for installations.

Stone. Pros: Blends into both rustic and formal landscapes; weathers beautifully; lasts a lifetime. Con: High initial investment. Average price: Builder’s grade, irregularly shaped stones set with wide mortar joints, from $11 a square foot. Top of the line is sawn crab orchard stone, with smoothest surface, even shapes and squared edges, from $23 per sq. ft.

Brick. Pros: Long lasting; classic appearance; several color variations available; can be laid in fancy patterns such as herringbone or basketweave. Con: Individual bricks may chip or crack over time. Average price: Plain running bond pattern, $11 per sq. ft.; Basketweave or herringbone pattern, $13 per sq. ft.

Interlocking pavers. Pros: mortarless installation allows rainwater to drain through joints and eliminates cracking problems; economicial; can be fairly easily installed by do-it-yourselfers; wide variety of colors and interlocking shapes available. Con: Man-made material doesn’t blend as readily with naturalistic landscapes. Average price: $5 to $6 per sq. ft.

Wooden decking. Pro: this is the only surface easily adaptable for second story surfaces; can be built on a slope without regrading the earth; can be screened in or otherwise customized easily. Cons: Relatively short life; high maintenance -- requires application of water sealer every year; pressure treated lumber stains easily and ages unattractively. Average price: Deck surface only, $11 a square foot; expect to pay extra for railings, benches and steps.

Concrete. Pro: Most economical surface. Cons: Water run-off may cause drainage problems; surface may heave or crack due to frost or tree roots; less attractive than other surfaces. Average price: $3 per sq. ft. A slightly more attractive alternative is colored or stamped concrete that resembles flagstone or cobblestones, starting from $6 per sq. ft.