Do you dream of sprawling on your lush, sweet-smelling lawn on a summer’s day – yet yours is soggy, waterlogged and full of unsightly weeds? Perhaps you’ve got your heart set on transforming your outdoor space with design features like paved paths, patios or ponds – but you’re wondering how to keep these structures strong and secure?
If that sounds like you, landscaping materials can help. From super-strength geotextiles that keep hardscaping stable, to weed control fabrics that save hours in gardening time, the right membrane can turn your outdoor space from an embarrassing eyesore to something you can really be proud of.
From driveways to patios, decking to flower beds, using membranes can solve a myriad of outdoor problems – like preventing flooding or stopping unruly roots. But with such a dizzying array of different options on offer, it’s hard to figure out which fabric goes with what. Each membrane does a slightly different job – and we’re here to explain exactly what that is.
Don’t know your woven from your non-woven? Your weed control from your root control? Our buyer’s guide to landscaping fabrics can help. Read on and we’ll help you match the membrane to your landscaping project. Soon everything will be as clear as that weed-free garden.
Table of contents:
- What are landscaping fabrics?
- What are the benefits of landscaping fabrics?
- Which landscaping membrane do I need?
- Do I need a woven or non-woven geotextile?
- How easy is it to fit landscaping membrane?
What are landscaping fabrics?
Landscaping fabrics can be broken down into categories, including weed control membranes and geotextiles.
Weed control fabrics
Weed control fabrics are great to use anywhere you don’t want weeds! Some are just for use in flower beds, while others can be laid under lawns, driveways, decking or patios. Specialist fabrics like the DuPont Plantex Root Barrier can be used vertically to stop aggressive roots like bamboo from encroaching on other garden structures.
Geotextiles can also be used to control weeds, but they’re much more heavy-duty. As such, they’re more commonly used in ground engineering projects like roads or driveways where they help provide strength, stability and drainage capabilities. In the garden, they can be used under hardscaping projects like patios, paths or decking, where they play a vital role in keeping different parts of the soil from mixing together and potentially destabilising garden structures. They’re also used in drainage projects, like soakaways and land drains, to stop any silt or debris from entering.
What are the benefits of landscaping fabrics?
Still undecided on whether to use some sort of landscaping fabric for your garden project? We’ve made a list of what membranes can do for you.
They can prevent waterlogging
Where land is flat, soils are compact or the water table is high, having a well-designed drainage system in place is a must. Without it, water may collect, undermining paths and patios, drowning expensive plants and turning lawns into big, muddy bogs.
If any part of your lawn is prone to waterlogging putting in a drainage solution such as soakaway crates wrapped in a non-woven geotextile membrane such as ACOWrap, ACOTex or Draintex can really help. This is pictured below in a domestic soakaway system.
If it’s your flower beds or borders that are prone to getting soggy in a downpour, any permeable weed control membrane can help drain excess water away from plants to keep them healthy.
They help stop soil erosion
Having a membrane in place can stabilise loose soil and stop it from being eroded by the weather. Slopes and embankments are particularly vulnerable to soil erosion – and this can be dangerous. Not only can moving soil affect the growth of grass or plants, but it could also destabilise the slope.
They can stop soil and gravel from moving around too much
Planning on covering your driveway in gravel? Having a strong, woven geotextile membrane in place will keep the gravel in place and will stop it from spilling onto the road. These geotextiles are designed to allow water through, whilst separating and stabilising the aggregate within.
It also makes gravel paths and soil easier to walk or drive on.
They can keep different parts of your soil separate
From potholes on your driveway to sagging bits of your lawn, when soil becomes compacted due to heavy use it can start to cause all sorts of unsightly problems.
Geotextiles not only help to absorb and spread the weight of heavy loads, but they can also keep different parts of soil separate to prevent sinking and rutting caused by aggregates settling into the soil beneath.
They can save you from hours of gardening
Always battling weeds in your beds and borders? Weed control fabric from DuPont or ProWeed can be laid on the ground below the topsoil and its structure. This allows air, water and nutrients to pass through but prevents weeds from emerging from dormant seeds below.
They extend the life to your paved paths or patios
Surface cracking is a huge problem in paved patios and it not only looks unsightly, it means that water can get in and cause further headaches. Geotextiles like Wallbarn, Groundtex or TCS help you avoid cracking by providing reinforcement between the paving and soil beneath. This not only forms a moisture barrier but can also absorb future stress to stop the spread of the dreaded cracks.
They help you be kind to the environment
By stopping the problem right at the source, putting in a weed control membrane helps to reduce the number of aggressive chemicals and herbicides you need to keep your garden looking lush and beautiful.
They can create a green roof
A geotextile membrane like the one from Alumasc will help you create a green roof that not only looks attractive but is low maintenance too. The fabric works double duty to ensure surface water drains away and that no roots penetrate through the roof.
Which landscaping membrane do I need?
Different fabrics suit different projects, and some work extra hard by controlling weeds, stabilising the ground and improving drainage all at the same time. Here’s a look at some of the common uses of landscaping membranes, and a suggestion of which type of landscaping membrane will work best for your project.
To control weeds
You will need: Weed control fabric
How it works: Weed control fabrics are designed to keep weeds from sprouting up through the soil. They allow air and water to pass through, whilst stopping weeds in their tracks.
Suitable for: Each product differs slightly (so you’ll need to read the label) but, in general, weed control fabric can be used to line flower beds and borders, or can be placed under timber decking, block paving and patios.
How to install: To put weed control fabric in a flower bed, cut the sheet to the right size and shape, and then cut holes where you want the plants to go. Secure the fabric in place with landscaping pins, then cover over with a thick layer of mulch. That way, the plants that you have intentionally planted will have access to the nutrients in the soil, but weeds aren’t able to sprout up through the protective layer.
Which weed control fabric to choose: There are several different options available, depending on your budget.
- Proweed Control fabric from Drainage Superstore is extremely cost-effective and labour-saving. Made of non-woven polypropylene, you can buy it in a size to fit your project. Used with a top layer of mulch, bark, decorative stone or gravel, it can be used in flower borders, under timber decking and for gravel paths and patios, but you can’t use it under the turf.
- Market leader DuPont has a range of products, but for weed control where land is flat, you can’t beat its Weed Control & Landscape Fabric. The choice of professional landscape gardeners, not only does it provide an unbeatable weed growth barrier, but it can also give you stable foundations, prevent the mixing of soils and add drainage, making it the perfect choice for patios, block paving and timber decking.
- If you’re planting in a new build site, try the DuPont Plantex Cocomat which is finished with aesthetically pleasing natural coconut fibres instead.
- Another multipurpose weed control fabric that doubles up as a ground stabiliser is the range from Groundtex. Made of tough woven fabric, it has excellent strength and tear resistance when used below driveways and paths, yet it can also be used as a heavy-duty weed barrier.
To control roots
You will need: A specialist root barrier
How it works: A non-permeable root barrier is used vertically to prevent particularly aggressive roots such as bamboo from encroaching on the rest of a garden or disrupting the structure of a road or pathway. You can also use a root barrier to contain a planted area by placing a barrier in a circular structure around it.
Suitable for: Used around aggressive plants where the roots may threaten paved areas, roads, lawns, patios or building foundations.
How to install: You’ll need to dig a 70cm deep trench running around the diameter of the plant whose roots you wish to control. Then install your root barrier vertically, lining the inside of the trench including up the sides. Fill up with soil, leaving a 2cm overlap of root barrier above the surface.
Which root control fabric to choose: Drainage Superstore stocks two products that deal with root control:
- One of the strongest products on the market, Dupont Root Barrier is a technically advanced fabric that prevents and contains invasive growth, even from aggressive plants like bamboo and hypericum. It encourages the roots to grow downwards, while also protecting them from pollutants.
- For controlling roots on roof gardens and green roofs, try the specialist Rootbar product from Icopal. It stops roots from penetrating and allowing water to get in, and it can be used on either flat or sloping roofs.
For more information on weed control, read Which weed control is best?
For ground stabilisation and soil separation
You will need: A strong geotextile membrane. This could be woven, but sometimes a non-woven membrane may be chosen to add extra drainage capabilities. Alternatively use a pre-made gravel grid, as pictured left.
How it works: Different types of soil can have different consistencies. When soil mixes in the rain, the ground can become uneven and even sink as small particles get washed down in between the larger soil particles.
Geotextile membranes prevent this from happening. They keep different layers of soil separate, meaning any hardscaping built on top will be strong and secure.
Suitable for: Perfect for use under roads or driveways, paths or patios.
How to install: Prepare the base by removing large stones or debris that could cut or tear the fabric. Then roll out your chosen geotextile over the prepared area, keeping overlaps to a minimum. Secure in place using fixing pegs, then put the sub-base over it, compacting it with a roller.
Which geotextile membrane to choose: Drainage Superstore stocks a variety of products that are perfect for ground stabilisation and soil separation.
- Drivetex is a professional driveway fabric used specifically for ground stabilisation, yet it also has excellent filtration and drainage properties too. It can prevent sinking and potholes caused by the settlement of aggregates into the soil beneath and does not lose strength when used below ground, making it the perfect choice for areas that are subject to a lot of stress and strain.
- Groundtex is made of tough woven fabric and has excellent strength and tear resistance when used below driveways and paths.
- Earthworx is an extra heavy-duty, non-woven geotextile widely used for roads, car parks, foundations and retaining structures.
- TCS Geotechnics provide both woven and non-woven products and are a leading provider of specialist geotechnical products for the construction and civil engineering industries.
- Terram is so famous within the industry that many people call all geotextiles ‘Terram’. Its non-woven geotextile is particularly robust, making it suitable to use even when the potential for installation damage is high. It can take high levels of stress and strain without the risk of puncture.
- Wallbarn is widely known for its durability. Its non-woven geotextile products can be used to stabilise soil and sand under patios and decking because it makes even notoriously unreliable building surfaces more stable.
For drainage or filtration
You will need: A non-woven geotextile.
How it works: Non-woven geotextiles are excellent at allowing water to pass through whilst keeping fine particles of soil out. One of their most common uses is the wrapping and protection of soakaway crates and land drains, but that’s not all they do. Non-wovens are also used beneath domestic patios and block paving bases, keeping the granular layer apart from the soil whilst still allowing the water to drain away freely.
Suitable for: Ideal for use in soakaway systems and land drains, and beneath domestic patios and hardscaping.
How to install: To use non-woven fabrics in a soakaway system, wrap every side of your crate in the geotextile fabric and fix it in place with staples or strong tape.
Which drainage of filtration fabric to choose: Drainage Superstore stocks a number of products that deal specifically with drainage.
- Draintex is a standard duty, non-woven geotextile fabric with excellent drainage and filtration properties. It’s perfect for lining trenches when constructing a French drain and for wrapping soakaway crates. It can also be used as a ground stabilisation membrane in many hard landscaping projects.
- ACO make products specifically for lining soakaway crates. They also sell a protective fleece that can protect the geomembrane from mechanical damage.
- Wallbarn sells products targeted specifically at drainage. They allow the flow of water through the soil without any clogging.
Do I need a woven or non-woven geotextile?
Ensuring you choose the right geotextile fabric for your project means understanding the basic differences between them. So, should you choose woven or non-woven?
What are they?
Woven geotextiles are made by weaving polypropylene tapes together in a crisscross pattern. This makes the fabric super-strong.
What they’re used for?
Their high tensile strength makes woven geotextiles suitable for use under patios, paths and parking areas.
Advantages vs Disadvantages
Strong and economical, woven geotextiles are a little cheaper than non-woven and because of their extra strength woven geotextiles have a greater load capacity. However, woven geotextiles offer only limited drainage and filtration capabilities compared to the non-woven variety, and they can lose strength over time.
Below is the woven membrane to the left and non-woven to the right.
What are they?
Non-woven geotextiles feel a bit like felt. They’re made by thermally bonding polypropylene which is then finished by using needle punching.
What they’re used for?
Although non-woven fabrics have lower tensile strength than the woven variety, they’re still strong and durable. Their main advantage is that they offer excellent drainage capabilities, making them ideal for use beneath driveways and roads where long-term ground stabilisation and filtration is required.
Advantages vs Disadvantages
Easier to cut, durable and strong, non-woven fabrics provide excellent drainage and filtration without losing strength over time. This type of geotextile does however have lower tensile strength compared to woven.
For more information on the types of geotextiles available, read our Geotextiles Explained guide.
How easy is it to fit landscaping membrane?
Landscaping membrane is easy to install, provided you buy the right size you need for the job. It’s good to keep overlaps to a minimum, so looking for a roll that’s nearly the same size as your project is a great start.
For paths, choose a narrow, long roll (for example, one that’s 1m wide and 15m long). For a square area such as a patio, look for packs that are wider and shorter, like 2m wide and 10m long, for example. For large surface areas, some maxi rolls can be 100m long and come in widths of up to 4.5m.
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