Concrete or Pavers? Which is Better for My Patio?
Poured Concrete or Pavers: Which is Better for Patios?
Are you looking to add or replace a patio, driveway, or walkway to your outdoor living area? As far as patio materials go, the most popular products are poured concrete and concrete pavers. Choosing between the two can present a tough decision for homeowners. While the appearance and personal preference typically determines which material homeowners go with, other critical factors should also be considered: durability, cost, versatility and maintenance. These factors go a long way in determining which is preferable. See each examined below:
The durability of both concrete and pavers is determined by a number of factors:
The life span of concrete is greatly determined by the movement of the earth, as it tends to crack and split if the land beneath it shakes or shifts, or as tree roots grow. Once the soil becomes unstable, the surface of the slab may stay level for a while, however a crack is inevitable. Concrete is poured in slabs and given expansion joints to allow for slight movement. Since it’s difficult for the earth to “slightly” shift with such large slabs of concrete, it easily fractures, lifts, and separates. Changes in temperature also play a huge role in determining its lifespan. See what can happen over time:
Because pavers are so much smaller than concrete, (ex. 6” x 6” paver, instead of a 10’ x 10’ concrete slab) The ground can absorb slight shifts without effecting the patio surface. Think of your paver patio as being installed on a floating surface. There is room for flexibility without cracking. Drainage issues should never occur if properly installed. Furthermore, paver patios are said to be four times stronger than typical concrete slabs when properly compacted and ICPI standards are followed. Above all, due to its ability to expand and contract without cracking, paver patios adapt well to weather conditions.
There are times where pouring concrete really is the only option due to cost. Concrete patios, walkways, and driveways are much lower in initial cost compared to paver patios. The time and materials needed to install concrete is by far less than that of a patio laid on an aggregate base. The time and preparation of a paver patio is what separates the amateur from the professional. The base preparation of a paver patio is the most time consuming…as it should be. You may never see the base, but the strength and durability of the base is integral to the life of the patio. Having to touch and place every concrete paver can be extremely time consuming. Concrete is significantly easier to install; it’s just pouring, spreading, and smoothing it out. Concrete patios, walkways, and driveways are initially very affordable however in the long run, repairs or replacement costs would probably outweigh the initial amount saved. Concrete is a great inexpensive short-term solution, but a paver patio could last a lifetime.
When it comes to concrete patios, you will find you are very limited to your design options: colored concrete or stamped concrete.
Colored concrete is the process of painting the concrete in attempts to match an existing brick or siding. While the stamped concrete is a method in which the concrete is decorated with a stamp once it has been poured. The problem with stamped concrete is that the stamps can go bad and unless you can find the same concrete contractor, you’re out of luck. Also, it is very difficult to repair or perform an addition to stamped concrete. The finished color of concrete after drying completely depends on multiple things: weather, temperature, psi of concrete, depth of concrete, finishing technique, etc. As you can see, there is no way to replicate these conditions if you ever wanted/needed to repair or perform addition on a concrete patio.
Pavers on the other hand offer many design elements. Pavers have standard materials, which ensures that whatever material you choose will always look the same. Also, you are also dealing with a product that is easily repaired should anything happen. If you have a gas line you need to run under your patio; no problem. Pull up the pavers, trench the base and then simply re-compact the base and relay the same pavers, no one will ever know the difference. There are so many different designs, colors, and textures to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect paver for you new patio.
Apart from the fact that it can become stained easily and develop cracks, concrete slabs are quite easy to maintain. Upgrading to stamped concrete helps in hiding the stains and cracks so that they become less visible. Pavers also require little care, however, the joints in between the pavers if not properly installed with polymeric sand can require quite a bit of attention. Moss and weeds can thrive in those shady, moist joints of the patio.
So, concrete or pavers? Essentially, the durability, cost effectiveness, versatility and appearance of pavers makes them the best option in most cases. While the initial cost of concrete for your patio or walkway may attract many people, years of maintenance and repair expenditures will make its total cost higher than that that of a paver patio in the long run.