Pavers vs. Concrete Slabs – Quick Snapshot

by Luke Whittaker

If you’re considering replacing…

…or adding a walkway, patio or driveway

to your outdoor living area,

you may become befuddled over the myriad of choices you have.

Some paving materials are more cost-effective than others, and certain types are more durable and easier to maintain.

The most commonly used paving materials today are concrete slabs and paving stones. Each option can provide different advantages depending on your needs.

Poured concrete slabs are often used for outdoor residential spaces due to their cost and relative ease of installation. With the development of stamped concrete, homeowners also have options as far as designs and textures are concerned.

Paving stones or brick pavers are individual sections made from various materials like natural stone, concrete or brick. Many of these pieces interlock, which makes for a flexible system that is extremely durable.

 

Cost Comparison of Concrete Slabs & Pavers

 

Standard concrete slabs are generally lower in cost per square foot than the alternative. Typically, you will pay 10%-15% more if you choose paving stones over standard concrete slabs.

If you decide to upgrade to stamped concrete, paving stones will most likely cost you the same or even less in most cases.

While a concrete slab is more affordable upfront, the long-term costs for repairs and/or replacements will almost always outweigh the initial savings.

 

Differences in Installation

 

Concrete slabs are somewhat easy to install, but the material takes time to dry and cure. The installation process includes excavation, grading, preparation of the foundation, setting forms, and pouring the concrete.

Because a minimum order may be required, you may end up paying for more concrete than you need. One of the major downsides to concrete is it can crack when the ground below it flexes.

It is also very important to get the grading just right with a concrete installation, as it can be a very costly error to fix once the the concrete has been poured. Improper concrete grading can lead to low spots which will retain water, leaving discolorations and staining.

Paving stones require a lot more preparation which makes for a more labor intensive installation. The paver installation process includes: excavation, grading, sub-base compaction, geotextile fiber install, base preparation, base compaction, sand preparation, lay the pavers, cut the borders, prepare the bond beam, compact the stones, and finally seal the pavers upon completion.

Since there is no curing time with paving stones, the paver installation is ready to use immediately upon completion. Also, if the grading happened to be slightly off or settling occurred later down the line, the pavers can easily be readjusted to correct the issue by removing them, regrading the problem area and replacing the stones.

 

Maintenance 

 

Concrete is relatively easy to maintain, however, staining and cracking will often occur and become an eye-soar as the slab ages.

If you upgrade to stamped concrete, the cracks and stains can often be hidden or become less noticeable. You can also coat each slab with a protective sealant, to help prevent stains from penetrating the surface. If the cracks and staining become more noticeable you will most likely need to replace the entire slab.

You can opt to spot treat problem areas, however, the treated areas will often end up looking like a patch or band-aide, since it is very hard to match the color of an existing concrete slab. 

Most paving stones generally require little care, but the joints between each stone may need attention from time to time, if you choose not to use sealer.

Weeds, moss and grass can grow in between each joint, so it is necessary to regularly remove the overgrowth or treat the area with weed killer.

Although the base of each stone is designed to flex with any ground movement, the stones can still shift or crack over time.

If any settling should occur, the stones can be lifted, the base can be re-compacted, a new layer of bedding sand can be applied and then the stones can be set back into place.  

 

Durability

 

Concrete slabs longevity is greatly affected by the movement of the earth. Slabs are prone to splitting and cracking if the ground beneath it shifts.

The surface of the concrete slab may remain level for awhile, but a crack is inevitable once the soil becomes unstable. Additionally, changes in temperature can cause the concrete to expand and contract, which will also result in cracking.

With pavers, water rarely tends to settle onto the surface because of the numerous joints in between each piece. With a properly graded installation, drainage issues should never occur.

Pavers are rated to be 4 times as strong as a typical concrete slab which means they can handle 4 times as much weight on their surface before they would crack.

A great benefit about pavers is that most of the manufacturers back up their paving stone products with a Lifetime Guarantee against breaking and cracking, so if a paver should ever fail, you will be covered.

Due to the installation process and their interlocking system, paving stones are extremely flexible and are able to disperse the pressure or weight evenly, which prevents cracking.

Some paving materials are stronger than others, but most individual units are less susceptible to breakage because they are made to move with the earth.

Paving bricks also stand up very well to changes in the weather conditions with their ability to expand and contract without cracking.  

 

Replacement and Repairs

 

If a concrete slab becomes severely damaged, chances are it will need to be replaced. The entire slab must to be removed, and you will need to have new concrete poured.

This can be costly if more than one area needs replacing. You can fix minor problems by patching cracks or having a professional resurface the concrete. Patching often results in mismatched coloring, which can be unsightly in prominent areas. 

Because pavestones consist of individual interlocking stones, each unit can be replaced as needed. When one paver becomes damaged the interlocking system allows you to easily remove only that piece and replace it with a new one. This is a lot less expensive option than replacing an entire slab of concrete.

Another advantage is that if you should ever need to get access to underground utilities or fix a leaking drain-line, you can do so relatively easily. The stones can be removed, the problem area can then be addressed and then the pavers can be replaced without even knowing there was a problem.

With a concrete slab, you would have to saw cut, remove the concrete, address the problem area and then re-pour new concrete, which will never look the same as the existing slab. Now you will be left with a patch. 

Typical paver maintenance may include power washing your pavers and resealing the joints every couple of years.

 

Differences in Aesthetics

 

Because pavers come in a vast array of colors, shapes and textures, they are generally more visually appealing than concrete slabs.

However, there are numerous techniques that can be done to transform the appearance of concrete. It can be stained, scored or embedded with decorative stones.

Additionally, stamped concrete is designed to resemble paving stones. Your budget and personal preferences should determine whether you want authentic pavers or a simulated version.

 

Safety & Value

 

Concrete slabs can often be very slippery when wet. This can cause cars lose traction and leave tire marks on a newly installed concrete driveway. 

Additionally, a slippery pool deck or patio can be very dangerous if someone were to fall on the hard concrete deck.

Pavers are manufactured to be non-skid and non-slip. This means vehicles will always have traction, which will help prevent tire marks and adults and kids will never slip on a wet pool deck or patio. 

In terms of value, paving stones are considered to be one of the only hardscape products that instantly add value to your home upon installation.

Due to their versatility, aesthetic and Lifetime Product Guarantee, pavers are quickly becoming the preferred hardscape solution among homeowners and contractors.

 

The bottom line… 

 

The best way to stamp the image of your home into the minds of your visitors is to create a remarkable first impression. A welcoming walkway or a charming patio will capture the attention and interest of your guests.

To make the best selection that fits your personal needs, enlist the help of a professional. Install It Direct can assist you with choosing the best paving materials for your home.

Sign up today for a free estimate, or join our mailing list and receive special deals and inside tips.

To continue with Pavers 101: The Ultimate Paver Resource Guide Click Here to Continue Learning

About the Author

Luke is the Co-Founder of  INSTALL-IT-DIRECT and Estate Weddings and Events .When Luke is not working on EWE or IID, his second passions are in health, education(obsessed with learning) and traveling the world(life is too short to remain idle). His favorite destinations to date are Laos & Croatia. Patagonia is next on the list for 2014...Follow him on Google+Twitter, and Linkedin.

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