Pavers vs. Concrete Cost Comparison Guide

by Luke Whittaker

concrete vs pavers cost guide
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If you are considering replacing or adding a walkway, patio or driveway to your outdoor living area, you may become befuddled over the myriad 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

concrete vs pavers cost guide
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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, which means that your driveway, patio or walkway cannot be used until this curing process is completed. 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, if tree roots grow beneath the slab or for other reasons as it ages.

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, laying the pavers, cutting the borders, preparing the bond beam, compacting the stones and, finally, sealing 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 eyesore as the slab ages.

If you upgrade to stamped concrete, the cracks and stains can sometimes 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. With either type of concrete, there may be issues with weeds growing through the cracks between slabs or in cracks that develop as the concrete ages.

You can opt to spot treat problem areas; however, the treated areas will often end up looking like a patch or band-aid, since it is very difficult 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.

The installation process and materials will limit weed growth; however, weeds, moss and grass can grow in between the joints over time. If this occurs, it is necessary to remove the weeds 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. This is, of course, a much easier repair than that required for repairing concrete. Additionally, one or more paving stones can be removed and replaced while maintaining the visual integrity of the installation, while concrete repairs are generally readily apparent.

Durability

pavers cost vs concrete
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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 settles on 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 four times as strong as a typical concrete slab, which means they can handle four 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 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 much 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

pavers vs concrete price guide
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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. If cost is an issue, do not assume that one of these products will automatically be more expensive than the other. Paving stones and stamped concrete are often very close in price, so it is worth getting estimates for both options to help you determine which is right for your project.

Safety & Value

Concrete slabs can often be very slippery when wet. This can cause cars to 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 have better traction, which will help prevent tire marks, and there is a reduced risk of slipping 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.

In terms of cost, slab concrete is generally least expensive upfront but may incur more costs over time as it needs to be repaired or replaced. Stamped concrete and paving stones both have a higher upfront cost than slab concrete. Stamped concrete can have similar issues to slab concrete in terms of staining of cracking, which may incur higher costs over time. Paving stones, which are usually in the same price range as stamped concrete, are easiest to repair or replace if damage occurs over time.

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.

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

Luke Whittaker

Luke is the Co-Founder of  INSTALL-IT-DIRECT, Venuelust.comEstate Weddings and Events, & YourNorthCounty.com. When Luke is not working on his businesses, 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, South Africa & Sri Lanka. New Zealand is next on the list...Follow him on Google+Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin.

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