If you are trying to decide between paving stones and stamped concrete for your landscape design or redesign, here are eight considerations to help you choose between these comparably priced paving products.
1. Paving stones enhance long-term curb appeal more than stamped concrete.
When looking at your options, it is immediately apparent that a driveway made from stamped concrete or paving stones will be far more attractive than a plain concrete or asphalt driveway.
There is no question that either of these hardscape options is a better choice, and both will increase your home’s curb appeal if your current driveway is blacktop or plain concrete.
Both can complement a variety of architectural styles, and both are seen in patio, walkway and driveway installations for higher-end homes.
However, concrete driveways (stamped or otherwise) are known to crack and fade over the years, either of which will significantly take away from your home’s curb appeal.
Concrete is also prone to stain, which takes away from your home’s overall visual appeal and can be difficult to fix.
On the other hand, durable paving stones have exceptional longevity and will continue to look fantastic many years down the road.
And, on the off chance that a paving stone does crack or stain irreparably, the interlocking installation allows you to simply replace the paving stones that need to be replaced.
Attractive concrete repairs are not that simple, and repaired concrete rarely matches the concrete originally poured.
This makes paving stones the obvious winner to achieve the best, long-term curb appeal.
2. Pavers have a greater potential for increasing the value of your home.
Much like enhancing curb appeal, if you replace a plain concrete or asphalt driveway or patio with pavers or stamped concrete, you can expect a home appraiser to factor these higher-end materials into the value of your home.
Either option is a significant improvement over other materials, but they differ in the value they can add to your home.
If you are adding a stamped concrete patio to an outdoor living area, you can expect the value of your home to increase — just as it would with the addition of any type of patio.
If you add a stamped concrete driveway to replace a dirt, gravel, asphalt or plain concrete driveway, you can also expect your home’s value to increase somewhat.
However, concrete requires more care, maintenance and repairs than pavers over the years, and this is also factored in the equation.
It is also more expensive to repair concrete, which takes away from its long-term appeal and value.
Aside from having better longevity, paving stones are also considered a higher-end product and, because of this, they have a greater impact on home value and are a great way to immediately increase the value of your home.
Additionally, the appraised value is just one type of home value with which you should be concerned.
If you are planning on selling your home at some point in the future, you will also need to be mindful of its perceived value.
The perceived value of your home has less to do with what the appraiser says and more to do with how buyers feel about your home and how much they are willing to pay for it based on its features and upgrades.
Paving stones provide an effective way to give your home a more stately and sophisticated look, and they simply look more expensive.
The vast majority of home buyers — particularly those looking at higher-end homes — prefer paving stones over stamped concrete.
Because of this, paving stones are the obvious choice for homeowners concerned with the perceived value of their home, as well as the appraised value.
3. Paving stones provide better slip and skid resistance.
Concrete tends to be slippery when wet, which can cause a number of problems.
Most notably, this can increase the likelihood of skidding when driving on it after rain or snow, and it can increase the risk of slipping and falling when used around pools or water features or in areas where rain is common.
While we may not get much rain in Southern California, some areas do get snow, and we certainly have plenty of swimming pools and water features.
To reduce the risk of property damage or injuries, it is best to choose materials that are as safe as possible.
Due to their texture and the number of actual joints (as opposed to superficial, stamped lines), pavers provide better slip and skid resistance.
In most cases, paving stones also provide better drainage of snow and rain, which further reduces the chance of skidding.
While we are on the topic of safety, we should also add that pavers tend to give off less glare than concrete, and they tend to absorb heat less, which is an added bonus for pets and children who prefer to run around without shoes on.
4. Paving stones come with a lifetime guarantee.
Concrete installers simply cannot provide long-term guarantees for their installations due to the nature of their product.
Concrete cracks. It is that simple.
Over time, concrete is going to crack, and how soon that occurs depends on too many variables to allow a contractor to estimate its longevity.
So it really is not their fault that most contractors do not provide guarantees for concrete driveways, patios and walkways.
Some of the variables they can control, such as the materials used and the skill level of their crew, but concrete can be affected by natural elements as it cures, and contractors have little control over this.
They also have no control over the weight of vehicles that later drive and park on the concrete, the number of earthquakes we have, the size of the trees homeowners plant nearby or how much the ground will shift from other causes.
Responsible contractors, however, should let their clients know that concrete will crack at some point in the future when they are helping them plan their projects and choose materials.
On the other hand, paving stones come with a lifetime guarantee and an interlocking design that allows homeowners to rest easy knowing that if a paving stone in their driveway does crack or break at some point, all they need to do is contact their installer for a quick repair.
5. Paving stone patios, walkways and driveways can be enjoyed right away.
Most people know that concrete needs to cure after it is poured, but most folks do not know that it takes nearly a month for concrete to cure completely.
This means that if you want to allow your concrete to completely cure and gain its full strength before using it, you would not be able to walk or drive on it for about four weeks.
Of course, most people do not wait this long, and it is okay to walk and drive on it sooner than that without causing damage.
However, you do need to wait at least three days before walking on it and about a week before driving on it in light vehicles.
If you have heavy equipment or heavy vehicles, you do need to wait until it reaches full strength, but this is not an issue for most homeowners.
On the other hand, if you opt for paving stones, you can walk, drive or host an outdoor dinner party on them immediately after your installation is complete.
6. Paving stones are eligible for HERO financing.
The Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) program provides financing to homeowners looking to make their homes more energy efficient or water efficient.
This type of financing is based on your home’s equity rather than a credit score and is attached to the home as a tax assessment, which means the payments are added to your property taxes.
This makes home improvement financing more accessible for some homeowners and allows them to make significant improvements they might not otherwise be able to afford.
Projects financed through the HERO program must be completed by approved contractors and with approved products and materials.
Stamped concrete is not currently on the list of eligible products, but paving stones are.
Open grid pavers, interlocking pavers with a minimum of 1/4″ joint spacing and flagstone pavers with a minimum of 3/8″ joint spacing are all approved as paving products that are eligible for HERO financing.
The only type of concrete that is eligible for HERO financing is permeable concrete, and most homeowners choosing between stamped concrete and paving stones are not going to view this as a viable option.
While permeable concrete is much better for the environment than conventional concrete, because it allows water to percolate through and reduces runoff, this is not a look most homeowners will want as part of their landscape design.
This type of concrete also comes with a host of issues, such as clogging, curing issues and abrasion resistance issues, that are going to turn most homeowners off from using this product.
So if you are interested in pursuing HERO financing to fund some or all of your paving installation, paving stones are the way to go.
7. Paving stones are stronger, more durable and easier to repair than stamped concrete.
We are talking about stamped concrete and concrete pavers, which may have some readers wondering how one concrete product can be stronger or more durable than the other.
That is a great question, and the answer is actually pretty simple.
Poured concrete installations are affected by all sorts of factors as they cure, which affects strength and resistance.
They are poured in large slabs that make the concrete more likely to crack as it expands and contracts with changes in the weather, tree roots grow under it, heavy cars drive on different parts of it, the ground shifts, earthquakes shake things up and all sorts of other things occur.
Paving stones are created in a controlled environment under extreme pressure, which inevitably creates a stronger, more durable paving material.
Because each paver makes up only a small portion of the overall surface and there are joints between each paving stone, your driveway or patio will be able to far better endure expansions, contractions, shifting ground or whatever else nature throws its way.
When properly installed, pavers actually get stronger over time, and if there ever is enough of a shift to create an uneven surface, their uniformity and interlocking nature make it easy to remove the stones in question, level the surface, replace the pavers, and have your patio or driveway looking as good as new immediately.
This makes paving stones a better choice for Earthquake-prone California and a better choice overall in terms of strength, durability and ease of repair.
8. Paving stones are the real thing.
If you type “What is stamped concrete?” into your search engine, you will find results that define this product as concrete that is stamped to resemble flagstone, bricks, slate, stone, pavers or tile in order to provide a lower-cost alternative to the real thing.
This definition, alone, is enough to convince many homeowners that paving stones are the better choice, particularly those who have higher-end homes.
While most of us strive to be above keeping up with the Joneses and being concerned about what our neighbors think, we also know that choosing a product designed to look like something else makes it look like you could not afford the product you are trying to mimic.
There is simply no material that matches the elegance, durability, versatility and beauty of paving stones.
Knowing that stamped concrete is actually in the same price range as paving stones, there is really no reason to mimic other products with a less desirable paving material when you can spend about the same amount for paving stones that will impress your guests and be the envy of your neighbors.