Pavers vs. Concrete: What’s the Difference?
Are you planning on sprucing up your driveway, walkway, or patio? If so, you’ll likely consider two very different but very popular materials: pavers and concrete. While they’re the most common options for renovations of this type, each has unique pros and cons worth considering. Use this guide to figure out whether pavers or concrete are the right choice for your driveway, walkway, or outdoor living space.
Besides appearance, the main concern for homeowners for most outdoor updates is the amount of ongoing maintenance involved. When you choose concrete, you’ll enjoy a generally low level of maintenance. One issue that can occur is weeds going up through cracks in between the slabs, so the fewer slabs you have, the better.
In addition, cracks and stains may develop over time. Power washing may remove some stains, and you can try to patch cracks, but these types of minor eyesores are practically inevitable as your concrete ages. You can apply a protective sealant to concrete to help minimize issues with staining.
Pavers are less prone to cracking from ground movement and temperature changes compared to concrete. Impacts can potentially cause cracks to develop, but you can replace individual pavers as needed.
Stains on pavers are less noticeable overall due to the patterns of the natural stone pavers that help to disguise them. The many joints between stones, however, are susceptible to weed growth, so you may need to pull weeds or apply weed killer regularly.
The main issue with concrete material is that the slabs are greatly affected by ground movement and significant shifts in temperature. Both of these situations can cause the slabs to split and leave an unsightly crack in the concrete. If the slabs shift too much, they may not remain level and could potentially experience drainage issues.
Pavers are designed to withstand ground movement and temperature fluctuations. In addition, the joints between stones assist in water drainage. Many manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee with their products, making it possible to get a free replacement if cracks do develop in any of your pavers. Most homeowners can easily manage the DIY installation of individual stones.
Both concrete and pavers should be installed by professionals. Because there are so many steps involved, and because small errors can have major repercussions, DIY installation is not recommended for either of these materials.
Concrete has a slightly less labor-intensive installation compared to pavers. The steps in the installation process include:
- Preparing the foundation
- Setting forms
- Pouring the concrete
Afterward, the concrete must dry and cure for several days before you can use it.
Paving stones is a more complex process that makes the installation process longer than concrete. The steps in the installation process for natural stone pavers include:
- Sub-base compaction
- Geotextile fiber installation
- Base preparation
- Base compaction
- Sand preparation
- Laying the pavers
- Cutting the borders
- Preparing the bond beam
- Compacting the stones
- Sealing the pavers
There is no curing time with this process, so the pavers can be used as soon as the sealant has dried.
Concrete has a significantly lower cost when compared to paving stones. On average, concrete costs about $7-$10 per square foot, while paving stones have a cost of approximately $9-$14 per square foot.
It’s important to consider long-term costs in addition to upfront costs for these materials. While concrete costs less upfront, it is generally associated with higher costs for repairs and replacements over time. Meanwhile, pavers are incredibly durable and it’s easy to replace individual stones as needed, so the maintenance costs are lower over time and the stones will last much longer than the concrete surface.
If you’re looking to add value to your home, choose stone pavers over concrete. Concrete doesn’t add much curb appeal to a home or increase its property’s overall value. Pavers increase curb appeal and attract potential homebuyers, so they add significant value to your investment.
Concrete slabs are quite tough and resistant to impacts. However, paving stones are actually even stronger than concrete and can hold more weight on their surface before a crack occurs. On average, most pavers can withstand up to 8,000 PSI while concrete only supports up to 2,500 PSI. Concrete will crack under excess foot and vehicle traffic while pavers can hold up to much higher levels of pressure without cracking.
As mentioned above, pavers are considered more attractive than concrete and add more curb appeal to a home. They are available in a variety of styles, sizes, patterns, and colors, which also offers the option for customization. Pavers are also less likely to fade or wear down in high-traffic areas compared to concrete due to the fact that the color is embedded throughout the stone. Homeowners can choose from many types of stone when selecting pavers; some of the most common types of paving stones are made of granite, slate, travertine, or sandstone.
It’s important to note that while traditional concrete is not considered stylish in appearance, there is an upgraded option which homeowners might want to consider. Stamped concrete has a design that is stamped onto the surface, creating a much more attractive look compared to plain concrete. In addition, it can be tinted to achieve a more dynamic appearance. Stamped concrete does cost more than regular concrete, but the design on the surface helps to minimize the appearance of cracks and stains, so it may reduce maintenance costs over time.
Think about your priorities when it comes to upgrading your home’s outdoor living space or driveways and walkways. Factors like cost, style, durability, and maintenance will all play a role in discovering which material is the best choice for this home improvement option. Concrete is a solid choice for any home, but pavers will offer the best value in the long run if you’re able to afford the upfront cost.