Trying to decide between concrete and interlocking concrete pavers for your pool deck or patio? Before you settle on one choice, learn the pros and cons of each.
Pavers are multi-colored pieces of prefabricated concrete, which are interlocked to form a durable surface for walkways, driveways and patios. On the other hand, concrete is poured as a solid surface and then embossed or textured to resemble brick, flagstone, slate, stone, tile or even wood (stamp) sand, salt and broom finish are also popular now these days.
While concrete is relatively new (compared to pavers), pavers have been used for hundreds of years to make Spanish monastery courtyards, European village pathways and breathtaking hardscapes in homes across the globe. This gives pavers a time-tested reputation for exceptional durability. That said, pavers do have a few limitations that make concrete a popular choice for homeowners who want especially complex or ornate design patterns.
At the same time, pavers and concrete both have strengths and weaknesses that can be especially relevant, depending on where you live, what the surfaces will be used for, if installed on shaded areas or not.
Because of its distinctive textures and variations, concrete offers more ornate design possibilities that give it a “wow” factor. In addition to this, there are several other benefits that make it appealing to homeowners, including:
- It offers a wide array of colors and patterns.
- Since concrete is so mobile, you can hand-blend colors on site.
- Stamped concrete can be sealed to provide extra protection against weather, auto leakage and swimming pool chemicals.
- With nearly limitless potential for customization, it can closely imitate segmented paving or natural stone.
- It can be poured in slabs of different thickness and sizes, where joints can also be part of your design model.
Unfortunately, despite its many benefits, concrete does come with relatively high initial costs, not to mention the time and money spent on maintenance and repairs. It also comes with a number of other drawbacks, including:
- Since do-it-yourselfers can struggle with installation, a professional installer is a MUST to perform such a task.
- Concrete is very prone to cracking, especially in climates that see a lot of freezing and thawing, depending on the current site conditions, for example, when site has been determined to have expansive soils, where of course there’s a lot of expansion and contraction, structural cracks are anticipated such as hillside locations.
- While hairline cracks are considered normal, cracks over ¼’’ are considered defective.
- When expansion joints are not properly placed, structural cracks will show.
- Earthquakes and foundation issues will cause concrete to crack.
- Because control joints and saw cuts are required to mitigate cracking, interruptions can occur across stamped pattern lines.
- De-icing salts or water can deteriorate ornate designs. I personally have a section of concrete that gets wet daily due to the way my irrigation is placed and unfortunately, the concrete on that area is more porous than the rest of the concrete on my front yard.
- Since colors can fade under the sun, it’s not always easy to find accurate matches when repairs require patching.
- Homeowners must reseal their concrete at least once per year.
Interlocking Concrete Pavers
Unlike concrete, pavers typically do not crack when they are properly installed. They also come with a number of other benefits that make them attractive to homeowners, including:
- Basic pavers cost about the same as concrete in most instances.
- Since they usually do not require replacement, pavers offer better cost efficiency over time.
- Repairs are quick and seamless, requiring easy replacements of cracked or broken pavers.
- Colors and patterns can be mixed and matched to make stunning designs with accents, bandings and borders.
While it does have some clear advantages of concrete, pavers aren’t perfect. Among the most notable drawbacks include:
- Unless a binding polymer is used, joint sands will need to be topped off every year or two.
- Weeds can sprout up between pavers unless a binding polymer is used to harden joint sands.
- Improper installation can cause pavers to move or settle over time, especially without proper soil preparation.
- Since lots can be slightly lighter or darker from pallet to pallet, installers need to carefully blend the pavers to keep them from appearing blotchy.
- Larger pavers that are heavy to lift require more man to handle installation, if you like bigger slabs and are trying to save on costs, pavers may not be the best alternative.
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both concrete pavers and concrete. If you are concerned about maintenance, fading, repairs and climate-related cracking, pavers are probably your best bet. If, on the other hand, you value the “wow” factor above all else, concrete may be the way to go.
If you are reading this article is because you either want to build a pool or you are considering remodeling your existing one. The first and most important part of the pool to choose to start the design process is the shape. There are many different shapes, designs, and swimming pool features to choose from. The fun part of designing your custom inground gunite swimming pool is that you aren’t limited to just a square, rectangular or other prefabricated shapes, when building a concrete pool, there’s nothing set in stone, you can customize it however and whichever shape may work best for your yard.
In addition to designing your pool any shape that you like, you can also add any pool feature you like, allowing you to build your dream oasis, the possibilities are endless.
Freeform pool shapes are the most space-friendly and popular pool shape. With a freeform shape, you can customize your pool’s shape in any way that works best for you and your yard. Free-form pools generally have more curves than other pool shapes, allowing you to build a truly unique oasis. If you are artistic, have a clear idea of what you want, or are looking to have a one of a kind shaped pool, a freeform pool would be the best choice for you.
Pros: Unique, works for any kind of space, more curves that allow other components to blend in such as landscapes, trees, decoration, furniture etc.
Cons: When not designed right, it can eat it too much swim space, coping pieces will have to be cut and more grout lines will show. A free form pool requires more detail than a straight line pool, which can lead to additional material cost and/or labor.
While rectangles are not the most creative pool shape, they are one of the most common and classic pool shapes. Most homeowners in Southern California are choosing rectangular pools over all of the choices because of the simplicity, elegance, modern and clean look. You can find this shape of pools in honeymoon suites and in penthouses on their balconies as well.
Pros: Savings on material costs compared to any free form pool, less grout lines and cuts, can fit on most spaces. Rectangle pools are the perfect shape for those modern homes looking for a clean look and a simple design. Because of their “straight lines” a rectangular pool provides ample space for children to play and to swim laps.
Cons: Are mainly used for modern properties due to having straight edges.
Kidney shaped pools are a classic custom free-form pool, shaped like a kidney bean, round on both sides and curved inwards on one edge. The kidney pool shape is excellent for pools with added water features such as spas, waterfalls and grottos.
Pros: Works for any kind of space, more curves that allow other components to blend in such as landscapes, trees, decoration, furniture etc.
Cons: Kidney shape pools are usually no bigger than 90 feet in perimeter, a very large kidney can look a little odd. Custom coping pieces will have to be installed or straight pieces need to be cut, then more grout lines will show. A kidney shape pool requires more detail than a straight line pool, which can lead to additional material cost and/or labor.
Figure 8 shaped pools, taper a bit from the middle and are rounded on both ends. One of the best things about figure 8 shaped swimming pools is that you can feel the free flow of water. On sharp edges of a rectangular pools, the water tends to refract strongly after hitting the walls. The curves of this pool shape help the water to circulate instead of being refracted backward.
Pros: Feel the free flow of water, can work with most spaces.
Cons: A figure 8 shape pool requires more detail than a straight line pool, which can lead to additional material cost and/or labor.
L-shaped pools are as impressive as the name. The vertical shank of the L is generally shorter and of smaller width, while the other part of the oasis is longer and has more breadth. This form of a pool is useful for courtyards with unique needs, most people that like L shape pools use the vertical shank of the L to install a baja step to not take away much swim space.
Pros: Clean look and lines, baja step and pool steps won’t take up swim space. Also, they work wonders when working with small backyards.
Cons: Are mainly used for modern properties due to having straight edges.
Greek and Roman
The shape of the Greek pool is famous for its spacious and beautiful design. Greek shaped pools are similar to rectangular shaped pools, but the corners are tilted at 45 ° like a kite or curved inwards. This form of a pool is suitable for larger areas and larger families, as it typically can accommodate more people at a time, and is best for big yards. Roman shaped pools are a large rectangular pool with domes that emerge outward on both sides. One of the domes usually has stairs to enter the oasis. This form is excellent for sunbathing since the stairs provide a rather large platform to relax on while in the water.
Pros: Elegant designs, can accommodate more people at at a time. Domes are usually used as baja step saving up swim space.