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.