To help you in your quest in having the best pathway in your front/backyard, we’ll compare two of the most popular paving options out there. So slip into those rubber boots and put on that hard hat, as the beasts battle it out in the concrete jungle. It’s the stamped concrete vs. paver patio.
Did you know?
A typical paving stone can withstand loads of up to 8,000 pounds per sq. inch, while concrete from a concrete truck can only do 2,000 pounds per sq. inch. Thus, paving stone driveways have four times the load carrying capacity as that of concrete driveways.
“Hey Joe, there’s a crack in your driveway…” I don’t know about you guys, but I definitely don’t wanna be Joe! Driveways, walkways, patios, etc., are amongst the first things that friends and family notice when they come visiting (that is, if your pet Labrador doesn’t go jumping and slobbering over them first!). A lot of work goes into getting them to look right, not to mention time and money. While most of us tend to make a choice based only upon which one is cheaper, there are several other factors―such ease of installation, durability, etc.―which need to be taken into account.
There are many options out there, but home designers and DIY enthusiasts are generally split into two camps. There are those who advocate the use of stamped concrete, while others opine that patio pavers are the way to go. But which one is the right choice for your home decor? Let’s find out…
Paver Stone Pavement
Laying Paver Stones
Paver Stone Sidewalk
Red Paver Stones
Yellow Paver Stones
Stamped Concrete Patterns
Red Concrete Patio
Design and Construction
As the name suggests, these are made by stamping patterns onto concrete slabs. Concrete, in liquid form, is poured onto the surface to be paved, and is leveled. Then, before it starts drying, patterns are stamped (pressed) on it to give it that aesthetic appeal. This is actually quite a challenging job, as one needs to be both, quick and accurate, because if the concrete dries up before being completely stamped, or if one makes a mistake in the stamped patterns, there is no other option but to redo the entire slab!
After pouring and stamping comes curing, which is the process of allowing the concrete and the patterns on it to dry and harden completely. This can take up to 5 days.
Pavers are precast blocks made of stone, bricks, tiles, or cement, that are placed one after the other on a readied surface. Before laying the blocks, the surface is excavated to a suitable depth and filled with the ‘base’ or the foundation. It involves pouring concrete on the excavated surface and then distributing sand over it. The weight of each individual block makes it stick to the concrete base.
Paver blocks are placed over the base in the desired pattern. Once laid, they are ready for use immediately.
Look and Feel
Stamped concrete is the more customizable of the two. This results from the fact that you make the entire thing right from scratch. You are free to add the color of your choice to the mixture. There are a large number of stamping patterns available in the market, and with a little mixing and matching, you are guaranteed a unique look. Also, you can have your surface resemble other natural materials, such as flagstone, slate, natural stone, bricks, etc., at a fraction of their price. Once done, the surface looks and feels pretty hard and solid.
Albeit lesser in comparison, paver blocks too come in a number of colors and designs. They can also be obtained in a variety of surface finishes. Some would argue that there are only so many ways of arranging these blocks. However, with a little bit of creativity, many unique patterns can be realized. A paver-based design feels very sturdy and even.
Durability and Staying Power
The problem with stamped concrete is the fact that it is made of concrete! Being one continuous surface, there is absolutely no place to expand with the heat or contract as it is cooled. So, when Mother Nature changes her moods, internal pressures within the slab cause cracks to develop on the surface. Crack repairs are an expensive and time-consuming affair, usually involving replacing the entire slab. Rain and snow are especially damaging to the surface. One way around this issue is to pattern a textured finish to better hide the cracks.
It is important to understand that being rougher than paver blocks, stamped concrete is more prone to wear and tear, specifically from heavier loads such as car tires. As a protective measure, a sealant can be applied to the surface every 3 – 4 years, which can protect against the elements while also adding a glossy sheen to it.
Paver blocks are designed to weather the elements. They are molded under very high pressure, making them much more resilient to environmental changes. They are used as individual units, placed one after another in a chain-like fashion. The only weak-link in this otherwise durable chain is the sand filling in between each block. It is known to erode over time, requiring time-to-time refilling. Also, weeds may grow in it with their roots weakening the binding. If the base foundation is made incorrectly, the blocks may even heave or settle, making for an uneven surface.
However, most of these problems can be easily eliminated. If one is careful while laying the foundation, and chooses the right quality and grade of sand filling, the paver is guaranteed to outperform stamped concrete.
Safety and Usability
Being one continuous surface, stamped concrete tends to be comparatively more slippery, especially during the rains and snowfall, or if used in designing poolside pathways. One way to prevent this is to use an appropriate anti-skid coating. If during construction leveling is improperly done, water might pool upon the surface, making it slippery and hazardous to use.
Because individual blocks are joined together during construction, there are large number of groves in between the blocks, allowing for more effective drainage of water from the surface, keeping it drier. This makes them more user-friendly in wet conditions. However, there is a drawback to this jointed design. Over time, the individual blocks may begin setting or heaving, and this can cause sudden walking accidents.
Initial Cost and Maintenance
The initial cost of making a stamped concrete surface might be at par, or even lesser than that of paver blocks, but the dark fact is that periodic maintenance costs are likely to be significantly higher. These surfaces are prone to cracks and a lot more wear and tear. Also, repairing a damaged part is quite a hassle, requiring heavy machine tools and equipment. In most cases, the entire slab needs to be replaced. All these factors add to the upkeep costs.
The initial investment on paver blocks can be higher in comparison, but a well-constructed walkway, driveway, etc., using paver blocks can be virtually maintenance free. The higher durability of these blocks ensures that your pathway endures the harshest weather, stress, and friction-induced attrition without breaking down. And even when they do break down, repairing them is much simpler. Being factory-made, each block is similar to the next. As such, you can simply remove the damaged block and replace it with a fresh one.
In summary, following are the major differences between stamped concrete and paver patios:
- Made by poring liquid concrete and then stamping patterns onto it.
- More customizable with large number of stamping patterns available. Colors can be added to the cement mixture for a more personalized look.
- Can be made to resemble other popular surfaces, such as slate, bricks, etc.
- Has a lower initial cost, but maintenance costs tend to be higher.
- Sealant can be applied for making it more water- and snow-resilient.
- Is more prone to wear and tear due to heavy loads, and develops cracks.
- Made by placing many individual blocks one after the other in the desired pattern.
- Available in many different colors and shapes.
- Has higher initial costs, but is virtually maintenance free.
- Higher resilience to weather elements such as snow and rainfall.
- Less prone to wear and tear caused by heavy loads.
So, which one should you choose? Well, it’s truly a matter of personal preference. Stamped concrete offers you a richer and more personalized look, but comes at a higher maintenance premium. It also isn’t the best choice if you live somewhere with changing weather conditions and temperature. Patio pavers are much more versatile, enduring, and durable. They are low in maintenance and safer in wet conditions. However, they might not be what you are looking for if it is pure aesthetic appeal that concerns you. So for all practical purposes, opt for pavers and leave the stamped concrete for the connoisseurs.