Pavers vs. Poured Concrete

As the old joke goes, there are two types of concrete: concrete that is cracked, and concrete that is going to crack.

Concrete and stamped concrete don’t have a heavily compacted base foundation beneath them like our patios do. The freeze-thaw cycle flexes a patio severely, and there’s no way for a big solid slab to withstand it. Paver and stone patios can flex, which solid-poured slabs cannot. The reason concrete has those cut lines in it is so the cracks form initially in the cuts, and not on the slab top. These cracks will happen right away over the first winter. Soon enough the main slab cracks too, separates, becomes unlevel, and there’s no way to repair it invisibly. Poured concrete can only be torn out entirely and replaced. We tear out old concrete all the time.

A “quality” concrete installation nowadays costs about the same price as pavers or stone. Concrete prices have come up a lot in the last 6-7 years due to fuel costs, and the cost of the aggregate in the concrete itself. Regular concrete from a quality installer is now $5-7/s.f., and stamped goes from $12-18/s.f. Stamped concrete almost always costs more than pavers, and it will crack just as badly as a normal concrete slab. Even if they install lots of extra rebar, while it delays the cracking, it adds to the overall cost. You could have had pavers or stone for less.

Pavers, on the other hand, have a thick solid base under them, and the surface is made of interlocked pieces which can flex independently with a freeze and thaw. They are cured in ovens, so their psi strength is typically triple that of a concrete slab. If they do crack, individual pieces can always be removed and reset or replaced, without disrupting the entire patio. Stone is on the same solid base and can also withstand winter flexing. With apologies to the poured concrete industry, I just don’t think their product can compete with pavers or stone in terms of cost, attractiveness, or durability.

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