Retaining Wall Pavers: What You Need to Know

One great use for paving stones is to build a paver retaining wall. They are used primarily for landscaping in both residential and commercial applications. They have two primary functions. First, they serve an aesthetic end for home gardens and other landscaping and hardscaping projects. A paver patio retaining wall combined with a patio is a great way to mark off an area for friends and family to relax and enjoy. The second use is entirely functional and perhaps the most important reason: it protects dirt or fill from falling down slopes, especially during rain, and generally handles water drainage down slopes. Well-placed paver retaining walls can protect a patio, garden, or other installation from a dirty mudslide. Like all paving stone installations, walls last for many decades – even up to 100 years – though this depends on local conditions.

Walls can be very tricky to install. While we give you some basic ideas below on how to install retaining wall systems, in general it’s best to leave this work to a competent professional, especially for high walls or for walls near sensitive areas.

Retaining Wall Options and Paver Designs

While there are many different materials that can be used for retaining walls, pavers retaining walls are becoming a popular option due to the variety of designs options and general ease of installation. Retaining wall pavers are available in many different colors, shapes, and sizes. You can use the same concrete pavers and paver colors for different projects around your yard, ensuring that there will be harmony and order around your yard.

If you purchase the retaining wall systems, they are also quite easy to install, as they are often just paving blocks that need to be stacked together. Each brick in the set will have a specific purpose and can be installed more easily than having to use mortar to hold everything together. They are ‘interlocking’ just as interlocking pavers are in flatwork.

When planning your paver retaining wall, determine its height first, as the height of the wall will have implications for the design and materials required. You may have to use fabric to manage water flows and other details of the installation, such as the stability of the soil. If you want to build a very tall retaining wall, a number of factors come into play, such as the stability of the soil, the slope, water content, etc. As with all projects, consulting with a contractor or paver manufacturer may be a good bet. This is especially true with retaining walls – these structures can be finicky, so you want to make sure to get it right. In addition, walls are often subject to particular rules and regulations of your local area. For instance, walls of certain heights must be designed and approved by an engineer before they are installed. Make sure to check with all the regulations of your local area before you proceed – it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Like with other paving stone applications, retaining wall pavers can be laid in many different layouts and patterns. The pattern you select will depend on your tastes, your home’s theme, and any other paver installations nearby. One type of pattern is the “random” or “mosaic” layout. This layout features paving stones of different sizes, creating a natural, handcrafted look. Another pattern is the running bond pattern. In this patter, half of each retaining wall paver covers half of the one before it. One other pattern is the coursed pattern. In this layout, the brick are just laid out in simple rows.

Installing Paver Retaining Walls

Installing a paver retaining wall will be easier if you use segmented brick. These brick fit together easily and stay together. When designing your wall, you may be able to add in curves depending on the particular layout and design of your setup. Before you install the brick, you need to dig a trench to the appropriate depth and width. The general rule is that the trench should be one inch deep for every eight inches of total height of the structure. You will need to add 5-7 inches to this depth for the aggregate base and sand. After digging the trench, make sure to compact the soil. Then add 4-6 inches of aggregate base and compact. Finally, pour a 1 inch bed of coarse sand. You will then need to compact one final time. Make sure the base is secure.

Next lay the first course of brick, making sure to keep them straight. Backfill before moving on to the next course, and backfill more after each row is completed. Finally, put caps on the wall to put the final aesthetic and functional touch to your new retaining wall.

All retaining walls should be filled in with backfill. About one foot of the backfill should be course stone; the rest can be fill. In addition, the wall should be slightly sloped into the backfill. This will increase the stability of the unit. Geogrid or other fabric may be needed for certain installations. You may also need to install drainage behind the wall to prevent any disasters. Consult with a professional if you have no experience in this area.

Though this is some basic advice, you can still use it to install a wall if you are comfortable and familiar with the work. In general, though, stick with a licensed and insured contractor to make sure the job is done right the first time.

Retaining Wall Pavers Cost

The price you will have to pay for your retaining wall will vary due to a large number of factors, many of which are discussed here in this article about pavers cost. Obviously, the price you’ll pay will depend on the dimensions of the wall, but expect to pay in the low to mid 4-figures for the most standard and typical walls. (This is for labor and materials.)

Pairing Walls With Other Structures

One of the best things to do for your new outdoor project is to pair your retaining wall with other flat hardscape structures. For instance, a new patio with new walls is a great addition to any backyard. Installing walls around a pool deck is also a great idea. Most of the time, retaining walls will be installed for structural reasons. This can happen especially when you install a new hardscape or landscape project in your yard – the new structure may necessitate your installation of a new wall. Landscape pavers or garden pavers also benefit from the addition of a wall made from the same pavers. A good contractor will let you know when you will have to install a new retaining wall – some will avoid giving you this ‘bad news’ because they don’t want to scare you away from their bid. However, you may ‘pay’ for this down the line when there is a massive and messy failure in your yard. Thus, it pays to pay up front to help avoid disaster.

Concrete Paver Steps and Stoops

One great addition to any front or backyard paver installation is paver steps. Many people have a stoop made out of poured concrete, brick pavers, or other materials, and may want something different. This is particularly the case if the existing installation is in poor condition, or if they are replacing a walkway or patio with concrete pavers. The same concrete pavers, with the addition of coping, can be used on walkways, driveways, and patios as on the steps. This affords the homeowner many opportunities for design given the wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of paving stones available. In addition, there are many places besides the entrance to a home that steps can be used. Other applications include entryways for gardens, courtyards, patios, and pool decks.

Concrete, brick, and natural stone pavers can all be used to create the paver stoop. Each has its own particular look, but all are strong and quite suitable for the job. The only major difference is price – concrete pavers are the least expensive, followed by brick and then natural stone steps. One way to get the look of expensive natural stone without having to use the entire brick is to use a stone veneer or thin tiles. These tiles will cover the surface of the stoop without being the thickness of normal pavers.

The Benefits of Paver Steps

Using paving stones for steps is very advantageous for many of the same reasons as for any project. Four will be highlighted here: first, pavers are slip resistant, which is important for people climbing up and down steps. Second, they are durable, and will withstand years of traffic and weather. Third, the presence of pavers so close to the home is often a unique and desirable addition, increasing the looks, function, and ultimately the value of the home. Fourth, pavers, or even thin pavers over concrete, are very beautiful and add a certain amount of class and elegance to the entrance of your home.

There is one minor drawback to installing these pavers – they can be expensive. Certainly not as expensive as natural stone steps, but pavers cost will be expensive nonetheless. However, you will pay for quality if you want it – taking a look at the typical aged concrete stoop will often make you believe this very quickly!

Designing your Paver Stoop

There are some aspects of pavers steps design that are unique to the particular project. When planning your project, you should clearly calculate the width, length, and height of your steps. Remember when building steps with pavers that safety is paramount, and steps should neither be too narrow nor too high. The dimensions of your steps will be important when you select the pattern of pavers that for your stoop. You will want to select a pattern that can be successfully used on the steps of the particular dimensions you’ve chosen. Some good patterns for stoops include the running bond pattern and irregular pattern. Circle kits are usually not acceptable because the area is too small.

Stoops can be installed at any entrance of your home, either front, back, or side. They can be installed in concert with a patio, walkway, pool deck, or other project. Note that steps and stoops can also be constructed throughout your yard wherever there may be a significant change in elevation that a simple paver path cannot handle alone. For instance, you can build patio steps to connect your patio to another part of your yard.

Note that the structure underneath does not have to be made from poured concrete – other options to exist, such as retaining wall pavers, concrete blocks, and more. Consult with a contractor to find the best available options for your project.

Installing Paver Steps

Unlike some outdoor pavers projects, stoops are generally not great candidates for DIY paving work. They can be complicated to install, especially if a concrete foundation needs to be formed and poured first.

Still, a minor stoop replacement may be doable as long as the job isn’t overly complex. The main steps of installing a new paver veneered stoop is to first grind down the concrete surface so that it flat and even. Then, new trenches must be excavated if new steps or risers are to be added to the existing structure.

Here are some additional tips: first, your approach will depend on what stoop already exists. It is possible to veneer steps rather than build one from scratch. If you do decide to follow this method, make sure that the heights of the bricks won’t be different, as you’ll want to make sure that the step from the home to the stoop isn’t too high, or that the paving stones don’t stick up higher than the entrance, creating a tripping hazard! An amazing guide to installing your own paver steps can be found here.

Finally, you may have to add accessories to your steps, like a hand rail, if they are very steep. When you ask someone how to build steps with pavers, also ask where you can obtain these rails.

In most cases, though, you’ll want to hire a contractor to do the work for you. This is especially true if the stoop is high or contain many steps. Since people will be walking up and down these steps, you want to make sure they don’t present a tripping hazard – better to be safe than  sorry.

Swimming Pool Pavers: What You Need to Know

Thinking of installing a new in-ground pool or doing some pool remodeling? Consider the beauty that can be added to your backyard paradise by investing in a new pool deck to surround your pool. This article will give you a detailed rundown of the benefits and advantages of using paving stones for your next pool deck as well as some tips you’ll need to consider when designing and installing your next hardscape creation.

The Benefits of Pool Pavers

One great use for concrete pavers, as has been mentioned on other parts of this site, is installing them around a pool (a.k.a. a pool deck). Pool pavers are a great choice for any inground pool or above ground pool because of their great flexibility and customizability: you can pick from many different colors, shapes, sizes, and paver designs of pool pavers in order to complement your patio and backyard theme or design. Concrete pavers are a great choice over the major alternative – poured concrete – because it does not crack over time. These cracks are both unsightly and a safety hazard.

One special type of brick used in these projects is pool coping pavers. Coping protects both the pool and swimmers from damage or injury, as it covers the edges of the pool. Coping come in a similar variety of styles and colors as their paving stone brethren. There are also other materials that can be used for coping instead of pavers, including precast and poured concrete. (I’ll have a bit more to say about pool coping in a little bit.)

One great advantage of pool pavers is their slip resistance. They are smooth enough to be easy on the feet and retain their beauty for a long time; they are rough enough, however, to provide enough friction to prevent someone from slipping on them, especially if they are wet (as they will be when they are near a pool). For those who have children who enjoy playing around the pool, pool paving stones can be a great investment in safety.

Installing Concrete Pool Pavers

Installing concrete pavers around a pool can be expensive, depending on the project. However, they represent a great investment over the long term, as their durability makes them last a long time compared to other methods. In addition, they beautify your entire backyard and pool area, increasing the appraised value of your home.

One thing to keep in mind with pool deck pavers is that their proximity to the pool can cause problems. Specifically, if care is not taken joint sand can fall into the pool, damaging or degrading the filter and other pool accessories. To prevent this, have your pavers treated with a stabilizing sealer. This can prevent sand from escaping from the joints. Sealing may be a good idea in general because pavers near a pool see more damaging weathering effects than other pavers from the combination of water, chlorine, sun, etc.

Installing swimming pool pavers can be tricky business. Coordinating the height of the pavers with the height of the pool, as well as installing coping correctly, without damaging the poolside, can be challenging for those without experience. A beginner paver installer should not attempt this without consulting a professional. In fact, it may pay to hire a contractor in this case. Working around a pool presents particular difficulties that other projects do not – for instance, workers need to take care not to knock material or brick into the pool!

Pool Decking Design Options

Selecting particular colors of paver should depend on a number of factors. Lighter pavers do not get very hot on a sunny day, but they do reflect a lot of light, which can be bothersome. Darker pavers don’t have this problem, but can get hot on a sunny day. You will thus probably want to pick a color somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Whatever color you select, make sure it complements your pool, patio, and backyard.

If you are installing pavers near a body of salt water, take care in selecting a paving stone that will stand up to salt. Many are not able to, and will degrade and break down after constant exposure to salt water. Your contractor or paver manufacturer should be able to give you recommendations as to the proper brick to select for this purpose. If you are not building your pool deck near a body of salt water, you should make sure that your pavers can withstand constant exposure to chlorinated water. Concrete pavers often fit these requirements, but check with your contractor or manufacturer.

Also remember that you will be adding pool coping pavers around the border of your paver deck and pool. These aren’t pavers per se, but they do come in the same color and style as the pavers you install around the pool itself. These coping materials will cap and cover the boundary between the deck and the pool, providing you with both the beauty of the sleek design as well as the safety needed to protect those entering and exiting the pool.

When it comes time to install your new pool deck, don’t discount the other designs and projects you can combine into this work. For instance, this may be the perfect time to explore doing some extra pool landscaping in conjunction with your paver project. Indeed, landscaping pavers that are of the same kind and type as your pool pavers can be used to ensure that you maintain the harmony among all the projects in your yard. Consider as well that you can add to or expand your patio, perhaps connecting the patio pavers to the pool deck to make a nice place for you and your friends/family to hang out. you could also add walkway pavers around your pool deck to connect areas of your yard, or even to integrate the whole structure into your front yard walkways and driveway. Again, all the same materials can be used for these structures, and it will be cheaper per square foot to get all of this done at the same time than if you just did all of this in separate projects over many seasons.

There are many pool ideas out there if you keep your eyes open; use some of those listed here while also checking out examples in magazines, friends’ homes, and so on.

Saving Money on Pool Deck Pavers

Of course, installing pool pavers isn’t cheap, mostly because the material and installation is so time and labor intensive. This is made even more significant due to the fact that the pavers must be installed near the pool, making the job that much more difficult and sensitive. Thus, you should know that this project won’t be cheap; however, it will most definitely be worth it in the long run. Usual prices run around $10-$15 per square foot, though other costs may also accrue if your project needs special grading, excavation, etc. Indeed, though the pool pavers cost may be relatively high in the short term, you will benefit from an increased property value for your home and pool as well as a beautiful place for you to hang out in your own yard. This can save you money indirectly, as you can stay around the house more to relax – no need to go driving to public pools or beaches or taking expensive and long trips just to get a little R&R!

Regardless of these benefits, you’ll still want to save some money where you can when it comes to installing pavers. I wouldn’t try to take shortcuts when it comes to the installation of the pavers – you want to make sure the job is done right, especially near your pool where one mistake could have catastrophic consequences. (Believe me, I’ve seen some terrible things happen to pools where hardscape and landscape work is done incorrectly!) However, you can try to save money by finding pavers for sale. This can be done in many ways, and I’ve covered this on this site in places like this article. Of course, the same warning above applies – don’t get discount pavers without making sure that they are top quality and integrity, both in their looks and strength – not all pavers are created equal!

Concrete Paver Walkway: What You Need to Know

One of the best uses for concrete paving stones is making a pavers walkway. The paver walkway can be located in many places around your home and can serve many functions. Perhaps the walkway will connect your driveway to your front door or stoop. Or perhaps the walkway connects the front yard to the backyard, such as a walkway on the side of the house. Walkways in the backyard are also possible, perhaps connecting patios to the house, or patios to pool decks. Walkways can even be installed in gardens as landscape pavers that can both section off particular parts of your landscape while providing you and your visitors with a path through your creations. The location and function of walkways is only limited by your imagination and the size and features of your home.

(Note that much of what follows applies to pavers of other materials, such as natural stone and brick paver walkways. However, we just focus on concrete pavers in this article.)

Advantages of a Paver Walkway

Using concrete pavers for your walkway will yield many benefits. First, the obvious benefit of  pavers walkways is that they withstand heavy foot traffic. A dirt or grass pathway will get beaten down over time, looking more and more unseemly. In addition, mud can be tracked from this path into your home. Asphalt and concrete walkways don’t have this disadvantage, of course, but do have the problem of cracking over time, especially due to freezing and thawing. Paver walkways have none of these problems.

In addition, paver walkways add much beauty to your home while also representing a solid financial investment. Concrete and asphalt may be relatively durable, but they don’t hold a candle up to pavers when it comes to the beauty department. They are relatively low maintenance and come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, providing a larger number of design options for the homeowner.

Aside from the aesthetic benefits of the paver resistance to cracking, paver walkways are generally safer than other options. Dirt and grass walkways can get muddy and slippery during rain storms. Concrete and asphalt walkways can crack over time, becoming a tripping hazard. Paving stone walkways, however, have none of these problems, especially because the brick are “grippy” due to their roughness and high friction, preventing slipping. They are also easy to maintain in the winter. For extra safety, you could install “walkway lights” that outline the walkway, providing a clear path for travelers at night.

Walkways can also represent a solid commercial investment. A well designed and installed paver walkway can set the right tone for any business.

Concrete Paver Walkway Designs

There are a number of design strategies one could pursue with paver walkways. The first step is laying out the general dimensions – length and width – of the walkway. Where will it originate, and where will it terminate? Your walkway will be the main guide for your friends and family through and to you home and the gathering places in your yards, so you’ll want to plan out your walkway with a walker in mind. The next step is where your design ideas can become more creative. For instance, perhaps you will design rolling curves, making your walkway a winding with an aesthetically pleasing curve. Or perhaps you prefer a straight ahead, perpendicular or parallel walkway. Whatever your choice, make sure it complements the style and theme of your other installations – driveway, patio, etc. (It might be a good idea to install paver driveways and/or patios at the same time – it will keep the total price down, and the design can be more fully integrated.)

The next step is to consider the various size, shapes, and paver colors you could select for your paver walkway. You will want to match or complement your particular color blend with the theme or style of your other installations and with your home in general. There are also a large variety of paver patterns available (that is, how the paver are actually laid on the ground). You will want to make sure that the paver pattern complements any other paver pattern for a nearby driveway, patio, etc.

Before selecting your paver color, make sure you see the brick in person, because sometimes the color in the real brick won’t exactly match the color you see in pictures, regardless of how hard the manufacturer tries to make the colors match.

Installing a Paver Walkway

One of the ways to keep the cost of your paver walkway down is to install it yourself. DIY paving is definitely possible when it comes to paving stones, though DIY concrete pavers do require a certain amount of skill and knowledge to get right. Thus, it’s best to leave the work to a professional if you don’t feel comfortable – even if you are installing pavers walkway yourself, you should probably consult with a professional just to make sure everything’s right. One of the hard parts of how to lay a paver walkway is that you’ll have to do many cuts to make sure that the pavers fit in the pattern and in the design you’ve laid out – especially if you have curves in your walkway.

The one challenging wrinkle with walkways is that they will often have multiple levels to them – in other words, they are “step like.” This can create a challenge, as installing a pavers walkway with multiple steps is really like installing multiple walkways. Grading and depth issues will need to be considered closely when designing, escavating, and laying the paver walkway. For more information on installing pavers, see the article on this site.

The cost of your paver walkway will depend on a lot of factors – I’ve given a detailed discussion of the factors that affect pavers cost here. In general, expect to pay around $10-15 per square foot for your walkway, usually on the higher end of this prices scale. This is because laying a smaller walkway can cost more per square foot than a larger installation due to the amount of cuts required, the pattern desired, and economies of scale.

Driveway Pavers: What You Need to Know

Installing a paver driveway is an excellent decision for most homeowners: you will see financial, aesthetic, and structural benefits from using paving stones for your next driveway project. This material is a great choice especially  if your driveway experiences heavy traffic, as concrete paving stones are a great way to preserve your driveway against the elements and your vehicles while simultaneously beautifying your home and increasing its appraised value.

Planning, designing, and constructing your new paver driveway will take a lot of work – and with lots of work comes the need for information. This page will attempt to give you everything you need to know in order for you to make an informed decision. Since you’ll be putting a ton of money and time into this, it’s best if you know as much as possible about the process. First, let’s discuss why you’d want to pick pavers over the other materials that are often used for driveways.

Why Pavers Over Other Materials? The Benefits of Concrete Paver Driveways

Original photo by Pacific Outdoor Living.

An example of well-designed and installed driveway pavers.

There are many options out there for the material used to build your driveway. Besides a paving stone driveway, your choices include stamped and poured concrete, asphalt, or stones. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. You can find more information about these pros and cons on other areas of this site. The main three winning features of pavers we will focus on in this article is cost, strength, and longevity.

In terms of cost, driveway paving stones are certainly among the most expensive in terms of initial capital outlay, especially when compared to slab options. For example, the price per square foot for a proper installation of these bricks will be higher than that of the concrete, stone, or asphalt driveway. (See below for a discussion of the price of laying these pavers.)

However, the driveway will pay for itself over time, both in lower maintenance costs (money and time) and sheer longevity, as you will probably not be forced to replace the driveway for decades. The reason why this occurs is due to the structure of paver driveways versus the other options. For concrete and asphalt driveways, the project ends up being one huge, connected slab. While strong (but not as strong as interlocking pavers, actually), this slab does not do well with freezing and thawing cycles. As water freezes underneath the slab, it forces itself into it. The slab cannot bend, so in response it cracks. As freezing and thawing continues, these cracks get worse, eventually forcing you to install a new driveway.

However, for pavers, this is not a problem. The bed of aggregate underneath the driveway is strong yet flexible. In addition, the joints between the concrete pavers give them the best of both worlds: strength and flexibility. These driveways will not crack due to any freezing or thawing. Slabs do have the advantage of not being susceptible to settling, while interlocking pavers sometimes do settle. However, this is easily fixed, as the offending pavers can be removed and reset as necessary. Overall, the maintenance and replacement costs are lower for paving stone installations than for other options over time. The fact that these driveways add property value to your home is just more icing on the financial cake.

All of this results in a durable paver installation that will withstand the rigors of driving, parking, and weathering. In many ways, it is as close to ‘set it and forget it’ as you can get in the home improvement world  – as long as it is installed correctly and with attention to detail!

Other Paver Types

Of course, if you are interested in pavers in general, there are many options to look at besides the concrete variety. You could try natural stone pavers, such as granite, travertine, bluestone, cobblestone, and flagstone pavers. These will be much more expensive, but many people prefer the look of this material. You could also try brick pavers; these are made out of clay. In addition, you can try grass driveway pavers and other permeable options if form and function are your primary concerns. There are still other options, such as using thin pavers over an existing concrete slab, or installing rubber pavers.

However, with concrete paving stones you will find the best balance between selection of sizes, shapes, and colors, beauty, value, and durability. The other options will suffer in one of those areas or another but will be better in other areas than the concrete variety.

Designing Your Paver Driveway

Original photo by David Clow. http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidclow/3764753340/

A driveway with an interesting design flair - installed circle kits are shown here.

For anyone with little experience designing a concrete paver installation, figuring out exactly how to set up the driveway can be challenging. If you hire a contractor or designer to do the work or give suggestions, the work is done. But here are some general ideas and tips to think about.

The first thing to figure out when deciding on a driveway for your home is the size of the project when it’s finished. You could just build the driveway in the same size as your old driveway, or you could choose to expand the driveway to give you more parking room. In addition, consider adding other complementary features – walkways, stoops, patios, and the like – to get the biggest bang for your design and installation buck.

Aside from the size and shape of your driveway, you also need to consider the various patterns you can lay it in. These patterns have been described elsewhere on the site, but for now realize that different patterns can have different consequences for the look of the driveway. You’ll also want to consider the color options, and how the color blend you select will interact with the pattern, shape, and size of your driveway, as well as the other features of your home, landscape, and general environment and decor.

Also consider the various types of edging for your driveway, as some will be more expensive than others but provide more benefits. Consider this carefully, especially if you have a lawn, garden, or flowerbed nearby that you will want to preserve or cordon off. Other options for boundaries between your driveway and your yard and home include all kinds of walls and retaining walls.

There are also special designs you can incorporate within the driveway. One example is the use of the circle kit to add circles to the driveway – shown in the photo above. Another design option to think about for your driveway is an “apron,” or the part of the driveway closest to the entrance. Some customers decide to put a fancy design there, like fans, though of course the options are limitless and it’s ultimately up to you to decide.

No matter what your design choices, a paving stone driveway will look great. Since your driveway is one of the first things visitors see in front of your house, you will be sure to make a good impression with this installation.

Installing a Paving Stones Driveway & Hiring a Contractor

When designing and implementing your ideas, make sure you take into account the environment (is it hot or cold, generally? Rainy or dry?) as well as the soil or material naturally occurring in your front yard. Make sure you communicate this information to your paver contractor, as it could seriously affect your project.If you plan on hiring a contractor to install your driveway, make sure they have experience in this area. These are usually big projects and require working on a scale that some may not be comfortable with. If you are installing the driveway yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind. Because there will be vehicular traffic, you will need to make sure your aggregate base is deeper than usual – anywhere from 10-14″ of compacted, aggregate base will be necessary to give you driveway pavers the necessary foundation. Furthermore, keep in mind the “pitch” or the slope of your driveway. Make sure water will flow off it, preferably into your yard or the street, and not simply stand in place. The worst outcome of all is that water flows back into your house, potentially flooding the basement. Note, however, that the paver surface will be somewhat porous due to the joints, so some water will drain through the structure. Make sure you design your driveway with the proper amount of pitch to prevent any damage to your or surrounding homes. This may require some extra excavation or the addition of fill to properly grade out the area.

When designing and implementing your ideas, make sure you take into account the environment (is it hot or cold, generally? Rainy or dry?) as well as the soil or material naturally occurring in your front yard. Make sure you communicate this information to your contractor, as it could seriously affect your project.

How Much Will It Cost?

The cost of your driveway will depend on a number of factors, some of which are described elsewhere on the site. To get the pavers installed by a contractor, you’re looking within a range of $10 to $20 per square foot. Of course, the pavers cost will be lower if you get the pavers for sale or if you do it yourself, among other factors.

Maintaining Your Pavers Driveway

As mentioned above, maintenance of your paving stone project will be minimal compared to other materials. However, periodic cleaning and sealing of the surface will help preserve its beauty, color, and strength. You can obtain driveway sealer and apply it yourself, making for a cheap and quick DIY paving project.

Pros and Cons: Pavers, Concrete, Asphalt, and Other Choices

If you are thinking about a new project for your home, garden, or landscape, you might be having trouble deciding among the various material choices at your disposal. Should you use concrete, asphalt, brick pavers, paving stones, natural pavers, or stone? The list of potential materials, and all the various permutations and variations that are possible, can be very confusing and overwhelming for the uninitiated.

To help you out, here is a brief paving guide that will help you weigh the pros and cons of each material type. There is no one “best” material, as the material you use will depend on a lot of factors. In some circumstances, stone would work best; in others, concrete; in others, pavers. What we can tell you, however, are the various features of each material so that you can make an educated decision.

The Comparisons and Categories

We will begin with the least expensive material and continue through the more expensive options available. Each material will be evaluated according to the seven following metrics:

  • Strength
  • Durability
  • Design Options
  • Installation
  • Beauty
  • Maintenance
  • Price/Value

At the end of the article, we give our basic comparisons for each material across these dimensions. You can thus compare the relative merits of concrete vs pavers, stamped concrete vs pavers, and any other comparisons you may need to make. While our decisions are arbitrary, and may differ with those of other experts and contractors, we hope at least to give you a rough guide on this topic.

STONE:

A stone driveway.

This is loose stone that is spread in the area. They are used most often for driveways, though they can also serve as parking areas or as landscaping materials. There is a large variety of stones available, from small to large, and in a variety of colors.

Strength
Obviously, these stones won’t break or crack. Stone withstands vehicular traffic, weather, sun, water, and other effects well.

Durability
You won’t have to worry about replacing this material due to damage as long as it all stays in place. Stone is a great long-term option. However, it will get thrown around, so you’ll probably have to touch the project up once in a while.

Design Options
You are relatively limited when it comes to the design options at your disposal. Obviously, you can mix and match colors and types of stone, and you can make your projects any kind of shape, from rectangular to circular and anything in between. Otherwise, however, you’re relatively limited with your design possibilities.

Installation
Installing stone is very easy. Simply clear an area, fill it in with stone to the appropriate depth, and you’re done.

Beauty
In the right contexts, stone can look nice. However, it an also look boring. In addition, it can often get spread out throughout your lawn and home, making a big mess and a nuisance.

Maintenance
This is an area where stone suffers. You will probably have to deal with stone being scattered around your lawn and yard, making it a pain to clean up. You’ll also deal with weeds. Over time, the stone may have to be refilled as it inevitably wanders off. You may have to level it out if it ever gets distributed unevenly – this might happen if you drive on it, for instance. It’s also impossible to plow or shovel snow off it without disturbing the surface.

Price/Value
Stone is very cheap. Combined with how durable the material it is, stone is a good overall investment, though the property value of your home won’t be seriously changed.

ASPHALT:

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/91584996@N00/3710038320.

An asphalt driveway.

This ubiquitious, oil-based product is very popular for driveways, parking lots, and other outdoor projects that require vehicle traffic. Also known as ‘blacktop.’

Strength
Asphalt is very strong yet flexible, as it will stand up to both heat and cold. However, if it gets too hot, it could get soft – this could be especially problematic if you drive on it. However, asphalt will withstand stains, the sun, water, and general wear and tear.

Durability
Asphalt will last you for decades, as long as it installed and maintained properly. However, you will have to deal with cracks and fading, so you’ll probably have to do repairs along the way. Otherwise, expect to replace this after a decade or two of service.

Design Options
You’re very limited with your design options. While colored or stamped asphalt is possible, it will increase the cost of your project. Otherwise, you’re limited to the standard black driveway. You can create your own shape and dimensions, but otherwise you’re pretty locked in, unless you add a cobblestone or paver apron and border, or some other embellishment.

Installation
An asphalt driveway and other projects are usually out of the reach of most homeowner’s skills, so it’s not a great DIY project. You’ll have to hire a contractor to do it; unfortunately, asphalt contractors are notoriously unreliable, making getting the job done quickly a pain in some circumstances.

Beauty
Asphalt is very common and it doesn’t look as great as other options, especially when it cracks and fades.

Maintenance
You’ll have to seal it to maintain its strength and color. In severe circumstances, patching and resurfacing may be necessary as well. Snow can be easily removed from this surface.

Price/Value
Asphalt is relatively cheap, hence its popularity. In terms of value, it is a good buy, as the material will last you a long time, assuming it’s installed well.

CONCRETE:

An incredibly popular material due to its strength and low cost, concrete is most often used for walkways, driveways, and patios.

Strength
Concrete is incredibly strong. You won’t have to worry about force from above (cars, heavy objects, weather) damaging it. Force from below, however, can be a problem – freeze thaw cycles put pressure on the slab, often leading to cracks.

Durability
Concrete, if well-installed and maintained, can last you for decades, so you shouldn’t have to reinstall the material.

Design Options
You are rather limited with the standard concrete, as the grey color of the material can be boring. However, if you are willing to pay a little more, you can get stamped, colored, or stained concrete. This can multiply your design choices, allowing you to create concrete that will match and complement your home’s decor. You’ll have to pay for that privilege, however.

Installation
Homeowners who’ve worked with concrete before can install it themselves, especially if the project is small. Homeowners with little experience should look for a contractor; ditto for those skilled homeowners trying to tackle a large and/or complex job.

Beauty
Regular concrete is rather boring, though it is ubiquitous. Decorative concrete is far better, as long as it doesn’t crack or chip.

Maintenance
You may have to seal concrete once in awhile, especially if it’s showing signs of damage, but for the most part concrete is maintenance free – as long as everything goes right with the installation. Snow can be easily removed from this surface.

Price/Value
Concrete is quite cheap, especially given its strength and durability. Investment in concrete is an investment for the future, but don’t expect your home value to increase that much.

CONCRETE PAVERS:

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/84354764@N00/451855836/

Interlocking concrete pavers.

Made from concrete, these pavers interlock through a system of sand-filled joints, ensuring that the entire structure stays together.

Strength
Concrete pavers are incredibly strong, both individually and collectively. In fact, some pavers are two to four times stronger than concrete. Thus, they will withstand all rigors of the environment.

Durability
Due to their strength and flexibility, and the interlocking nature of pavers, this material will last you for decades. You will likely not have to worry about installing a new patio, driveway, walkway, etc. unless you want to make a change.

Design Options
Your design options are limitless. There are a ton of paver shapes, paver sizes, types, and colors available. You can lay them in a variety of paver patterns. In addition, you can pair your project with other accessories, like steps, stoops, barbecue pits, retaining walls, and more – all made from this material.

Installation
Pavers installation can be difficult, but since there’s no concrete involved, it can be within the skill range of some DIYers. However, most will want to have their projects installed by professional paver contractors.

Beauty
Pavers, when well-designed and installed, look beautiful. They go well with all home styles and themes, and they retain their beauty for many years.

Maintenance
Pavers are near maintenance free. You may have to seal them occasionally with concrete paver sealer, and perhaps reset pavers that have settled, but for the most part they are a hands-free material. You can easily remove snow from them.

Price/Value
Concrete pavers can be expensive, mostly because they have to be laid by hand. However, they add much value to your home, so you can consider the high initial price as an investment in your home and in your future.

BRICK PAVERS:

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/random-mike/292018480/.

Brick pavers.

A similar material to concrete pavers, these resemble the bricks you see around your house, but they are also different in many important ways.

Strength
This material is similar to concrete pavers – the only major difference is in the material they are made from. Brick pavers are made from clay, not concrete. In terms of the battle between concrete vs brick pavers, they are relatively equal in terms of strength, with perhaps a slight edge to concrete.

Durability
Brick pavers will stand up to all kinds of abuse, and your projects will last many years. You won’t have to worry about reinstalling a new material for a long time.

Design Options
Though options used to be very limited, manufacturers are coming out with new brick designs all the time. While you will largely be limited to the standard ‘brick size,’ you will be able to try different colors and textures. You can thus lay them in a variety of patterns and project designs, just like concrete pavers.

Installation
Like concrete pavers, most homeowners will want to have a contractor come in and install them, though it can be a potential DIY project.

Beauty
Brick pavers look quite nice, though perhaps not as ‘modern’ and ‘elegant’ as concrete pavers. However, with teh right home decor, brick pavers can and do look fantastic.

Maintenance
Brick pavers are very low maintenance – just some sealing and resetting of pavers on occasion. It’s very easy to remove snow from this surface.

Price/Value
These brick pavers are a bit more expensive than the concrete variety, but you can expect a good bump in your home value when you add them to your yard.

NATURAL STONE PAVERS:

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_g_travels/2704941271/

Very old stone pavers.

These pavers are literally carved from the earth. There are many different types of materials that fall into this category, from flagstone to granite and cobblestone to travertine and everything in between. Thus, we’ll have to generalize a lot here.

Strength

While it depends on the particular material, stone pavers are very strong – indeed, they are made from stone carved from the earth itself. If you are looking at flagstone vs pavers, its pretty much a toss up when it comes to compared strength. They may fade in the sun, but they stand up to all kinds of abuse.

Durability
A stone paver project will last for decades. You won’t have to worry about installing a new project ever again if you use this material, barring some unforeseen circumstance.

Design Options
Given the huge variety of stone types, colors, shapes, and sizes, you have near unlimited options when it comes to designing your project.

Installation
Given the weight and difficulty in handling this material, most homeowners will want to leave installation to the pros.

Beauty
Stone pavers are incredibly beautiful – arguably the most beautiful material out there. You are pretty much bringing the beauty of Mother Earth to your yard when you install this material.

Maintenance
Stone pavers are stone. They require almost non-existent maintenance. Snow removal is easy.

Price/Value
The major downfall of flagstone pavers and other natural stone is price. Depending on the stone you pick, you could pay double, triple, or more than any other material. However, you’re adding a ton of value to your home as well, so you can consider it an investment in the future.

THE VERDICT

Strength

Concrete Pavers = Stone Pavers > Brick Pavers > Concrete > Asphalt = Stone

Durability

Concrete Pavers = Stone Pavers > Brick Pavers > Concrete > Asphalt > Stone

Design Options

Concrete Pavers > Stone Pavers > Brick Pavers > Concrete > Stone > Asphalt

Installation

Stone > Concrete > Concrete Pavers = Brick Pavers > Stone Pavers > Asphalt

Beauty

Stone Pavers > Concrete Pavers > Brick Pavers > Concrete > Stone > Asphalt

Maintenance

Stone Pavers = Concrete Pavers = Brick Pavers > Concrete = Asphalt > Stone

Price/Value

Stone > Asphalt > Concrete > Concrete Pavers > Brick Pavers > Stone Pavers

Patio Pavers: What You Need to Know

An example of a paver patio. Used under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en. Original photo by Sarah S. Tate.

An example of a paver patio.

Paver patios are a great addition to any home. If you want  a space in your backyard to hold a party, have a barbecue, or just enjoy your yard, a patio is the way to go. And as we’ll see, pavers are one of the best materials you can use to create these projects.

Patio pavers go well in nearly any backyard with any decor. The design options are near limitless, and they require little maintenance. Best of all,  the patio paver usually requires a simple installation, especially if there are no curves or cutting of the paving stones required (such as if the patio will be a perfect rectangle without any restrictive borders like your home, a walkway, a pool, etc.). Thus, it is well within the range of the typical DIY homeowner.

Overall, the look, feel, and comfort of any backyard can be improved with the addition of patio pavers. As we can see in this picture, adding a table and chairs to your patio can make it a great place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Types of Paver Patios

There are three general types of paver that can be used for a backyard patio: concrete, stone, or clay pavers. While this page will focus on the concrete variety, stone and clay (or brick) pavers are also a viable option. The major differences between these pavers and the concrete type are primarily in their looks and price. Stone pavers, for instance, look more ‘natural’ than concrete paving stones. However, this beauty costs. Otherwise, brick, stone, and concrete are largely the same in the following parameters.

There are many reasons to select concrete paving stones as the material that will make up your patio. The major reason is strength – they are both durable and flexible. The compact base underneath, as long as it is installed correctly, gives the concrete pavers patio stability while preventing major settling due to the bending and buckling when water freezes and thaws. This flexibility and durability is also increased by the joints between the pavers. For these reasons, pavers resist cracking and splitting which may befall other materials options. While the installation of a patio paver is usually more expensive than other options, like poured or stamped concrete or asphalt, the results are much more pleasing to the eye and easier to maintain in the long run.

Other Benefits of Patio Pavers

Using concrete pavers for patio construction is an especially good option if the patio is near a pool or if you live in an rainy environment, as the surface of the pavers are simultaneously smooth, ensuring a great look, while also being slip-resistant. Even if someone’s feet are wet and the pavers are wet, they will not slip as the surface gives enough friction to prevent this. Furthermore, as discussed above, unlike asphalt and concrete the patio  will not develop any cracks which someone could fall over. Thus patio patio paving stones are a great option if you like to entertain or if you have active children.

Maintenance and repair of these brick is also relatively simple. If you need to replace a paver that has been chipped or stained, simply pop it out and replace it with a new one. Maintenance is limited to periodic cleanings of the surface, refilling the joints with sand or joint material, and sealing the surface to protect it from water, fading, and stains.

What about other materials choices? Sure, you could throw down some easy and quick concrete. However, this material won’t look nearly as good as pavers,  even if you get the stamped or colored variety, and it won’t last as long – it will crack eventually. Even if budget is a consideration, you may still be able to find a paver project that’s right for you and your home.

Original photo by field outdoor spaces. http://www.flickr.com/photos/7282451@N02/417067726/ Used under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

Another example of a patio made with pavers. Note the waterfall in the background and the 'square' shape of the project.

Patio Paver Design

One of the other benefits of paving stones is the sheer number of options you have for design. As seen in the two photos on this site, you can create many different projects depending on the shape, dimensions, pattern, and color selections you make.

Here are some general design tips for a concrete paver patio. When it comes to design, the first major choice you need to made is on the brick level – what kind of paver to use. There are different styles, textures, surfaces, shapes, sizes, and colors of pavers. The paver you select will have a profound impact on the design options available to you.

Take, for instance, the shape of the pavers. You can buy paving stones in a variety of shapes, from the standard rectangles and squares to the more daring circles, octagons, zigzags, hexagons, and even irregular shapes. Obviously, the shape you pick will both determine and limit the patterns you can lay the brick in.

When choosing patio paver colors, make sure to see what would look the best given the color scheme of your house and backyard and any other distinguishing features of it. When deciding upon paver patterns for the patio (like herringbone or running bond) consider what might look the best given whatever structures are surrounding your project. Certain patterns will look different and give a different appearance, so be sure you know what a pattern will look like, and how it will interact with other features of your landscape and hardscape. You may consider working with a professional designer to maximize the beauty of your project, or you could try it yourself, especially if the project is simple.

For other pattern and design ideas, check out other parts of this site.

Installation and Laying of Patios

Depending on the size of your proposed patio, completion of the project could take anywhere from two days to a week or more. Budget in some extra time just in case the installation hits any snags or takes longer than expected. For more installation tips, see the “Installation” section of this site.

A very important consideration when planning out your paver designs is to consider the grade, or the slope, around your proposed area. You or your contractor will need to ensure that any water that may fall on the patio, like during heavy rains, will not simply lay there or, worse, flow back to your house, flooding your basement or doing other structural damage.  Also, if you are planning on installing your patio in a new area, make sure there are no important utility lines or cesspools that may disrupt the patio. Think of the behavior of your backyard – certain areas may be more weak than others, which could cause settling. Though concrete paving stones are strong individually and as an interlocking unit, without a firm foundation they can settle (though it is not in principle difficult to fix if they do).

One thing to keep in mind when planning a paver patio: whoever is installing your project, either you or a contractor, will need to get materials into the backyard. If you have a fence that blocks entry, you may have to take it down temporarily to admit machines and materials, if necessary. It is possible to dump the materials in your front yard and wheelbarrow them back by hand. This option however could add expense and time in order to properly complete the project. Work with your contractor to figure out what can be done to expedite the process.

The Cost of a Patio Made with Pavers

The cost of patio pavers will depend on a number of factors. In general, the average paver patio cost for an entire fresh installation (excavation, new sub base, pavers installed) can run anywhere from $8 to $15 a square foot. The actual price will depend on a number of factors, including some of the following:

  • Paver patio cost will depend on how much preparation needs to be done in the area. If there is an already existing installation, or if a lot of excavation and removal of material is required, prices will be higher than if the area is already prepped, or if the pavers will be installed over an existing concrete slab.
  • Geographical location. Your pavers will be more expensive if you live in an area with a higher standard of living.
  • Labor costs. The price of a paver patio will be lower if you do more of the installation and hard labor yourself. The more you give to contractors, the more you’ll have to pay.
  • The specific designs. A complex design will require more time and effort (especially in the form of cuts to the bricks) than a simple design, potentially adding to the expense.
  • The brand of pavers you select. Some are better quality than others and thus require a bit more money to purchase. However, you may want to invest in the higher quality paver so you won’t have to replace the installation as quickly as if you went with a cheaper, but less durable and beautiful, option.

Though the paver patio cost estimate seems rather high, it’s actually a great balance between strength, beauty, and value. You know you’ll have the patio for a long time, and it will also add to the value of your home, representing a strong investment in your home’s beauty and in your own financial life.