Pavers Over Concrete: Can It Be Done?

Many people want to install pavers over concrete. Perhaps they have an old installation built on a concrete slab, or perhaps they want to avoid doing the work necessary to rip up an old concrete patio or driveway. Installing a base of aggregate may be the best option, but perhaps the best is not needed in this situation. A consumer or contractor may ask: can laying pavers over concrete be a good idea?

Yes, But…The Disadvantages

In short, yes, it is possible, but with a few things to keep in mind. First, having a pre-set base like concrete will restrict your creativity and freedom to add to the patio, driveway, or walkway. With an aggregate base, you have the ability to create new patterns or shapes; this is not the case if you are installing pavers over concrete. Ultimately, whether or not laying pavers on top of the pre-existing slab will depend on the project type itself. Laying pavers over a concrete patio may work fine, since it will experience little stress, but a driveway constructed in this way may not be able to stand the stresses of vehicles.

Grades and Heights

Second, the height of the installation will obviously be higher than it was. For instance, if you put pavers over a concrete patio, the height of the patio will be increased by the height of the brick. This may not be a big deal with certain applications, but in others it may be problematic. For instance, installing pavers over concrete for a pool deck may be a risky proposition, because if the pool pavers are too high, they may create a tripping hazard near the pool or may make people cut themselves when they are entering or exiting the area. Thus, you’ll probably want to install a new base for a pool area, unless you are using thin pavers and the heights work fine (see below about thin pavers).

Another potential problem when it comes to the heights of the new brick may relate to grades or slopes –  if you have issues with water pooling in particular areas, it probably won’t be corrected with this new paver installation. Make sure that there will be no problems with water as a result of this installation, as it will not be able to drain easily through the pavers with the concrete underneath – the last thing you want is a flooded yard or basement. You will also need to consider how you will surround the installation – with soil, mulch, or stone. Otherwise the concrete slab and borders will be exposed and will not look good. This amount of material could cause problems itself.

The Finished Product Depends on What’s Underneath

Third, installing paving stones over a concrete slab may be easier, and thus within the skill of a homeowner, the finished product may be somewhat disappointing. In particular, if freezing and thawing during the winter months cracks the concrete underneath, the patio, driveway, or walkway may be thus adversely affected, perhaps settling or developing its own unsightly cracks or sunken patches. Note that water and ice are constant dangers – if the water seeps through the patio and rests on the concrete layer below, and this water freezes, you may experience nasty heaving and settling.

Finally, the project itself may just not look as good as one installed over a proper base. For instance, efflorescence is a problem for all concrete paver installations. This is the phenomenon of a white, chalky residue appearing at the surface of the pavers. While this is entirely normal and will go away with time, the problem is exacerbated if the paver rests on a solid concrete bed.

If You Do Decide to Lay Pavers on Concrete…

Make sure that your concrete patio or driveway is entirely clean before you putting the pavers down. This will help prevent some future problems with your project. Actually installing the pavers will require some different methods and materials than a normal installation as depicted on other parts of the site. For example, you’ll probably have to use mortar for certain applications, as the standard sand bed/compacting method may not work. Make sure your contractor is trained in doing this procedure and has experience with it. If you are installing the project yourself, make sure you check with someone in the know (like an experienced contractor) who can help you with your particular situation and its installation.

Material Types Matter

In addition, using different materials on top will affect the conclusions described above. Using concrete pavers is one thing, but using stone or brick pavers over concrete is another. You will have less problem with efflorescence with these options, but you may have more drainage issues with them, and they may not withstand certain stresses well. Another thing to consider here is price and cost – if you are going to lay a lot of money out for expensive materials like natural stone pavers and flagstone, why not just go the extra mile and get it installed correctly on a fresh base?

One viable option if you’re just looking for a veneer on your project is to install thin pavers over concrete. These will replicate the look of regular pavers while also helping to preserve height – they are thin so that they don’t create a tripping hazard or mess up grades. However, note that they will have to be set with mortar, so you might have cracking and other disturbances appear, especially if the base below is faulty.

You could also lay down outdoor patio tile on top of an already existing concrete installation – this will give the project the new look that you desire with a fraction of the cost and time.

The Verdict

In short, installing pavers over concrete is doable, but has some negatives you need to be aware of. If money or time is not an issue, starting your project from scratch is the better choice. But if you are prepared to compromise on looks and customizability, installing paving stones over this base should work fine.

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.

The Cost of Concrete Pavers

Installing concrete paving stones is not cheap. This is certainly what many homeowners have found while doing their research. The short term cost of pavers is usually around $10-$15 per square foot, while other options like concrete and asphalt are less than a third of that cost. Thus, it may seem like concrete pavers and other paving stone options are only within the realm of those who have disposable income to spend on home improvements.

However, looking at installing pavers simply as some sort of cosmetic improvement only is missing out on the major benefit of using the material. While the initial outlay of cash may be larger than for other options (like poured or stamped concrete, asphalt, or stone), the cost of pavers over the lifetime of the installation will usually be cheaper, with  much less maintenance. Asphalt and concrete may have to be replaced multiple times during the course of your ownership of the home, unless you don’t mind having cracking or fading materials in your front yard driveways, walkways, patios, pool decks, and other projects. Pavers, on the other hand, will last you for many decades – in fact, you may never have to replace the driveway again. Thus, it is a battle between quality and quantity. (A comparison of the different material types can be found here.)

Another major reason to not worry as much about the short term costs is that concrete pavers can represent a solid investment in the value of your home. The actual percentage will vary, but many homeowners will appreciate a modest gain in the value of their home when they install a new concrete paver project. Thus, a short term investment, may yield long term profits down the line if you ever decide to sell your home or tap into its equity.

Factors that Affect Pavers Cost

The actual costs of concrete pavers are hard to estimate for you unless we actually went to your home and examined your project specifications. However, we can give you some general guidelines so that you’ll know where you’ll fall within the $10 – $15 range. In addition, you’ll know the factors that go into the price you’ll pay, and thus you might be able to help reduce or make up for some of those costs. Concrete pavers cost depends on many factors, including:

  • Geographical location. Some areas are more expensive than others. Fuel costs, standard of living, material costs, and average salaries can all affect  the prices of materials and labor. If you live in a more expensive area, especially in an area with higher than average home prices, you will probably feel the effects of market forces on the price you’ll have to pay.
  • Brand. How much pavers cost depends on who’s selling them and the relative quality of the pavingstone. In general, though, the differences between pavers are quite minimal, regardless of the premium you’ll have to pay for a particular paver. Thus, its better to go with the choice of paver with one of the lower or medium prices unless you have specific reasons (aka colors or designs) that make you go with the more elite options.
  • Square footage. Obviously, the bigger the project, the more expensive the job (usually). Paring down on your square footage can do a lot to lower the total costs of the project. Note, however, that if you go with a very large job, you may save more per square foot. In other words, a simple 200 sq. foot walkway may run you $12 per square foot, while a super 5000 sq. foot job may run you $10 per square foot. The reason for this is that the fixed costs of the project can be spread over a larger area, thus lowering the total price you’ll have to pay.
  • Project type. Walkways, patios, driveways, pool decks, and garden installations all have their particular quirks.
  • Design. Some paver designs are simpler than others, and thus have lower costs, square footage being equal. For instance, a job with many curves will require more cuts and thus will waste more brick than a job with straight edges. In addition, fancy paver patterns and designs can increase the time and effort the contractor needs to expend, increasing the cost of the labor on your project. Other options, like waterfalls, stoops or steps, or firepits may also increase the cost of the job. This also includes the pattern selected, or if you want to add a border to your project. This could be a great way to save some money on the project – go with a simple, streamlined design.
  • Contractors. Some contractors charge more than others. Be careful when dealing with estimates by paver installers. If the concrete pavers price is too much of a bargain, you might find the work to be substandard. On the other hand, exorbitant prices don’t necessarily imply exquisite work. The best practice here is to get the estimate from three different contractors. Most people default to picking the ‘middle’ price as it seems the most ‘reasonable,’ but don’t automatically default that without reading the fine print. What is each contractor charging for? Is there a guarantee? For more information on hiring a contractor, check out this article.
  • Other materials and preparations. If your project is going to be installed in a sub-optimal area, preparatory work may be needed in order to properly do the job. This may require increased labor and materials costs which will raise the total pavers price. For instance, if there needs to be heavy excavation of an old patio or other project, or if the ground below the area is made of clay and thus shifts and settles a lot, you may have to pay extra. Another example would be if grading of the property needs to be done in order to correct water flow. This is where some wiggle room can come in – don’t be tempted to take the lower price if the contractor isn’t properly addressing issues like these that must be addressed in order to protect your property and your investment.

The Verdict

In the end, as stated above, you will need to hire a contractor to get a specific breakdown of the costs of your project. There are also other articles on this site you can read to learn about the price of other materials besides concrete pavers:

http://www.concretepaversguide.com/an-asphalt-driveway-cost-estimate.html

http://www.concretepaversguide.com/asphalt-prices-a-guide.html

http://www.concretepaversguide.com/brick-pavers-cost-estimate.html

http://www.concretepaversguide.com/a-rough-estimate-of-driveway-paving-cost.html

http://www.concretepaversguide.com/flagstone-cost-estimate.html

http://www.concretepaversguide.com/a-general-paving-cost-breakdown.html

If you have any questions or any experiences to share, leave them in the comments!

Concrete Pavers and Hardscaping FAQ

Listed here is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about pavers and hardscaping – everything from product selection to hardscape maintenance and everything in between. Check back often for new additions.

Why should I pick concrete pavers over other choices for my driveway/walkway/patio/etc.?

Concrete pavers enjoy many advantages over their competitors:

  • concrete pavers are available in a wide variety of styles and colors to complement any design or personal style and taste; hardscape design is fun, easy, and exciting;
  • they are relatively easy to install;
  • a paver driveway can be easily plowed, shoveled, or de-iced in the winter;
  • paver installations withstand freeze/thaw cycles without cracking or breaking;
  • they require little to no maintenance, year-round
  • individual pavers, if damaged or stained, can be replaced by simply removing the flawed paver and replacing it with a new one;
  • pavers can be removed and replaced if you need to install new cables or sprinklers, or any other lines need to be run underneath your installation – the entire project doesn’t need to be damaged;
  • paving stone projects increase the value of your home;
  • your beautiful new project increases the quality of life of you, your family and your friends;
  • cost-effective over the life of the project.

For more information on the pros and cons of pavers versus asphalt, concrete, or stone, see this page.

What other materials can I use for my hardscape project?

Though concrete pavers are very popular, they are not the only paving material suitable for most hardscapes. In the paver family you can also find brick pavers and natural stone pavers. Within the natural stone family there is even more variation, as you can use flagstone pavers, granite, limestone, sandstone, and much more for your project. In the slab family, there exists asphalt, concrete, and macadam. You can also use loose stone if you want to go a less expensive route.

What brand should I use?

This depends on a large number of factors, most notably which paver manufacturer is available to you. Other important factors include your budget, your design needs (such as the sizes, shapes, and colors of pavers you want to use), and what your contractor usually works with.

What are the different ways I can use concrete pavers?

There are many different uses for paving stones; the only limit is your imagination! The most popular hardscape ideas include driveway pavers, paver walkway, patio pavers, and pool pavers. Other options include paver steps and stoops, retaining wall pavers, and complements to landscaping. Don’t forget garden pavers and grass pavers, too. Pavers are also installed for commercial clients, and are a great way to increase the beauty and professionalism of your business.

What are the patterns and designs I can make?

Given the creative properties of concrete paving stones, you have a near limitless selection of possibilities to pursue for your next project. For a more detailed discussion of some of your choices, see these articles on paver patterns and paver designs.

Aren’t pavers expensive?

They are not as costly as you think. Pavers are installed by hand and do require a lot of preparation and time in order to be laid correctly and solidly. However, the many benefits of hardscapes outway this initial cost. Asphalt, concrete, or stone driveways, for example, need to be replaced as they crack and shift over time. Concrete paver installations, however, stay beautiful and strong for longer periods of time. Plus, investing in hardscaping is an investment in the property value of your home. See this link for a more detailed discussion of pavers cost.

How do I save money on my pavers project?

The major way to save money on your application is to install it all yourself. Barring this possibility, you could look for pavers for sale to help defray the costs of the materials.

Can I make concrete pavers?

Absolutely! If you want to know how to make concrete pavers, read this article. In short, find or make some paver molds, mix your concrete, pour it, and let it cure. You can make pavers for many projects this way, though it may not be recommended for large scale projects.

Who can install paving stones?

Most homeowners allow paver contractors, or masons, to come in and do the work. However, many hardscaping projects are well within the skills of some homeowners, such that these pavers can be used in DIY paving projects. See this article for a detailed discussion of paver installation.

What is the most important part of my installation?

If you are installing the pavers yourself, or even if you are having someone else do the work for you, it’s best to spend most of your effort and attention on the sub-base to the project. If this foundation isn’t secure, the pavers above will not be as strong as they can be. This entails using concrete sand as the bed underneath the pavers and crushed aggregate as the main ingredient for the sub-base.

How quickly can I walk on my paver project?

As soon as it has been properly edged and compacted with a plate compactor.

How much maintenance do I need to do?

Very little, actually. You may want to try sealing pavers occasionally with concrete sealer, though this is not required. You will have to clean it occasionally when it gets dirty, and potentially refill some of the joints with sand. Otherwise, the project is near maintenance free. Even if you left it untouched, it would probably last for many decades, assuming it was installed well.

What is this white chalky residue on my pavers?

This is called efflorescence, and it is totally normal, especially when pavers are laid over a concrete base. This will go away over time, and will not affect the structural integrity of the pavers.

How do I remove stains on my pavers?

For tips, see this page on stain removal.

Will weeds grow in between the pavers?

Depending on the joint material used to fill in the cracks between pavers, growth of weeds should be minimal. In the case of weed growth, the simple application of weed killer will help remove any growth.

Will any settling of my patio, driveway, or walkway occur?

Proper installation of your project should minimize any settling over time. Other factors may be important, however, such as the material on which the pavers are installed. Make sure you find out what your contractor’s policy is with settling. Many offer a one-year warranty against any settling.

Can my installation be shoveled, plowed, or salted in the winter?

Yes! Shoveling or plowing your walkway, driveway, or patio will not damage your project as long as care is taken. De-icing salts may be used with some brands of concrete pavers, as long as the salts are not used excessively. Check with your contractor or paver manufacturer or supplier for more details about your specific brand.

Is there any warranty on my installation?

It depends on the contractor and manufacturer. Some contractors offer a one year (or more) warranty against settling or cracking, especially after one or two winters or as the hardscaping settles over time. Make clear ahead of time the conditions for the warranty with your contractor. In addition, the specific manufacturer of your brand of pavers may offer a warranty against long-term damage, color fastness, or other features. For example, Nicolock has lifetime limited warranty in residential installations. They guarantee their pavers through their “Paver-Shield” technology: where other pavers have color only on the surface, Nicolock’s pavers have color all the way through, and they guarantee this color for a lifetime. They say: “Paver-Shield is an advanced manufacturing technology that concentrates the highest grade of cement, a selection of the finest sands, and the most vibrant pigment available on the surface to create a durable, color-rich paver.” Cambridge pavers, on the other hand, have their own “ArmorTec” technology, offering a smooth, rich finish: “Manufactured into the top 3/8 inch of Cambridge Pavingstones is color saturated, extra dense concrete made with super-fine sand granules and devoid of any large aggregate (stones). We call it ArmorTec. As a result of this manufacturing marvel, the color remains rich looking and the surface stays smooth, yet skid-resistant.”

How to Install Concrete Pavers Yourself

Perhaps you’ve decided that hiring a professional might cost too much or be too expensive or risky; perhaps you trust in your own abilities to install concrete pavers, or you have a friend or family member in the trade, willing to help you. How do you go about installing paving stones for your driveway, patio, or walkway? Keep reading for some great hints, tips, and secrets for concrete pavers installation, straight from the source: someone who’s done it before! Installing pavers yourself is a great way to get a discount on your own project, as the labor costs are one of the major reasons for the relatively high prices of these installations.

Before beginning your installation, make sure you have all the paver tools and materials you’ll need to complete the project. This process also assumes that you’ve already selected the paver sizes, shape, style and colorof your brick.

Note that many of these instructions also apply to other paver materials – natural stone like flagstone pavers and cobblestone, brick pavers and clay pavers, rubber pavers, and even grass pavers. However, find instructions for these particular materials, as details may and will vary.

If you are ever unsure, it’s best to consult with a professional pavers contractor who can give you advice about your specific project. You may also get contractors to do particular parts of the installation; for instance, you can hire someone to do the excavation while you act as the installer.

For visual hints and tips on how to lay concrete pavers, see the videos at the bottom of this article.

  1. Determine the area in which the pavers will be installed, whether front yard, backyard, or the side of your house. Pavers can be used in many projects, including driveway driveway pavers, patio pavers, walkway pavers, garden pavers, and more. Come up with paver designs (yourself or professionally) for how the project will look. How long and wide will it be? Will it have pedestrian or vehicular traffic? Obtain or make a sketch or plan for your paving stone installation; you can draw it out on graph paper or regular paper, just make sure you have all the dimensions and important features of the terrain marked out. Also make sure that there are no utility lines where you will do the excavation.  TOOLS & MATERIALS: Paper, tape measure, pencil, camera.
  2. You’ll want to figure out the total square footage of the installation, as this will determine how much material (sand, aggregate, pavers, edging, etc.) you’ll need for the project. Don’t look to skimp on the cost of the project by not getting enough material – this will compromise the strength and beauty of the  project.
  3. Once you’re ready to begin the project, sketch out your project dimensions in the area in your yard. You can use spray paint, for instance, to mark out the grass and soil for excavation. Add a buffer of about 8 inches along the sides of the project, as you’ll want to leave extra room around the entire project to complete the job. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Spray paint.
  4. Excavate the area to the appropriate depth (6-8″ pedestrian,9-12″ vehicular). Use shovels and wheelbarrows to remove the grass, sod, soil, and fill as necessary. You may also use a Bobcat or other machine to help this process. Make sure to remove it from everywhere you’ve marked, even the extra 8 inches that you’ve added to all the sides of the project as a buffer. Be careful to note any utility or electrical lines in the area – you don’t want to dig up a nasty surprise! Call utility companies as necessary to prevent any further problems. Note: Make sure you complete your project during the warm months, because if the ground is frozen this step may be impossible or very difficult. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Shovels, wheelbarrow, pick, Bobcat (optional), container/truck (to remove dirt/grass).
  5. Establish grade (slope) to let water flow/drain. Make sure the driveway (or walkway or patio) doesn’t pitch towards the house, as then you may have flooding. Also make sure there are no holes or dips where water can congregate. Interlocking pavers do drain naturally, and advantage it has over poured concrete or asphalt, but you still need to be mindful of where the water is going to go once you’ve installed your concrete pavers. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Level (a laser level is best).
  6. Lay lines and corners with string and stakes to mark out your intended paver installation. Don’t forget to include some breathing room (about 6-8 inches) around the entire design, but make sure to mark out exactly where the pavers are going. Make sure they are straight and parallel/perpendicular to the house, pool, or whatever reference point you are using for your design. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Level, stakes, string, tape measure.
  7. Determine the amount of materials you will require – aggregate, sand, and concrete pavers (and joint dust, if necessary). Make allowances in your order for waste and for cuts – leave some room so you order enough! It is possible to order less than full pallets. You’ll want to add 5% to your square footage for pavers to account for cuts and waste; make it 10% if your project will have lots of cutting. When you order material, simply tell the supplier the square footage of the pavers you need. Note that some pavers and color blends don’t work well with particular sized installations, particularly if they are small.
  8. Compact sub base. You will need to obtain either a hand tamper or a compactor for this. A compactor can be bought, rented, or borrowed. This step will provide you with a solid, compacted base. After compacting, ensure that the grade is correct, as well as the depth. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Hand tamper/compactor, tape measure, shovel.
  9. Spread aggregate base (3-5″ pedestrian, 6-10″ vehicular) and compact. This serves as the main layer of the paver base. You might want to add some moisture to the project before compacting to help it compact together more tightly. You might have to add more aggregate base if the ground is soft, such as if it made of clay, to ensure a more stable installation. Make sure that the grade/depth is correct. You can obtain this aggregate base (recycled concrete) at your local mason or supply yard. You can also use gravel, limestone, or any other large stone material. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Recycled concrete/aggregate base, shovels, Bobcat (optional), wheelbarrow, compactor/hand tamper, tape measure.
  10. Note that this process uses no mortar or poured concrete. This material will just crack and decay over time, damaging the integrity of your paving stone project.
  11. You may want to add the aggregate base in multiple layers instead of one single layer – some compactors can only handle 3 inches of material at a time, so make sure you keep the layer thicknesses manageable. The more time and care you put into the base, the better. Once the broad grading is done, you’ll want to go in and confirm that all the levels and grades are correct. You can use pipes and screeds to make sure the aggregate base is at the perfect level. Compact one last time. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Aggregate base, metal pipes, metal screeds.
  12. Spread 1 to 1-1/2” of sand over base and screed. You can either use fine sand or polymeric sand that you purchase from your mason supply yard or paver manufacturer. To screed, lay down 1″ PVC pipes parallel to each other, and use a wooden plank or metal plank to level out the sand. Fill in the pipe holes with sand and level out by hand. This sand base should not be disturbed. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Sand, shovels, 1″ PVC pipes, screed.
  13. Place your concrete pavers in the paver patterns according to your designs, making sure to keep them tight to each other. Carefully think out your laying concrete pavers strategy – will you start the paver installation near the edge of the house? Near another landmark? Somewhere else? Which direction will you go? This is all important to prevent future delays and problems. If you have a border, like a soldier course, you may want to start there first. Make sure you inspect the pallets to ensure you have the right shape and color of concrete pavers that you ordered. When removing bricks from the pallets, don’t just take from one pallet, working from the top down. To ensure color variety, you need to take each column of pavers (from top to bottom) from multiple pallets in order to get the right color blend. Periodically check for depth, alignment, and straightness (using tape measure, carpenter’s square, etc.). Use a rubber mallet to keep the pavers tight together, if necessary, or to level out any individual paver. Make sure you put down a wooden board where you are kneeling, or where you may be walking back and forth, in order to prevent the pavers from being smashed into the ground and thus becoming unlevel and creating holes or dips. Also keep away from the edges of the project totally, as these are the most vulnerable to weight and shifting. While you’re laying pavers, make sure to continually check on the pattern – have you made any mistakes? Catch them and correct them before you lay too many more. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Concrete pavers, mallet, level, tape measure, wooden boards, knee pads.
  14. Cut borders/other stones as necessary. Use a pencil/crayon to mark the pavers as necessary in order to make the cuts. This will be especially important if you will be installing patio pavers near an immovable structure (such as a house or pool or yard) and if you need to have any circular patterns or curves. To make smooth curves, consider using a thin piece of wood and bend it along your edge, marking each brick as a piece of this curve. Use a wet saw with a diamond blade if you will have to do a lot of cuts; if only a few are required, a dry saw will do. If cutting the bricks when they are dry, be extra careful of particles that could damage your eyes, nose, etc. Wear proper safety equipment – gloves, safety glasses, and respiratory protection. Make sure you know cutting concrete pavers tips and methods before attempting it, as you could ruin the brick or hurt yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing. TOOLS & MATERIALS: Wet/dry saw, pencil/crayon, straight edge.
  15. Put in edge restraints. There are many different kinds of paver edging, from plastic to aluminum to concrete. The best, in general, is aluminum edging. Make sure they are tight and backfilled with fill/topsoil if necessary. Pound in the spikes with your mini sledge hammer.
  16. If you are installing pool pavers, you may have to add coping or other material to surround the pool and pool deck aside from edging.
  17. You may want to give the paver project a first compacting without any more sand added to the joints. This first compacting will begin the process by which the pavers interlock.
  18. Sweep the surface clean, and then sweep in more sand (or other joint material) into the spaces between the bricks. You’ll want to make sure the sand is somewhat coarse and irregular to encourage proper compacting. There are special kinds of paver sand out there for you to use for this step if you want to. Then compact with a compactor; this will “lock in” your project due to the interlocking action of concrete pavers. You may have to compact more than once.
  19. Clear off the pavers with a gentle flow of water – make sure everything drains correctly through and across the paving stone project.

Congratulations! You’re done installing pavers, and you’ve finished your concrete pavers driveway, patio, walkway, or pool deck! Eventually, you’ll want to seal your pavers according to the instructions given to you by your manufacturer, but you won’t have to do this until the pavers have settled for a bit.

If you need more help, check out these installation videos.

First, a video on how to install the base for your paving stones:

Next, here’s how to install your pavers once the base has been laid:

How to Find Good Paver Contractors

Image by Nicholas Humfrey. http://www.flickr.com/photos/njh/201936851/

Hardscape being installed.

Selecting a good paver contractor, one who is trustworthy, reliable, and skilled, is one of the most important decisions you can make if you decide to have your concrete pavers installed professionally. We know about all the horror stories about contractors: high or unfair prices, sloppy work, or not even showing up for the job! Especially if we have no friends or people we can trust to give us references, it might be especially hard to select the best contractor available. If you have an important job – carpentry, landscaping, masonry, or anything – and need professional installation, how do you find a trustworthy, licensed, skilled contractor? Read here for some tips and questions to ask to prevent an incident where your pavers contractor doesn’t show up or does substandard work.

Where to Find Contractors

There are many ways to find contractors, all with different degrees of efficiency.

The best way to find a reliable contractor is to get a referral from a friend or family member that already used his services. This way you will already know that the contractor does a professional job, and you can check out their work in person if you visit the referrers home.

If can’t get a referral, try searching online for contractors in your area. Visit their website, if possible, to see examples of their work and find contact information. Also try searching for “pavers contractors reviews” or the “specific contractor/company’s name reviews” to find online reports from customers if they exist. This can be a great way to get an uncensored look into the company’s operations.

If this doesn’t work, try the yellow pages. This is a rather antiquated method, however, as you will pretty much be throwing darts at a dartboard in this situation and hoping to pick out a good contractor.

The final method is to ask a local home improvement store or mason supply yard for recommendations. They may be able to point you in a direction of specific contractors or at least a directory of local contractors who may be able to serve your needs.

As you can see from this picture, picking the wrong contractor can be hazardous to your project! This is how you can avoid this calamity:

Questions to Ask Your Prospective Contractors

You should always interview as many contractors as possible, both to collect bids and to evaluate their skill and professionalism. You should still ask these questions even if you get a solid recommendation or referral from someone just to cover all the bases. Some questions to ask include:

About the Contractor and Previous Jobs

  • How many years has the contractor been in business? The more experienced the contractor, the better, though of course a new contractor is not necessarily a bad one. In particular, how long have they been installing pavers?
  • Does your contractor have experience with the job that they have been hired to perform? The more experience with basic and advanced jobs (and all the potential problems that could arise) will allow the contractor to be more suited for the work. If your project (paver driveway, paver walkway, paver patios, etc.) is especially large or small, or has some challenging aspects, are they qualified to handle it? Many contractors will have photos of previous jobs, so ask to see them. Do you like their work, both the craftsman ship and the design? This is also a good way to get ideas for your own project.
  • If possible, visit some of the contractors’ old jobs. Make sure, though, that the people who completed the work for those jobs will be completing the work at your home – otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Can the paver contractors provide you with references? You could also ask around for unsolicited references, or check out third-party/commercial consumer advocates. As stated above, do a Google search as well for reviews. You could also check around with companies that sell the paving stones to see if they have any knowledge or recommendations.

Rules and Regulations

  • Do they have the proper insurance and relevant licensing to do the job? Are their workers legal? This is a particular concern in some countries where undocumented immigrants sometimes work as manual laborers. It is often best to go with companies that don’t employ these individuals. This is especially important considering Worker Compensation laws – having a laborer working off the books at your home is not good for you, the employees, or the contractor.
  • Are any particular permits required for the work being done at your home?

Training

  • Have the pavers contractors taken any official training from a professional organization in their field, such as the ICPI? While this certification is not legally required, you can take comfort in the fact that they have the newest and best methods and support at their disposal for your home improvement project.
  • Does the contractor have design skills/experience? Often their experience in jobs will give them an eye for aesthetic details. You may be able to get some great tips from your contractor to make the job even better pleasing to the eye! Their experience in creating shapes and designs with concrete pavers in particular places and for particular projects might be invaluable. If they do not have this experience, you may have to hire someone else to help you with the design, if needed.

On the Job

  • Do they subcontract out any part of the job? To whom? You could ask the same questions of the subcontractor as to the contractor.
  • Who will be supervising? Will workers be left alone without direction? How many jobs does the company take at a time?
  • What paver brands do they usually recommend? Why? Make sure you like the pavers they prefer to use before you sign on with them.
  • Will there be any damage or disruption (such as clutter or materials) on neighbors’ property? Or on town property? Where will materials and tools be kept? For example, you will probably have pallets of brick laying around your yard for a few days. Will they be on the grass? On concrete or driveway? In the street? This is all important to know before the work begins.
  • When will the project start? When will it finish? Does the company/contractor have a reputation for punctuality and reliability?

Finances and Warranties

  • Will they provide a detailed estimate, and is it free? Do they follow as close as possible to their estimate? This is where references may come in handy.
  • What are the payment terms? Many hardscape contractors ask for 1/3 at the start, 1/3 after delivery of materials, and 1/3 at completion. Ask for a detailed list of the materials, labor, and other fees that you are being charged. This will be important to compare to other proposals prepared by competing contractors.
  • Make sure nothing is left out of the contract. Do they include cleanup of your yard due to machine work and other excavation? Make sure there will be no “gotcha!” extras waiting for you on job completion.
  • Will the paver contractors provide a warranty for his/her work? How long? Is it limited/full? Does the manufacturer of the materials (such as in the case of concrete pavers) provide any kind of warranty?