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.

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