The Basics of Concrete Pavers and Paving Stones



Paving stones being installed.

What Are Concrete Pavers?

Concrete pavers (also known as paving stones) are interlocking bricks made out of concrete. They can be used to make beautiful and resilient (and near maintenance free) driveways, patios, walkways, or pool decks, among other uses (including commercial applications). Concrete paving stones have a long history, but have only recently become popular in the United States. Old ruins and archaeological finds have shown how ancient civilizations used them (in stone, not concrete form) for roads and pathways. The first concrete pavers made and installed were in Holland in the 1940s – this is where “Holland Stones” get their name today.

Concrete pavers are a very durable and robust material. Normal concrete can withstand 2000 pounds per square inch (psi). Paving stones, however, must meet a minimum of 8000 psi, and many exceed this number. Thus, a project made with paving stones will be at least four times as strong and durable as the same project made with concrete. These paving stones are built to last.

How They Work

Interlocking pavers interlock because they are bound to their neighbors very closely. The sides of the pavers are very rough, and get caught with each other. The friction prevents each paver from moving, thus keeping the structure together. Furthemore, the joint sand used in between the pavers increases this friction even further, helping bond the brick together in one interconnected whole. In addition, the pavers are “edged,” which helps keep outward pressure on the whole, maintaining the total friction between the blocks. Thus, pavers combine the best of both worlds – the strength of concrete with the flexibility required to withstand the freeze/thaw cycles and other forces of nature that would otherwise crack slabbed materials like concrete and asphalt.

How are Pavers Installed?

Either installed by the homeowner or by qualified and licensed and insured paver contractors (sometime known as a “mason”), these pavers are laid over a bed of compacted crushed aggregate base and fine (a.k.a. concrete) sand. The base of the project is the most important part; if little time is spent on the underlying foundation, the whole project will suffer. The brick are then filled with sand and compacted one more time. Depending on the size of the project, installation of the pavers can take from one to two days to a week or more.

Homeowners with the right skills and tools can also try to install concrete pavers themselves. A DIY paving project can help reduce the cost of the overall paving stone application while ultimately providing the homeowner with a wonderful hardscape creation.

How Can Paving Stones Be Used?

There are many potential projects for pavers, including driveways, patios, walkways, pool decks, garden and landscape applications, retaining walls, and more. Since the same pavers – colors blends and sizes – can be used for all these projects, homeowners can have a yard that looks professionally planned and created; there’s no need to have a hodge podge of materials dotting your hardscape and landscape! In addition, the wide variety of paver shapes, sizes and colors affords the homeowner many design possibilities. Thus, paving stones go well with nearly any home design and theme, as they are a very versatile and useful material.

What Are the Benefits of Paving Stones?

Installing concrete pavers in a new backyard patio or pool deck is a great way to increase the quality time spent with friends and family at your own home, potentially saving you travel costs for expensive vacations. They also offer numerous safety benefits – pool pavers, for instance, do not get slippery when wet, making it safe if people walk or run on them during summer play. Paving stone installations also increase the property value of your home, thus also representing an investment in your family’s financial future. For commercial projects, installing paving stones gives businesses a clean, professional, and aesthetically pleasing look – first impressions are important, and paver stones can give a great first impression to  customers.

Pavers are also relatively maintenance free, especially compared to certain materials options like loose stone and asphalt. Snow removal is quite easy, and sealing pavers occasionally will keep them looking beautiful for many years, though this is not required. In addition, as long as the pavers are well-installed, a paver project should last for many decades. They thus represent a fantastic long-term investment.

How Much Do They Cost?

Paving stones are of moderate cost, usually ranging from $8 to $15 per square foot for materials and installation by a contractor. The pavers cost can be reduced by installing them yourself or by looking for pavers for sale.

Many paving stones companies will guarantee their products with a warranty, so hoemowners won’t have to worry about the material cracking or coming apart for a long time. If any damage does occur, the offending pavers can be easily removed and replaced with fresh, undamaged pavers.

More information about pavers can be by reading this hardscaping FAQ.