Pros and cons of using pavers to spruce up your yard

Time to get your hardscape in shape for outdoor living! Paver installation is not just a great way to make your yard look amazing, it’s also long-lasting, flexible and simple to maintain.

Time to get your hardscape in shape for outdoor living! Paver installation is not just a great way to make your yard look amazing, it’s also long-lasting, flexible and simple to maintain.

I recently spoke with Joe Raboine, director of Belgard Residential Hardscapes. The result of our conversation? The following guide to paver installation—pros, cons, prices, maintenance and more.

What types of pavers are available?
Materials: Four core types of paving materials are used for residential hardscapes. The oldest is stone pavers, then clay and most recently interlocking concrete pavers. There are also porcelain pavers, new within the last five years.

Shapes: The most common shape is a rectangle, which runs the gamut of sizes. The small rectangular pavers resemble handmade cobblestones like you’d see in European cities. Those get progressively larger, up to what’s called a “slab size,” typically 12 inches by 12 inches or even larger. The biggest are 2 feet by 3 feet. In addition, there are hexagons and trapezoids for a slightly more contemporary look.

Colors: An almost endless variety of colors is available, both solid and blended. Solid colors really have caught on over the last few years, but the blends are still the most popular choices. I think those blended colors always will be popular because they mimic local natural stone, varying across the country.

Where are pavers used?
Use pavers for your patio, walkway, pool decking or outdoor living room. Paver installation is great for driveways and other vehicular applications, too. In some markets—Texas, for example—paver driveways have almost become the norm.

What are the major advantages of pavers?
1. Beauty. Pavers look awesome and add a lot of landscape design appeal to your yard or driveway area. Blended colors will harmonize with their surroundings because they reflect the shades of indigenous local stone.

2. Flexibility. Because a slab of concrete will move, shift and ultimately break, you have to add expansion and control joints. By contrast, pavers are a flexible system, which acts like a blanket that’s placed on the earth.

3. Longevity. Pavers have been around since the Romans used them to build roads … and some of those are still in existence today. They’re considered a flexible pavement. Due to their flexibility, paver installation lasts 50-plus years if done as recommended. That’s true in any climate—even one with harsh winters or very hot, dry weather. In fact, because they’re strong and manufactured in a controlled environment, concrete pavers often carry a lifetime transferable warranty. You would never get a warranty like that on poured-in-place products!

4. Ease of repair. Another great thing about pavers is that they’re easy to repair. If you drop something extremely heavy on a paver and crack it, or you spill oil on it, you can take out the damaged paver and put in a new piece. The simplest way to remove a paver is to crush it with a hammer and break it out of there. Once you replace it with a new one, you can just sprinkle in some polysand, brush it off and you’re good to go.

And the disadvantages?
1. Potential problems from faulty installation. Just like any other building material, you ideally need to have someone who has been professionally trained and certified to install large-scale paver projects. Substandard installations will cause issues.

2. Cost. Because there’s more prep time, pavers will cost more than concrete (or asphalt, for a driveway), but since they’re so durable, they end up costing you less in the long run.

What’s the cost to install concrete pavers?
Essentially the cost to install concrete pavers is between $5 and $25 a square foot, which is kind of a crazy range. But there’s a reason.

In Southern markets such as Florida, you may get pavers installed for $5 to $10 a square foot because of the sand subsoil and because you don’t get hard freeze-thaw cycles. In the North where you need a thicker substrate to lay them on, cost starts at $10 and can go up to $20 or $25 per square foot.

Consider the cost of the paver material itself as well. Between the less expensive and the higher-end pavers, there may be a $3 to $5 per square foot difference.

—Laura Firszt | More Content Now