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Stamped Concrete vs. Pavers
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Concrete Stamps

You’ve done your research, and you’re convinced that decorative concrete is the best choice for your new driveway, patio or pool deck because of the benefits it offers over alternative materials, such as asphalt or stone. Now you’re faced with an even tougher decision: Should you install stamped poured-in-place concrete or precast concrete pavers? Although both materials are similar in appearance and extremely durable, they vary in terms of installation time, decorative options, cost, and maintenance requirements. Each option offers different advantages, depending on your needs.

Salzano Custom Concrete in Aldie, VA.

STAMPED CONCRETE

Cost: $8 to $18 per square foot (installed)


Design: A wide array of stone-like patterns and textures are possible. Customizable in color.


Maintenance: Easy, involving only routine cleaning and resealing.


Repair: Complex and potentially costly.


Lifespan: 30+ years (when properly maintained)

Paver King in Lake Mary, FL

CONCRETE PAVERS

Cost: $7 to $20 per square foot (installed)


Design: Various colors, stone-like shapes, and sizes. Cannot customize the color or finish.


Maintenance: Complex, requiring periodic replenishing of joint sand.


Repair: Simple and seamless


Lifespan: 30+ years (when properly maintained)

Which is easier to install pavers or stamped concrete?

Both stamped concrete and precast concrete pavers need to be installed over a well-compacted, properly graded subgrade, so the work and time required to prepare the foundation is similar. However, placement times tend to be longer for concrete pavers because of the labor involved to place each unit individually (typically three days on average for a 2,000-square-foot driveway, depending on the complexity of the project). The advantage of concrete pavers is that they can be opened to foot or vehicle traffic immediately after placement. Poured-in-place concrete typically needs to cure for at least 24 hours before it’s ready for foot traffic and seven days for vehicle traffic (see How Long Does It Take for Concrete to Cure?).

How to choose: Ask your concrete contractor to give you an estimate of the overall placement time, from start to finish. If it’s important for you to be able to walk or drive on your new pavement as soon as possible, concrete pavers will often be a better choice.

How do the decorative options differ?

Concrete pavers are great for recreating the look of natural stone or brick. They come in a wide array of colors, stone-like shapes, and sizes, and you can mix and match paver patterns and colors to create striking borders and color contrasts (see our concrete paver photo gallery).

Stamped concrete also allows you to create pavements that resemble natural stone or brick, but unlike pavers, random stone and wood patterns are possible as well (see the most popular stamping patterns for concrete patios and driveways). Stamped concrete also gives you the ability to impart seamless stone-like textures – without pattern or grout lines – through the use of texture skins. Another advantage of stamped concrete is the ability to customize the color. Through the use of concrete stains or dry-shake color hardeners, stamped concrete can be made to look identical to real stone and antiqued to create realistic weathering effects.

How to choose: Both stamped concrete and concrete pavers give you endless design flexibility. The choice often depends on the look you want to achieve. If customization of color is a priority, stamped concrete will better suit your needs.

Stamped concrete vs. pavers cost

Many installers find it more economical to pour concrete and apply a pattern than to haul and place paving units by hand, so the cost of concrete pavers tends to be greater than that of stamped and colored concrete, running as high as $20 per square foot (see Concrete Paver Cost).

Basic stamped concrete costs between $8 and $12 per square foot, but more involved projects can be as much as $18 per square foot (see Stamped Concrete Cost). If you’re on a tight budget, you can economize by mixing stamped concrete with fields of less-expensive plain concrete while still achieving impressive results.

In addition to upfront installation costs, you should also consider the long-term costs for pavement repair and maintenance. Concrete pavers are often less costly to repair or replace if damage occurs over time, so the long-term cost may end up being lower.

How to choose: Concrete pavers and stamped concrete are often very close in price, so it’s worth getting estimates from decorative concrete contractors for both options to help you determine which one is the most affordable for your project. Expect both options to be significantly more expensive than plain poured-in-place concrete, depending on the prices for materials and labor in your local market and the complexity of the job.

Is maintenance different for stamped concrete vs. pavers?

Both stamped concrete and concrete pavers require routine cleaning and maintenance to keep them looking their best and to protect them from wear and tear. Both can also benefit from the application of a sealer every few years to enhance the color and minimize surface abrasion. But with concrete pavers, additional maintenance is often required to keep the joints between paving units filled with sand.

Depending on weather exposure, you may need to replenish the sand in the joints every 2 or 3 years to prevent weed growth. The paving units can also shift or settle over time, requiring releveling or replacement. You can minimize joint maintenance by filling the joints with a polymer sand, which contains a special polymeric additive that binds and hardens the sand and helps to prevent erosion.

How to choose: For both types of paving materials, applying a sealer will make cleaning easier by preventing the penetration of oil and stains. (See this guide to maintaining and caring for exterior decorative concrete.) However, if you don’t want to bother with the extra step of resanding the joints periodically, choose poured-in-place concrete.

What about repairs or replacement?

In comparison to poured-in-place concrete, precast concrete pavers offer the advantage of easy, seamless replacement if repairs are needed. Any damaged, cracked, or sunken pavers can simply be replaced or reset with no noticeable patchwork.

Repairing and replacing stamped concrete is often more difficult and costly. Poured concrete slabs may crack due to encroaching tree roots, freeze/thaw cycles, and other disturbances that shift the subbase beneath the slab. When a concrete slab cracks, there’s not much you can do to repair it seamlessly. However, if the concrete is structurally sound, there are ways to repair minor defects without tearing it out and replacing it completely. (Check out these options for repairing or resurfacing a concrete driveway.)

How to choose: Whether you install concrete pavers or poured-in-place concrete, the need for repair or replacement is rare if the pavement has been installed properly over a well-compacted subgrade. However, if a concrete slab sustains major damage, chances are the entire slab will need to be removed and replaced, which can be very costly.

Related:Asphalt vs. Concrete