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What is the difference between poured concrete, natural stone and concrete paver surfaces?

Poured Concrete

It can be poured at different strengths, colors and patterns. All of these things can change the price you pay for it. Standard concrete is typically the most cost effective option for most jobs. We suggest you always use a minimum of 4000 psi and install a wire mesh to add strength. For smaller projects like patios, a line pump or buggy is often required to get the concrete from the street to the installation area. This additional cost can sometimes make standard concrete cost the same as a concrete paver installation. Upgrading concrete to color, stamped or exposed aggregate will also make your cost comparable to a paver project. The most important thing about concrete that I tell our clients is; concrete WILL crack and require expansion joints. These joints need to be placed in areas prone to cracking and not too far apart from one another. These expansion joints control where your concrete will crack. The control joints will often crack in the first few weeks.

Concrete Pavers

In my opinion, concrete pavers are the best hardscape surface. Paver pricing is comparable to colored, stamped or exposed aggregate concrete. Pavers will be less expensive than natural stone jobs that are installed correctly. Pavers are installed on a Crush & Run base. Each concrete paver is made 3x the psi as standard concrete. Because the pavers are individual pieces, you have expansion joints basically every 6” in your patio or project. If done correctly, the pavers can flex, never crack and outlast any other hardscape surface. Another great benefit to pavers is that they are easily repairable. Pavers can be picked up and reinstalled. This allows you to install sleeves, water lines, cables, etc later. Ask your installer if they are ICPI Certified. ICPI sets the standards on how to correctly install concrete pavers.

Natural Stone

It makes beautiful patios! We tell our clients to make sure the installer they choose is doing the job correctly. The WRONG way to do the project: In an effort to save money, some people will lay a compacted gravel or sand base. Next they will lay a few inches of mortar and set the stone directly in the mortar. The problem with this method is the gravel or sand base will flex and move over time. The stone and mortar will not and the patio breaks. Often these jobs fail within the first year. The RIGHT way to do the project: It is much more expensive! It requires pouring a concrete slab first. This slab should include rebar to prevent any later cracks from heaving. The stone will then be mortar set on top of the slab. Doing stone patios the right way makes it our most expensive patio option. Other important things to know about stone are that it is soft and has a tendency to flake away in layers over time. Also if repairs are required later, the stone and mortar are hard to match up to the original color.


What is Polymeric Sand?

Polymeric Sand is a granular product that is swept and vibrated into paver joints. When Polymeric Sand is activated, it will set up hard to stabilize pavers. Polymeric Sand prevents paver joints from eroding. Installed correctly, it can be a great product. Many factors contribute to the success of your Polymeric Sand setting. Temperature, unexpected rain or improper installation can destroy your paver project. Because of all the potential complications, we have moved toward joint stabilizing sealers. We have found this method to be a more reliable solution.


How do I keep weeds from growing through my pavers?

Our client’s usually believe that the weeds are coming up from the ground below the pavers. Our paver projects have 4 – 6” of gravel base with a 2 ½” paver on top of that. I have yet to see a weed aggressive enough to penetrate 8” of material. Seeds are usually washed across the top of the pavers allowing the seed to settle in one of the joints and germinate. Polymeric sand and joint stabilizing sealer can help prevent this. You can also divert water runoff coming from the landscape. I have not found a solution that works 100% of the time. A little bit of RoundUp goes a long way!

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Why Clean & Seal Pavers?

The Cleaning and Sealing process protects your investment from staining, fading and becoming unsightly over time. It can also enhance the color of your pavers or add a wet look all of the time. The sealer we install has a joint stabilizer in it. The sealer eliminates the need for Polymeric Sand in your paver joints. Most sealers have a life span of 3 – 5 years. Resealing will be necessary in the future. This process can also restore an older paver project and make it look new again. We have entrusted Seal N' Lock and Surebond cleaner to seal our pavers for over 5 years!

What is the installation process?

  1. Remove existing concrete or other obstacles in the work area.

  2. Lay out the edges of the hardscape with marker paint and set string lines for finish elevations.

  3. Excavate anywhere from 6” to 11” down from finish elevation string lines. Depth depends on the desired amount of base material and thickness of the chosen paver.

  4. If underlayment is required, it will be installed next.

  5. Install and compact Crush & Run base material. A patio has 4” to 6” of base material whereas a driveway would have between 8” to 11” of base material. Compaction will be done in lifts as appropriate to the size of our vibratory plate tamp or roller.

  6. We screed ¾” of Granite Sand or M-10 bedding sand on top of the compacted base.

  7. Lay the pavers while using string lines to stay square and keep our joint lines straight.

  8. Mark all of the edges and cuts to make the desired shape of the patio.

  9. Cut the pavers to fit with a concrete demo saw.

  10. Install the border pavers around the exterior.

  11. Install edge restraints.

  12. Compact pavers to seat them into the bedding sand.

  13. Sweep Granite Sand or Polymeric Sand into the paver joints and re-compact pavers. Repeat this as many times as necessary to properly fill paver joints.

  14. If Polymeric Sand is used, we start the setting process at this point.

  15. Backfill soil around the edges of the pavers.

  16. Clean up the patio and work site.

  17. Clean and Seal pavers if desired.

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