Patio - stamped concrete vs. pavers - Conflicting Info

mdmomof7September 7, 2009

I've been doing research here and at BHG online, as well as talking w/ local contractors. I'm getting conflicting info on the benefits of stamped concrete vs. pavers such as Belgrade Cobble or Dublin tumbled pavers. So far, the consensus is pavers, and I would agree aesthetically and structurally. Low maintenance is also important.

I prefer the look of the pavers or stamped concrete to a deck. Plus, the cost of composite decking was considerably more. For this job, about $3500 more but that may be because we liked the teak looking composite decking w/ black vinyl rails and caps so as to "disappear" as much as possible and let the backyard view be the focus.

We are talking about a patio area of ~420 square feet off the back of the house. Nothing but grass there now. The quotes are for a free form patio of ~30x12 at its narrowest point to ~30x16ft at the exit from the slider. Price is coming in about $23 sf which seems about right according to the posts I've seen on this forum.

Specific paver recommendations are also welcome. We were told that pavers run ~$16 sf, but haven't yet researched the cost of the pavers alone.

I'm all for DIY, but I think both the labor and time involved w/ a project of this size means we will have to pay the $7sf labor charge to get this done. If you want to encourage us otherwise, please do! :) We have 7 children and 4 of them playing more than 1 sport, so time is a big factor.

I welcome your input specifically about the stamped/colored concrete vs. pavers - the structural integrity, maintenance, aesthetic, etc. And also input about patio material. I think that flagstone or other natural stone would be more expensive and labor intensive?

Oh, we want this done by next May to host two graduation parties - college and high school.

Thanks so much!

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Stamped concrete is definitely going to be less expensive than pavers, but it's going to look just like prettified concrete. A concrete slab always has to have control joints running straight across the surface. These joints provide a place for the concrete to crack- which it will. Even if you find someone who gets the color just right, picks a gorgeous pattern, and manages to make the edge of the slab not look like crap (I've seen the edges look good once), there'll be a big old control joint struck right through the pattern, effectively destroying the illusion.

It sounds like you're being quoted pretty normal prices for your area. I'd encourage you to look at a few other manufacturers as well. Techo Bloc is quickly becoming an industry favorite, and I've begun specifying it on the rare jobs where I don't use real stone.

Speaking of real stone, you may be able to get a random rectangular patterned flagstone patio, laid on stone dust, for a comparable price. Depends on what you want for maintenance- the flagstone on dust will need "topped off" every few years, whereas the poly sand used with pavers isn't going anywhere.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 5:22PM
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I have a question that's OT, but maybe helpful to someone else out there. Which surface do you think offers the safest footing? After breaking my leg last year, I'm pretty concerned about this aspect of exterior surfaces. We hope to put in a patio possibly next spring and have been considering paved, dyed concrete simply to get the best footing possible.

I'd be more positive about stone or pavers, but have "reviewed" work done around here by walking on it and still find concrete out performs. It's boring. It's uglier. It's also more reliably flat and non-slippery. I guess if I could get a truly expert installer I might change my tune. I know the concrete will eventually crack, but the other surfaces also develop hills and dales, so to speak.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 6:25PM
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Broom-finished concrete will give you tons of grip, as will concrete with an acrylic texture like XCel Deck. Natural stone or brick set on a concrete slab can create a pretty even surface, but the installer has to be quite good, so you don't have any trip hazards from edges of the stone poking up above the next one.

As for pavers, if they're properly installed you shouldn't see any issues with significant settling or heaving. I just had a walk installed using Techo-Bloc's Elena pavers, and with the poly sand in place it's a beautifully smooth, even surface.

A good installer should be able to take most materials and create a surface as smooth and even as your kitchen floor.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 9:41PM
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ebeth(z8 FL)

The patios I install for my clients are almost always real brick. Although the color choices are more limited, you won't have to seal them periodically like you will pavers and the color won't fade, either.
Stamped concrete is just awful. I prefer regular concrete with a salt rock finish and interesting expansion joints. If the patio can be designed to have an interesting shape, then concrete is not a bad choice. But for heavens' sake, don't stamp/color it. Too cheesy for words.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 1:22AM
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Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening

Stamped concrete/cement are going to crack and break up over time. Depending on the contractor, pavers can be placed either over a concrete slab or RCA base with sand swept joints between the pavers. The pavers will not only look a lot nicer asthetically but will also hold up where you will not have to worry about any cracking. The new pavers also have built in armortech color throughout which resists fading unlike their predecessors. Also you can choose from a variety of styles and sizes-some which can ever look more like a natural stone like the new Cambridge Ledgestones for example. Sure-stamped concrete will cost you a lot less but if your budget allows I would recommend investing a bit more towards the pavers and not have to worry about replacing the patio later. Research your different types/styles of pavers and also ask about about the base which the pavers will be placed upon and also what the guarantee is. Ask your contractor to bring you a couple of samples so that you can see the exact color of the paver since they appear differently than in the catalogues. Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 7:12PM
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Based on our current experience with stamped concrete we have to say, we are disappointed with the product. There are just too many variables to get the look and colors the concrete installers try to promise.

We just went through a pure nightmare and created a blog to document the fun. It has turned out to be something others may find useful if they are having issues with a stamped concrete project or just want to see what could go wrong. We certainly found out what could go wrong. The link is attached.

I do believe there are likley better installers out there and better results. However, ee are just done with this product at this point. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Stamped Concrete Issues - Blog

    Bookmark   October 7, 2014 at 2:46PM
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I looked up Techo Bloc -- no dealers or contractors near me. But there are other kinds of manufactured pavers available.

Someone above said colored/stamped concrete looks cheesy. But don't you think that the fake stone pavers also look cheesy? Especially when they are used to build up walls and other features.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 12:28PM
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"But don't you think that the fake stone pavers also look cheesy? Especially when they are used to build up walls and other features." An important point you make, Violet. It seems a constant trend for manufacturers is coming up with so called "new" products and models. There are bound to be those that have no more appeal than to appease the latest fad. I find I prefer to stick with "old school" materials. There are the occasional exceptions, but I'm saying generally speaking.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 1:01PM
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by "old school" materials, do you mean natural stone? If not, what are you describing?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 1:39PM
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If someone gave me a truckload of pavers, I would prefer the basic brick shape in a common color that has been around for decades as opposed to tumbled fake stone in some new color scheme & pattern. I could always make something of red or grey or charcoal. I'm not saying that aren't times and places for something different, but for the most part, give me tried and true. Some natural stone is extremely nice, but some is not as nice as pavers. Well installed pavers are much better than so-so installed stone.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 6:43PM
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Oh, I see. Thank you.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2014 at 6:59PM
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