Pavers Versus a Concrete Patio: Design, Durability and, Yes, Cost Are Vastly Different
A general contractor weighs in.
Updated Sep 6, 2022 2:17 PM
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Outdoor renovators, take note: The details matter when it comes to choosing pavers versus a concrete patio. Consider the following. Will what’s underfoot feel good to walk on? How do you make a slab seem more lively? And what’s the maintenance really like? These are all valid concerns, but general contractor and Dirty Girl Construction founder Joan Barton encourages you to look at the bigger picture, too, and choose based on what makes the most sense for your budget, family, and long-term use.
And that’s just the start. Below, we break down the differences between concrete and patio pavers, including the pros and cons of each material, durability, and even pet-friendliness.
What’s the difference between a paver and a concrete patio?
Pavers are individual pieces that interconnect with other similar units, Barton explains. They can be made of natural stone, concrete (mixed with gravel, water, and additives for color), or a brick-like substance that’s crafted from concrete and aggregate or clay and heat cured into a square or rectangle. They either retain the original clay coloring or are dyed to resemble an actual brick. “They’re usually an inch-and-half or more thick, and are primarily made of exterior building materials,” Barton says of pavers. “They join together to create a greater whole as opposed to concrete slabs, which are the greater whole.”
When it Comes to Cost…
The variety of pavers out there is just as broad as the price range, which Barton says mainly depends on where you buy them: “You could build a DIY patio on a budget with a concrete paver from Home Depot for as little as $2 per square foot.”
Common paver materials and average pricing include:
- Concrete: $3 to $6 per square foot, or between $8 and $15 per square foot to install
- Brick: $8 to $20 per square foot
- Eco-friendly permeable pavers: $6 to $13 per square foot
- Stone (like limestone or cobblestone): As little as $13 per square foot (but Barton has seen them as high as $80 per square foot)
- Porcelain: An average cost of $3 to $35 per square foot
Concrete slab pricing includes:
- Basic slab (no colors or decorative details): $4 to $30 per square foot
- With simple coloring: $9 to $17 per square foot
- With a decorative technique: $6 to $10 per square foot
- Stamped concrete: Around $8 to $28 per square foot, but can cost more depending on customizations
In both cases, don’t forget to factor installation into your budget, which varies according to contractor, land, size, and design. Also consider permit fees, which vary by city and state.
When it Comes to Durability…
Limestone, cobblestone, and brick pavers can last for centuries if well maintained. Porcelain pavers are also extremely hard, but like brick, the surface can be prone to breaking or chipping. “If it’s taken care of, it will last as long as the original material is intended to,” says Barton.
Generally pavers need their joints resealed every three to five years to stave off erosion, weeds, and water damage. However, it’s essential to clean them first. Pressure wash dirt build-up, sweep away debris, or remove stains with a gentle solution. Another factor that can impact longevity? The condition of the soil—if the ground shifts, so will your pavers. “If there’s a lot of moisture on your property, and it’s hard to find good earth to build on, your patio could start to sink over time,” Barton adds.
And despite its tendency to crack, a concrete slab patio can last upwards of 25 years if installed properly and routinely maintained.
The Pros and Cons of Concrete
The pros: Concrete is by far one of the most inexpensive patio materials, plus it’s relatively easy to install and maintain. You can remove tough stains with warm water and a few drops of dish detergent on an as-needed basis or wash away dirt, leaves, and other debris with a quick hose-off; otherwise, an annual pressure wash will keep it clean. If you have pets, Barton suggests a concrete patio because furry friends are more prone to injure themselves on uneven surfaces like stone pavers. “Their nails can get caught in grout lines,” she explains.
The cons: “When clients tell me, ‘I don’t want it to crack,’ I say, ‘Well, you don’t want concrete,’” notes Barton, adding that breaks in the surface can form within hours of it being laid and cured. Even with preventative methods or quick fixes like reinforcing welded rib mesh and patching up splits with cement, cracks are still likely to happen over time. In some cases, a total patio replacement is the only (expensive) solution. Be mindful that heat also contributes to this, so if you’re building in a hot climate, concrete installation may come with some challenges. Lastly, concrete can be extremely slippery when wet.
The Pros and Cons of Pavers
The pros: If you’re going the DIY route, Barton recommends pavers over concrete. “It’s a lot more labor—there’s choosing a good layout where you’re digging, compacting the earth, laying gravel and a sand base, then laying pavers. But a lot of people can do it themselves,” she explains.
The cons: Most pavers are porous—particularly those made of natural stone—so they absorb smells and stains, plus anything stuck in the cracks may be difficult to clean. They can also be uneven, so consider an outdoor rug to help steady patio furniture.
Populate Your Patio:
This article was updated with new information on September 6, 2022.