Choosing Between Paver Patios and Concrete Patios

Choosing Between Paver Patios and Concrete Patios

When it comes to enhancing your outdoor living space, a common decisions you'll face is whether to opt for a paver patio or a concrete patio. Often times we get asked what is the difference between concrete of pavers.  Each material brings its own set of advantages and considerations, ranging from price and function to aesthetic appeal and durability. Moreover, in regions like the Midwest (specifically Iowa Zone 5) where winters bring freeze and thaw cycles, the choice becomes even more critical. Let's look at a few key differences between paver and concrete patios, exploring their respective benefits and drawbacks.

1. Price:

Paver Patio: Paver patios typically come at a higher initial cost compared to concrete. The price of pavers can vary depending on the material chosen, such as concrete pavers, natural stone, or brick. However, their installation tends to be more labor-intensive (more below about installation), contributing to the higher upfront expense.  

Concrete Patio: Concrete patios are generally more budget-friendly in terms of both material cost and installation. Concrete pads can be poured into various shapes and sizes, allowing for customization at a relatively lower cost.

2. Function:

Paver Patio: Pavers offer excellent flexibility in design, allowing for intricate patterns and shapes to be easily achieved. Additionally, they are generally easier to repair than concrete. If one paver becomes cracked or damaged, it can be replaced individually without disturbing the entire patio.

Concrete Patio: Concrete patios are known for their durability and stability. Once poured and properly cured, they provide a solid surface that can withstand heavy foot traffic and furniture placement. However, cracking is a common issue with concrete, especially in areas prone to freeze and thaw cycles, which can lead to costly repairs.  

3. Aesthetic Appeal:

Paver Patio: Paver patios offer a timeless and elegant aesthetic, adding character and charm to outdoor spaces. With a wide range of colors, textures, and shapes available, homeowners can create unique designs that complement their landscaping and architectural style. Pavers also tend to develop a natural patina over time, enhancing their visual appeal.

Concrete Patio: Concrete patios provide a clean and contemporary look that can be customized with various finishes, such as stamped, stained, or scored patterns. While not as inherently varied as pavers, concrete offers versatility in design and can mimic the appearance of more expensive materials at a fraction of the cost.

4. Installation Process:

Paver Patio: The installation of a paver patio involves several labor-intensive steps. First, the ground must be excavated to the appropriate depth to accommodate the pavers and base materials. Next, a layer of crushed stone is spread and compacted to create a stable foundation. This base provides drainage and helps prevent settling. Then, sand is added and leveled to create a smooth surface for laying the pavers. Finally, the pavers are placed according to the desired pattern with each paver being laid by hand.  Pavers are then 'grouted' together in the joints and seams by a polymeric sand that hardens.

Concrete Patio: Installing a concrete patio typically involves less labor compared to pavers. After excavation and preparation of the site, wooden forms are erected to contain the concrete while it's poured. The concrete is then leveled and smoothed before being left to cure. Depending on the size and complexity of the patio, additional finishing techniques such as stamping or staining (to add colors) may be applied to enhance its appearance.

5. Advantages in Iowa:

Paver Patio: In Midwest regions, where freezing ground temperatures significantly affect outdoor spaces, paver patios have a distinct advantage over concrete. The individual units of pavers allow for better drainage, reducing the risk of frost 'heave' – a common problem where moisture trapped in concrete expands and contracts during freezing temperatures, causing cracks and upheaval. Additionally, the flexibility of pavers accommodates slight ground movement, minimizing the likelihood of damage from frost-related soil shifts.

Choosing between a paver patio and a concrete patio ultimately depends on your priorities, budget, and specific environmental factors. While concrete offers affordability and versatility, pavers excel in durability, aesthetic appeal, and resilience to freeze-thaw conditions, making them a preferable option in Iowa. Whether you prioritize cost-effectiveness, design flexibility, or long-term durability, both paver and concrete patios offer distinct advantages that can enhance your outdoor living experience.