We’re often asked the question of “What’s better pavers or stamped concrete?.” The short answer is that “better” is relative. Stamped concrete would be the lower cost decorative option. It can provide a custom look and transform any space almost immediately. There are two major limitations with a decorative concrete application. First, it requires a biennial sealant be applied and, because of this, in the end, some of the cost savings can actually be given back over time. Second, a decorative concrete application is still a slab of concrete and all of the inherent issues in slabs of concrete could create issues as your surface ages. Items like cosmetic cracking, topically applied color, significant cracking caused by outside forces like tree roots and those pesky expansion joints could still be a source of frustration moving forward.
The paver system provides a significant level of improvement at a moderately higher cost. It is an independent, repairable system. Like decorative concrete, there are dozens of choices stylistically to ensure you receive a product that belongs in your space. And while no installation is maintenance free, the paver system, generally speaking, is a much more durable, longer-lasting application. Instead of being placed on compacted dirt as is true in concrete applications, the proper paver system consists of 4-6” of stabilized cementicious material along with a layer of bedding sand. Instead of grout as is typically used in tile and stone applications, a paver system is installed with polymeric sand. This product allows for more flexion and less cracking than is standard in a cement-based mortar product. Another difference is the color. The color is baked into the paver and, because the initial look of a paver is more weathered to begin with, the paver is likely to age more gracefully than any competing decorative concrete products.
So, back to the original question….Which is better? It’s not a fair fight as a paver is truly the most durable solution on the market. If short-term money and a quick fix are the chief concerns, a stamped concrete application may make the most sense. Under nearly every other circumstance, go with a paver.