When it comes to redoing a path, patio or driveway, concrete is the go-to material. Compared to other options, concrete is often the right balance of durability and cost-effectiveness. And modern products come in a variety of textures and colors to match almost any design. But are all concrete products created equal?
When choosing a concrete paving solution, many homeowners weigh the pros and cons between stamped concrete and concrete blocks like pavers and slabs. Since their base material is the same, both options have many similarities, but also have differences that make them better suited to certain kinds of projects, locations and designs.
Patterns and Designs
Concrete doesn’t have to be boring. If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of concrete is something flat and gray, you haven’t looked at modern concrete products.
Both stamped concrete and concrete pavers and slabs come in a wide variety of textures and colors. From granite to marble, and even worn lumber, there is a concrete finish available to match the desired look and feel of your project.
One of the advantages of stamped concrete is that it is prepared onsite. This means that the color can be adjusted right up to the moment it is poured. By comparison, pavers and slabs arrive onsite pre-cast and finished, so the color you see can’t be changed.
The downside to stamped concrete is that the final product needs to be cut with control joints to help control future cracking. The location of these joints is determined by the shape and orientation of the whole area, and so they may be cut in the middle of a pattern, disrupting the line. By comparison, the seams between individual blocks of pre-cast concrete are already part of their visual appeal.
Plus, pre-cast systems, like interlocking concrete pavers and concrete paving slabs, are inherently flexible, unlike stamped concrete. This flexibility is key to long-term performance in cold regions where concrete is susceptible to freeze-thaw conditions and region with expansive soils. Stamped concrete is a rigid pavement, so in freeze-thaw conditions and on expansive soils, it can’t move or flex, resulting in unsightly cracks and unevenness.
We recommend that you hire a professional to install either stamped concrete or pre-cast pavers and slabs. For stamped concrete, getting the mix of cement and water right is critical to a finished product that cures properly and doesn’t prematurely bubble or crack. For blocks, a professional will make sure the surface is properly compacted before the blocks are laid.
Once stamped concrete is cured, you’ll need to have it sealed to protect it from weathering and foreign substances like pool chemicals or road salt, as well as to prevent fading. On the other hand, pavers and slabs are ready to go and don’t need sealing.
In terms of durability, this is where pavers and slabs stand out. Pre-cast pavers and slabs made by Techo-Bloc are nearly three times stronger than poured concrete, with a minimum compressive strength of 8,000 psi and a maximum of 5% water absorption.
This means stamped concrete requires more maintenance to keep it looking nice over the years. It needs to be sealed annually and, even so, the color will fade over time. By comparison, pavers and slabs don’t need more than an occasional sweep and keep their color as they age.
Stamped concrete also isn’t an ideal solution for weight-bearing locations. This is why most contractors suggest pre-cast pavers over stamped concrete for driveways since the weight of the vehicles could crack or break the stamped concrete over time.
This weight-bearing issue is also something to consider if you plan to place heavy objects like large planters on your patio or path. In this case, a pre-cast slab might be a better alternative as heavy objects aren’t a danger to interlocking paver and slab systems. Interlocking systems do an excellent job of handling and distributing the weight of both driving cars and parked cars (moving weight and static weight), while still maintaining strong, uniform flexibility. This ensures longer-term performance and value.
Finally, depending on where you’re located, you need to consider how the seasons will affect your concrete. In areas with heavy rains or cold winters, the ground is prone to heaving and expanding, which will accelerate cracking in stamped concrete. Pavers and slabs, with their regular seams between each piece, will withstand these forces better over the long term.
Plus, pre-cast pavers and slabs can be used to build permeable pavements, a benefit stamped concrete doesn’t offer. This means you don’t have to sacrifice style or your overall aesthetics to get the benefits of permeable pavements, which let water pass through them to avoid flooding or pools of water after a rain.
Repair and Replacement
If your stamped concrete gets stained or cracks enough that it needs to be repaired, it’s not a simple process. You’ll need to hire a contractor who will either patch the damaged area or cut it out—along with a bigger area around it to keep the finished work clean. Matching the existing concrete with the new patch or repair is tricky because the old area will have faded over time.
By comparison, in the unlikely event that one of your pavers or slabs crack, or if it gets stained and can’t be cleaned, replacement is as simple as removing the blocks in question and putting new ones in their place. If only one or two pieces need to be replaced, you might even be able to do it yourself. And because they don’t fade, color matching is much easier.
Ready to get started?
If you’re looking for inspiration for your next path, patio or driveway project, visit Techo-Bloc’s website to see the variety of pavers and slabs available. Whether you want the look of a classic travertine pool deck, or sleek modern pavers in a variety of sizes and colors, we have a product to inspire your design.