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PATIO PAVER PRIMER: Choosing the right paver!


Thirty years ago, the paver industry was ruled by only a couple different product options.  The typical 4" x 8” paver known as the "Holland Paver" was 'King of the Hill'!  Consequently, most paver installations had a very similar look and feel... monotonous, cold and somewhat industrial. Laying patterns were limited because these systems employed only one size of paver within the field (so clients were left with basically three options.... herring bone, some variation of running bond or basket weave).  

Oh, how the times have changed!  In a very short time span, there has been an explosion of new paver products and technology – offered by many concrete paver manufacturers and DIY, big box retail stores.  Nowadays, there are many different paver selections to choose from. They come in a variety of colors, textures/finishes, sizes and thickness options depending on personal preference and use. 

Below is a breakdown of different paver features with a brief description of each: 


There are several different material options when considering pavers (or paving stones) such as concrete, clay, natural stone and even rubber. 


Clay pavers have been used for centuries but are prone to cracking and chipping over time. 


Natural stone is beautiful – and natural stone pavers can create a unique and stunning patio.  However, their relative cost can be excessive and prohibitive. Generally speaking, the main attraction of pavers is that they are modular. Each paver has the same thickness, and the same size dimensions- from unit to unit.  This makes installation much more expedient.  And often times the cost of machining natural stone to meet standards of uniformity (from block to block) is too great to make this a viable option for paving systems of most project budgets.


Rubber?... that’s a novelty product not suitable for outdoor applications and not sturdy enough to receive light to medium pedestrian traffic.  For this reason, we’ll take a pass on rubber for this discussion. 


Concrete, on the other hand, is durable, can be finished in many different ways (through different additives, pigments and machining processes).  In addition, concrete is relatively workable (from a manufacturer’s standpoint) so the final price points per square foot are sensible.  Therefore, this article will primarily focus its attention on the concrete variety of pavers.  So let's take a deep dive on the different features available for modern pavers.


Most paver manufacturing companies offer a range of standard colors that are available for each paver type.  They may also offer custom color runs; however, this typically comes with added expense per square foot cost.  

Usually, there are two different types of color composition available for modular concrete products: solid and blended options.  Solid colors offer one type of color throughout the face of the paver.  Blended color options are comprised of several different colors in gradation.  In most cases, this includes a spectrum of light to dark tones (such as greys or natural brown tones).   This provides a range of colors for each unit which is helpful in selecting a color match that will compliment existing features of the landscape, house siding, etc.


It is common for landscape designers to select a combination of colors to provide contrast to the hardscape installation.  Typically, a blended color will be selected for the field pattern that comprises the majority of the patio- with a solid color chosen for the boundary (soldier or sailor course) to help give the installation a pop of color and custom look.  


Offering a wider range in available paver size is arguably one of the most important developments within the industry.  Nowadays, there are a lot more options in paver sizing then the traditional 4" x 8" units that used to dominate the market thirty years ago.  Every major paver manufacturer now offers different sizes which helps to produce unique paver laying patterns and consequently a much less industrial aesthetic.  Some of the most popular paver lines employ several different sized pavers to be laid within the same matrix.  This includes three-piece systems with small, medium and large units (and even four or five-piece systems).

Pavers are also available in oversize options....sometimes measuring up to 24" x 24" and even larger.  These oversize paver options are often referred to as "slabs."  They can be incorporated into laying patterns that also use smaller paver units within the matrix or used in patio installations where only oversized slabs are set in a running bond fashion.  



The most traditional option is a smooth finish on the surface of the paver.  This provides a level surface that is ideal for foot traffic and setting tables/furniture.  Another alternative for the paver surface (or face) is a textured finish.  This effect often mimics the look and feel of natural stone or wood-grain to help provide some dimension and depth to the hardscape surface.  The rock-like texture can be either subtle or more aggressive depending on the design of the particular paver mold.  Keep in mind that the more aggressive texture types may present a challenge in furniture placement (such as movable chairs and tables).  

Another finishing option is 'tumbled.'  The tumbled finish is achieved through an extra mechanical step after the paver has been manufactured.  In this case, the paver units are placed within a machine that tumbles the pieces- breaking off their edges in order to create a rustic or weathered look.  Other post-production mechanical effects include shotblast, burnished and brushed.      


A majority of all pavers are rectilinear or square in shape.  However, there has been recent developments in providing uniquely shaped pavers as a break from the norm.  Some modular, concrete paver systems are designed to look like natural stone with irregular shapes and edges.  One such case is Destination Pavers (from County Concrete) in which there are individual pieces that have unique features but still interlock to one another within a laying pattern.  Another example includes hexagonal shaped pavers such as the Umbriano 'Hex' Paver system (from Unilock).  These paver shapes can be used as insets around unique features of the hardscape or as standalone patterns that comprise the entire field of a given patio or walkway.       


You will never see how thick a paver is once it is you may be wondering, why would paver thickness ever matter?  In actuality, paver thickness is a crucial consideration relative to use.  Especially, for hardscapes that are designed to receive vehicular traffic - this is key.  In order to qualify for driveway and road applications a paver should be around 3" thick.  Thicker pavers prevent axial rotation between the paving stones.  Essentially, this just means that pavers will not rotate if a large amount of weight or force is placed at the joints.  Such rotation and general movement of the paver units could lead to the gravel base settling and eventual system failure.  Conversely, many big box retail stores offer paver options that are exceedingly thin (2" or less in some cases).  A thinner paver may help consumers cut initial costs by saving on material.  However, thinner pavers are prone to cracking, failure and future replacement costs (especially if heavier loads are exerted upon the patio installation).     


This is another facet of paver production that the end user may never notice but is still important to the quality of the outcome of the paver style you choose. Dry Cast Concrete Pavers are manufactured using a unique a specialized compression technology that creates a very dense uniform thickness paver. Wet Cast Concrete Pavers uses a traditional mold with a more liquid concrete that is vibrated and left to cure for quite some time. Wet Cast Pavers take longer to manufacture and are not as uniform in thickness. Which can vary up to more than 1/4" which can make life hard on an installer trying to get as close to perfection as possible.


The first paver products consisted of the same material throughout.  This is commonly known as a 'thrumix' in which the concrete material of the paver is the same from the bottom all the way to the top.  A relatively new innovation has been the development of 'facemix' technology.  Basically, this just means that the top layer of the paver has a different material composition than the bottom portion.  This facemix, or uppermost portion of the paver, is made up of finer aggregate material, additional pigments, polymers and additives.  The result is a paver that showcases a superior quality surface finish at a more reasonable price point.    


The space between pavers is known as the joint and each system is unique based on its relative design.  Most paver systems have pretty similar joint spacing (usually around 1/8").  On the other hand, permeable paver systems are designed with wider joint spacing to help improve the movement of water through the joints/system (ranging between 1/8" and 3/8").  More expansive joint space is typically occupied by joint fill material.  In traditional paver systems, this is usually a polymeric, paver locking sand.  But in permeable paver systems, the joint fill material is instead a crushed, angular chip stone.  The relative size of the chip stone is dependent on the width of the joint space between pavers but is usually between 1/16" and 3/8."  This material allows for maximum infiltration of stormwater by providing pore space between the larger particles. 


Simply put, this is the portion of the paver that you see after installation.  The face of the paver is what you walk on (while the rest of the paver depth and bottom of each individual unit are concealed after project completion).  


Most paver systems include a built in design feature to help channel stormwater flow throughout the hardscape.  In most cases, the top edge of the paver (nearest the joint) includes a bevel or chamfer cut.  This feature is especially helpful in applications where a general slope is applied to the patio or walkway for stormwater conveyance.

Non-chamfered paver units are also available through certain suppliers.  However, they present a challenge in creating cross - slopes that properly convey stormwater.  In addition, these types of pavers are prone to edge chipping if the units are placed too close and they shift through the freeze- thaw cycles.  Therefore, non-chamfered paver units are best suited for extremely flat sites that don't require pitch (such as indoor or rooftop applications).  


This particular design feature relates to relative size and thickness of a given paver unit as well as its relationship to overall strength.  Plainly stated, this is the ratio of a paver's length relative to its thickness, which results in its 'fitness' to carry heavier loads (such as vehicular traffic).  Essentially, the wider and longer a paver is made, then the thicker said paver must be in order to bear such heavy loads as vehicles.         



There are many different options for modern patio pavers and each carries a little different price point so be sure to do your research to find out as much as you can on the actual paver being presented to you by your pool builder or landscaper. Not all pavers are created the same.


If you have questions about a paver for your backyard or your pool deck and need some help Contact Pool Pros today @ 920-771-0107.  Our in house poolscape designer are ready and willing to help you with any of your paver patio needs. When Quality Counts, Count on Pool Pros!



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  • This website contains an abundance of information that has been created over the last decade or more. Some of the content on this site may reflect prices, perspectives, processes, entities, and names that were relevant at the time but may not be as relevant today. Consumers should consult a Pool Pros associate for the most accurate and updated information based on the unique conditions of their property. Consumers should verify specifications with the installing Pool Pros rather than relying on the information on this website, which is not intended to be a final specification.

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