What’s the Difference? The Cost of Pavers vs. Concrete, Explained
The cost of pavers vs. concrete can be the deciding factor in your choice of material for a driveway or patio. This guide will outline all the differences to help you make a decision.
When it comes to the cost of pavers vs. concrete, there are several factors to think about before making a decision. The first (and, for many, most significant) factor to consider is your budget. If you have a set amount that you can spend on a project that doesn’t leave room for flexibility, it may be tempting to use the cheapest material available. However, it’s also important to think about the long-term consequences of the material you choose and what maintenance it might require in the future.
Generally, the cost of a concrete driveway is less than the cost of pavers for a driveway. But if the driveway sees a lot of wear and tear, major cracks can occur that will call for repairs, which aren’t cheap. The paver driveway cost may be higher up front, but it will be easier to keep it in tip-top shape as time goes on. Likewise, the cost of a concrete patio may be less up front than a paver patio, but the material could show more wear and tear if you’re always entertaining on it. You may also want to consider which type of material would be better for resale value should you decide to sell your home in the future. Each material has its pros and cons, and this guide will break down every cost factor that could arise when you’re deciding between the two.
1. The up-front cost of paving stones is 10 to 15 percent more expensive than concrete.
The initial cost of pavers is higher than concrete. What are pavers, you might ask? Pavers are blocks, stones, or bricks used to cover an outdoor area, such as a driveway or a patio. While individual pavers aren’t expensive, laying pavers is more time- and labor-intensive than pouring concrete. The up-front cost of pavers can run anywhere from $8 to $25 per square foot, while concrete runs about $3 to $6 per square foot. If your budget is on the lower end, concrete may be the best option if you’re looking to complete a home improvement project in the near future—just know that you may eventually need to set aside funds for maintenance and repairs.
2. Poured concrete is the most cost-effective material per square foot, but the price can go up with added colors or patterns.
A basic concrete surface can start at about $3 per square foot, but that price will increase if you start adding accents such as colors or designs. Stamped concrete, for example, is a popular option since it provides a more pleasing aesthetic. It can be made to look like wood or stone at a fraction of the cost of those (often expensive) materials. A basic stamped concrete design can start at $8 per square foot and go up to $20 per square foot for more complex designs. Staining concrete involves adding pigments to transform a plain gray concrete surface into a more exciting and colorful one. Stained concrete costs between $7 and $15 per square foot. Additional enhancements include brushing, painting, stenciling, engraving, or pebbling. Generally, concrete enhancements will add an extra $0.40 to $10 per square foot to the cost of concrete, so the price could be comparable to pavers if you go all out with the customizations.
3. Paving stones are more durable than concrete and can withstand more pressure per square inch.
Whether you use cement pavers or want stone driveway paving, paving bricks and stones are typically stronger than concrete and can hold more weight on the surface before a crack shows up. Most pavers can withstand up to 8,000 psi (pounds per square inch) as opposed to concrete, which can support up to 2,500 psi. (And if you’re wondering about the strength of an asphalt vs. concrete driveway, concrete is the more durable of the two.)
Pavers are also easier and cheaper to repair and replace than concrete. If an individual brick or stone is loose or damaged, you can easily replace it without affecting the rest of the bunch. If you do the repairs yourself, the cost could be as little as $0.50 per paver (or free, if your contractor left you with any remaining pavers). However, if your paver patio has a complex design and several pavers are damaged, you may want to contact a professional to make the repairs.
4. Concrete will require more repairs over time than pavers.
While the less expensive price tag of concrete may seem appealing, it comes with a downside. Concrete slabs for patios, driveways, or other spaces aren’t as durable as pavers and can crack, stain, and shift over time. These changes can also cause drainage issues in your yard, which can result in another hefty bill. Installing a drainage system in your backyard costs an average of $4,000, but the price could go as high as $18,000 if major drainage problems need to be addressed.
A power washer can sometimes do the trick when it comes to stains, but some stains may not disappear altogether. A homeowner’s options would be to live with the stains or replace that section of concrete. Repairing concrete is also more laborious than replacing a few individual pavers since a professional will likely have to tear out a significant portion and pour replacement concrete. This requires more time, materials, and money than repairing a few stones. Small, superficial cracks can be fixed with a synthetic sealant at a cost of $0.10 to $0.15 per linear foot. Minor concrete cracks can cost as little as $300 to repair, but the bill could skyrocket to $3,500 to repair significant damage.
5. Both concrete and pavers require maintenance like cleaning and sealing.
No matter which material you choose, concrete and pavers will both need to be protected to withstand the elements. Over time, UV rays and other elements can fade the look of concrete and pavers, so sealants help protect them from discoloration. After the concrete is poured or pavers are put down, they will need to be sealed to extend their life and keep them looking their best. A wide range of sealants are available, and it’s a job most homeowners can do themselves; however, hiring a professional to do it for you will take less time and ensure the job is done correctly. Sealing pavers or concrete requires special equipment and protective gear to make sure you don’t come in contact with the substance. The good news is that once the driveway or patio is sealed, it will only need to be resealed every few years as added insurance. Concrete and pavers should always be cleaned before they’re resealed. Cleaning and sealing concrete costs about $1.50 per square foot, and cleaning and sealing pavers costs about $2 per square foot.
Seasonal power washing can also benefit both materials even when you’re not resealing. It’s an easy, safe way to remove buildup and debris that have settled on top of your driveway or patio. If you don’t own a power washer, most hardware stores offer them as rentals for a block of time, usually from 4 hours to a day or a week.
6. Pavers and concrete can deliver similar returns on investment—what matters is how they’re used.
If you plan to sell your house in the future, you’re always going to consider the future resale value of your home improvement decisions. Ultimately, what’s most important when choosing between concrete and pavers is how they’re used. A well-maintained concrete patio that’s placed well and complements the rest of the backyard will deliver more value than a paver walkway that’s covered in moss and missing bricks. Similarly, the simple classic design of a paver driveway may provide more value than a stained and stamped concrete driveway that doesn’t blend with the rest of the home’s exterior. Bottom line: If resale value is important to you, small changes to outdoor areas can have a significant impact if they create a better flow or add to the home’s visual appeal.