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Brick Pavers Fading

Brick Pavers Fading

Brick Pavers Fading | This is my own front sidewalk. The brick pavers are fading. The brick I’m pointing to is sitting on top of the others. It’s original and has never exposed to the weather. Look at what happens after twenty years! Copyright 2021 Tim Carter

Brick Pavers Fading - You Can't Stop It

QUESTION: Tim, I have a big decision to make and need your help. I love the look of colored brick for paving including my driveway, sidewalks, and patio. The issue is I’ve started to pay attention to older installations of colored concrete paving brick and many look faded.

Why is that happening? Some look horrible, especially at a restaurant I patronize. I don’t want my investment to look faded in a few years. Do I have alternatives and is there a way to restore the color of faded concrete brick pavers? Mary Chris F., Tampa, FL

Do you have the same concerns about concrete paving brick as does Mary Chris? They’re valid because brick pavers fading is a massive problem all across the USA. It’s so big, there’s a service industry that’s sprouted up to do color restoration in communities that have acres of concrete paving brick at both homes and businesses.

Man Shoveling

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Do All Concrete Paving Bricks Fade?

I clearly remember when these magic colored concrete paving brick took the home-building and remodeling industry by storm. It was the early 1980s. The first custom home I built had them specified for the driveway and front sidewalk.

I recall having a conversation with the homeowner about them and I went on record saying there would be no less than two problems. I did predict the color-fade issue and the second one was an ongoing battle he’d have with moles that decided to tunnel in the sand under the brick pavers. Both nightmares came true. The homeowner grew increasingly frustrated with the concrete brick pavers.

Do You Have Faded Concrete Paving Brick?

The current home I live in has these colored concrete pavers. They comprise my front and rear sidewalks. I didn’t build the house I currently live in and if I were intending to stay here, I can tell you I’d rip them out and replace them with clay paving brick faster than ants show up for a summer picnic.

Why Do Concrete Paving Brick Fade?

The reason concrete brick pavers fade is simple. The manufacturers add dry-shake pigments to the sand, small gravel, Portland cement, and water used to create the brick. This pigment has the consistency of flour and just like the Portland cement, it coats the surfaces of the sand and gravel. This is why new concrete paving brick has a deep color to it as if each brick were coated with an ultra-thin layer of colored icing.

matching mortar brick close up

You can clearly see the colored sand grains in this high-resolution photo. Note how the mortar in this photo is a much darker gray than the white brick photo above. Photo credit: Tim Carter 2021

Why Does New Brick Mortar Look One Color?

This same phenomenon is why homeowners complain after brick is tuckpointed with new mortar. The new mortar rarely matches the old mortar just inches away. All of the sand in the new mortar is coated with the cement paste which produces a solid monotone color. Look closely at old mortar and you’ll observe the color you see is made up of the different colored grains of sand and the fine mortar paste between the sand!

When Does Concrete Paving Brick Start to Fade?

The trouble with colored concrete paving brick starts early on as both foot and vehicle traffic start to erode the colored cement paste that’s thinner than a sheet of paper. When this happens, you start to see the color of the different grains of sand in the brick. This is very subtle, it happens slowly, and you rarely recognize it at first.

Next up, the fine sand at the surface of the brick starts to erode from more traffic. This wear is accelerated if you make the mistake and clean the concrete brick with a pressure washer. This is undoubtedly happening at the restaurant Mary Chris eats at. They probably clean that outdoor brick each week after hours to clean off food spills and to simply keep it clean.

mortar on brick

See how the fresh mortar is solid gray? That's because the fine cement paste has coated the sand. Mortar is smeared on the brick. It is not that hard to remove if it is thin. ©2021 Tim Carter

Do Pressure Washers Ruin Paving Brick?

This high-pressure blast of water soon exposes larger pieces of stone and aggregate in the concrete brick. These stones can be quite different in color than the actual dry pigments used to color the brick. In my case, the stones used in my brick are very light and almost white when the original brick color was a medium brown.

Can You Stain Concrete Paving Brick?

There are different oil and water-based stains you can periodically apply to make the concrete paving brick look better. Clear wet-look sealers are also available. The clear sealers don’t do anything to mask the color of the exposed stone chips, but they do enrich the dry pigments in the cement paste between the sand and stone at the surface. Keep in mind you have to apply these products on a routine basis if you want the brick to look their best.

Does Clay Paving Brick Fade?

The better alternative, in my opinion, is to use traditional clay paving brick. These brick don’t change color as the color is solid all the way through the brick. I’ve installed thousands of these brick at my past homes and they look as good 40 years later as the day I installed them.

patio brick pavers mortar

This patio was built with traditional clay brick pavers. They could have been set in sand, but laying them in mortar creates a traditional look and feel. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter 2021

Are Clay Paving Brick Durable?

Clay paving brick are also very durable. You can visit towns and cities all across the USA where clay paving brick have been used for city streets. Athens, Ohio comes to mind as they have sections of brick street surfaces well over 100 years old that are in amazing condition.

How Do You Install Clay Paving Brick?

You can install clay paving brick the same way you install concrete paving brick by setting them on a compacted gravel base that has a sand setting bed under the brick. I prefer to mortar the clay paving brick to a steel-reinforced concrete slab so the brick never move and I don’t track sand into my house. Read my column about opens in a new windowinstalling clay paving brick for details.

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