Q&A / 

Concrete Drive vs Pavers

concrete drive vs pavers

This concrete driveway is in good shape albeit the cracks. The owners are debating whether to redo it with concrete or match the paver sidewalk. (C) Copyright 2017 Tim Carter

Concrete Drive vs Pavers TIPS

DEAR TIM: We'd like to replace our driveway. My wife and are debating whether to replace the concrete driveway with another concrete driveway or a concrete paver driveway. I've concerns about the concrete pavers heaving and moving about due to the winter weather in central Ohio.

I also think shoveling the snow on a paver driveway could be frustrating given the number of spaces between pavers. We’ve talked to local contractors and received different opinions. Some say pavers are a problematic choice for our climate. Others say the pitch of our driveway makes concrete a poor option.

What’s your advice to get a great long-lasting job no matter which choice we make? Scott J., Westerville, OH

Concrete Drive vs Pavers Half Truths

DEAR SCOTT: I’m not a betting man, but let me guess. The concrete paver contractor said that the pitch of your driveway would make poured concrete fail. The poured concrete contractor said that pavers are problematic even though he walked across your concrete paver sidewalk to your front door. Am I close?

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Concrete Installation Top Guidelines

It’s hard to make an informed choice when you’re doled out biased information, isn’t it? Your simple driveway decision reminds me of a meeting I attended years ago. It’s relevant and I feel you’ll enjoy it.

I was elected as a councilman in my small village fifteen years ago. Three other new members were swept into office one of them a brilliant attorney I became friends with. He was an expert litigator and somehow we began discussing a situation at a committee meeting.

“A half truth is a whole lie,” he said at one point. That simple statement hit me like a bucket of ice water. The contractors you’re talking to are telling you half truths. I’ve done expert witness work for over fifteen years in construction lawsuits and have been sworn in countless times. When you take an oath before a deposition or in a courtroom there’s a reason you swear to “ ... tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Free & Fast Bids

CLICK HERE  to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local contractors for a new CONCRETE driveway.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local contractors for a new PAVER driveway.

Whole Truth About Poured Concrete & Pavers

For this reason let’s talk about the whole truth concerning poured concrete vs concrete pavers when used as a driveway. It’s important to realize both systems are relying on Portland cement. That’s a good thing. Portland cement is the glue that holds together the sand and gravel in the poured concrete and the concrete pavers. I’ve walked across concrete sidewalks and driveways in Cincinnati, Ohio that look fantastic after seventy, or more, years of exposure to the elements

Another key point is the concrete pavers are made in a controlled environment where they gain maximum strength. Poured concrete ordered from a ready mix plant might not have enough cement in the mix because the contractor wants to save money.

Easy To Ruin Poured Concrete

A point often overlooked is poured concrete can be ruined not only as it’s being installed, but also after the contractor drives away. He may add water to the mix as he’s finishing it and he may not apply a curing compound to slow or stop the evaporation of water from the mix.

concrete drive vs pavers

The surface of the existing concrete is not that bad. There are some pop outs, but this drive might last another 30 years! (C) Copyright 2017 Tim Carter

In other words, if you decide to install poured concrete, you need to make sure the contractor knows exactly how to order, place, finish and cure it. If you want a super-strong poured driveway I’d order it with a 5,000 pound-per-square-inch (PSI) compressive strength. This exceeds the minimum standard of 4,000 PSI.

CLICK HERE  to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local contractors for a new CONCRETE driveway.

CLICK HERE to get FREE & FAST BIDS from local contractors for a new PAVER driveway.

Be sure the slump is no more than 5 inches, don’t allow any water to be added at the job site and apply a curing compound after the concrete is finished. I’d also pour the slab 6 inches thick and have 1/2-inch reinforcing steel in the slab 2 feet on center both directions. Before the pour the steel would look like an empty sheet of graph paper.

Concrete Paver Must-Do List

Concrete pavers can be installed with ease and will not be a problem at all with your cold weather. The most compelling evidence is your front sidewalk. The photo you sent me shows it’s made with concrete pavers and they look in excellent shape. They’re smooth from what I can tell.

On the negative side precast concrete paving bricks fade over time. The ultra-thin coating of colored cement paste wears off exposing the true gray and white color of the sand and stone used to make the pavers. Many homeowners are distressed when this happens.

Compacted Gravel Base Is Key

The key to a smooth strong driveway made with concrete pavers is the compacted gravel base under the pavers. Not only does the soil beneath the drive need to be solid and compacted, but the crushed gravel under the pavers also needs to be well compacted. The gravel is what prevents the pavers from sinking when concentrated loads are placed on the driveway.

Shoveling snow from the driveway will never be an issue if the pavers are installed according to all the written guidelines produced by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute.

Given these points I’d also reach out to the Portland Cement Association. They’re the touchstone for trustworthy information about how concrete driveways should be installed that can last for well over seventy years.

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