Thursday, August 17, 2017  

Stepping Stones  

Do you want to make your yard look its best and you’re not sure what to do? Do you want to add that special something to make your landscape “pop” but you are at a creative dead end? Well, why not install pavers? Pavers have many excellent uses in your yard, such as creating a customized patio or entertaining area, pool surrounds, a special path that meanders through your property, or you can even upgrade your driveway—these are just a few ideas. Pavers are very versatile, easy to maintain, easy to repair, and they can define your space or add contrast to your flowerbeds or lush lawn. Many pavers also have lifetime warranties. Several types of pavers are environmentally friendly and some are even made from recycled materials. The choices are endless.

Pavers come in all shapes, sizes and colors which allow them to complement your outdoor living space, landscape, or driveway, in addition to adding value to your home. Installed properly and using the right materials can make pavers blend into your environment. There is also a wide variety of textures and patterns. Your options are limitless. Whether you are searching for a custom design, or a traditional, modern or rustic style for your outdoor space, there are materials and paver application options to meet all of your needs.

There are two types of pavers: interlocking and architectural. Interlocking pavers, of course, lock together and create strong support. They are more suited for driveways than architectural slabs, but some can also create water runoff that aids in pollution. They also lack a natural look. Architectural pavers create a more aesthetic feel and look to your property. They are thinner than interlocking pavers and also do no provide the locking “strength.” Therefore, they are not suitable for driveways or heavy traffic. This type of paver also may be more sensitive to freezing and thawing damage.

There are pavers made from brick, stone, flagstone, fieldstone, cobblestone, sandstone, granite, concrete, rubber, and much more. Choosing the type of paver to install depends on several factors. You always want to choose a material that looks natural in your environment and blends in with your landscaping. Cost is also a factor, as well as what the pavers will be used for. Some pavers are not made for driveways because they cannot withstand the weight of vehicles, but they would be perfect for patios or pathways. Depending on where you live, you need to factor in that some pavers can be damaged due to freezing and thawing temperatures. Then there is the environmental element. If you are concerned about water runoff, which most homeowners are nowadays, then you should be looking at permeable pavers.

Permeable pavers are the most ecologically friendly because they deter rain/snow runoff. The water is filtered through the joints, which are comprised of sand or small stones, into the layers of sand and crushed stone beneath and absorbed back into the ground, free of the pollutants that were filtered out in the process. This process, of course, reduces the amount of water washing into storm drains and bodies of water everywhere. Therefore permeable pavers prevent puddles, standing water, soil erosion and help reduce our impact on the environment. This is the most environmentally friendly type of paver. These green pavers are very durable and low maintenance. To keep them looking as good as new they just need occasional sweeping and rinsing with a waterhose. They can be used for driveways, patios, pool surrounds, walkways and so much more. Permeable pavers can sustain their quality and beauty in all climates and provide years of protection to your landscaping. Unlike other paver materials, permeable pavers have the ability to expand and contract with the changing temperatures to prevent cracking and damage.

There are other green paver choices. Some common green pavers are made from recycled products. One less common recycled paver is made of rubber. This kind of paver made from rubber, such as tires, comes in a variety of colors. These pavers can be used indoor and out and are relatively soft. They resist extreme temperatures, will not freeze in the winter and stay cool in the summer. These rubber pavers are great for childcare facilities, children’s play areas and even nursing homes because of their softer surface.

There are also green pavers that are non-intrusive to the surrounding environment in which they are installed. One type would be clay brick pavers. These are traditional looking pavers that are made from the earth’s natural clay. Clay brick pavers are set materials that enable them to move and shift with the landscape, thus reducing cracks and also filtering water runoff and enabling it to seep back into the soil instead of being washed into sewer drains, creeks and rivers. These pavers are about as green as it gets.

The most popular type of pavers are concrete. Most likely because this type of paver is less expensive than true brick or stone and can give the same appearance for those on a budget. Concrete pavers are made from cement, water, sand and gravel with different degrees of texture and durability depending on the ratios to which those ingredients are used to make them. These pavers are fairly easy to maintain, just needing to be swept and weeded. As for any pavers, stains and mildew must be scrubbed away.

You must consider several factors when thinking about whether concrete pavers are the right choice for your need. Most concrete pavers have flat bottoms and come in identical sizes, meaning that they are easier to install than natural stone. They also move independently in a freeze/thaw climate, unlike asphalt or poured concrete that can possibly crack in freezing weather or from growing tree roots. Pavers that meet the minimal water absorbency standards can survive freezing conditions. Surface wear on pavers can change their color and appearance. There is an added layer on top of faced pavers to prevent wear, but of course, that makes them more expensive. Stains are easily absorbed by concrete pavers, especially oil, so stains require the use of a pressure washer and/or some major cleaning or even replacement. There are sealers that can be applied to pavers. The only drawback is that they have to be reapplied every couple of years. So this is an added cost that continues to build and you should think of that when considering your options.

You can hire a professional to install your pavers. When hiring a professional, make sure you find one with experience and knowledge about landscaping and paver installation. Always ask to see previous work and make sure you talk to former clients to determine if the contractor finished on time, stayed within budget and if the client is satisfied with the outcome. Ask what they would have done differently. References are a must and you should ask to see the contractors’ portfolio on other jobs. You should also check to make sure that your contractor is licensed and insured. A professional can be a huge asset in helping you find the perfect paver for your type of job.

To seal or not to seal—that will be your next decision. Pavers will be just fine without a sealer though, depending on the environment, you may want a sealer to protect against certain stains. Sealers will also protect your beautiful new pavers against mold, loose sand joints, weeds and ant colonies. Sealers are a must around pools to prevent the sand from entering the pool pump. Sealers are easy to apply and are simply sprayed onto the pavers with a simple garden sprayer.

Repairing a damaged or stained paver is the greatest advantage to installing pavers against regular asphalt or poured concrete. You just remove the damaged paver and install a new one. The easiest way to replace a paver is to scrape out the joints with a putty knife or trowel, then wet the joints and wedge two screwdrivers into the short ends. Then just wiggle and pull on the paver until you can remove it. If the paver won’t budge, break it and remove it in pieces. Then once you are sure the bottom is level and neat, you just drop in a new paver, add mason’s sand to the joints, wet them to pack better, and once filled, you are done.

All in all, pavers are an excellent option to add value to your property and durability to outside living areas, landscaping and much more. There is a paver material for your every need and they come in every shape, size and color you could imagine, so anything you envision for your outdoor environment is possible. The fact that there are so many pavers that are green and earth friendly is just an added bonus.  

Special thanks to Blake Slusser for contributing to this article.

By Melissa Cleaton Shearwood