Stamped Concrete vs. Pavers & Slabs: Weighing the Pros and Cons
When it comes to redoing a path, patio, or driveway, concrete is the go-to material. Compared to other options, concrete is often the right balance of durability and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, modern products come in a variety of textures and colors to match almost any design.
But are all concrete products created equal?
When choosing a concrete paving solution, many homeowners weigh the pros and cons between stamped concrete and concrete blocks, like pavers and slabs. Since their base material is the same, both options have many similarities but also differences that make them better suited to certain kinds of projects, locations, and designs.
Stamped concrete is a form of concrete that has been imprinted or textured to resemble the pattern of brick, slate, flagstone, stone, tile, wood, or various others. The variety of patterns and color options makes it easy to create a beautiful patio, pool deck, or driveway. Additionally, stamped concrete is typically considered to be an affordable option for concrete projects.
Pavers and Slabs
Paving stones or pavers can be made from all types of material, not just concrete. Some of the popular options are:
- Concrete mixed with aggregate
Pavers are relatively small, thick pieces of concrete, while slabs are larger and thinner. Both can be arranged to elevate outdoor living atmospheres, adding a sense of elegance and beauty. This makes them extremely popular choices for in-ground patios and pathways.
Another option is to purchase interlocking pavers. These paving stones fit together like little puzzle pieces, so there is little space between each tile. Interlocking pavers are a great choice if you want to create a truly eye-catching design. With many styles and colors to choose from, you can find a great match for the look of your home for both driveways and recreational areas!
Concrete slabs are essentially the same as pavers, just quite a bit larger. These are ideal for covering large spaces of land, such as pool decks or large patios, where a sense of scale is important.
1) Patterns and Designs
Concrete doesn’t have to be boring. If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of concrete is something flat and gray, you haven’t looked at modern concrete products.
Both stamped concrete and concrete pavers and slabs come in a wide variety of textures and colors. From granite to marble and even worn lumber, there is a concrete finish available to match the desired look and feel of your project.
✓ Stamped Concrete Pro: It’s Prepared Onsite
One of the advantages of stamped concrete is that it is prepared onsite. This means that the color can be adjusted right up to the moment it is poured. By comparison, pavers and slabs arrive onsite pre-cast and finished, so the color you see can’t be changed.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: No Disrupted Patterns
The downside to stamped concrete is that the final product needs to be cut with control joints to help control future cracking. The location of these joints is determined by the shape and orientation of the whole area, so they may be cut in the middle of a pattern, disrupting the line. By comparison, the seams between individual blocks of pre-cast concrete are already part of their visual appeal.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: Flexible
Plus, pre-cast systems, like interlocking concrete pavers and concrete paving slabs, are inherently flexible, unlike stamped concrete. This flexibility is key to long-term performance in cold regions where concrete is susceptible to freeze-thaw conditions and regions with expansive soils. Stamped concrete is a rigid pavement, so in freeze-thaw conditions and on expansive soils, it can’t move or flex, resulting in unsightly cracks and unevenness.
We recommend that you hire a professional to install either stamped concrete or pre-cast pavers and slabs. For stamped concrete, getting the mix of cement and water right is critical to a finished product that cures properly and doesn’t prematurely bubble or crack. For blocks, a professional will make sure the surface is properly compacted before the blocks are laid.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: No Sealing Needed
Once stamped concrete is cured, you’ll need to have it sealed to protect it from weathering and foreign substances like pool chemicals or road salt, as well as to prevent fading. On the other hand, pavers and slabs are ready to go and don’t need sealing.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: Extremely Strong
In terms of durability, this is where pavers and slabs stand out. Pre-cast pavers and slabs made by Techo-Bloc are nearly three times stronger than poured concrete, with a minimum compressive strength of 8,000 psi and a maximum of 5% water absorption.
This means stamped concrete requires more maintenance to keep it looking nice over the years. It needs to be sealed annually, and even so, the color will fade over time. By comparison, pavers and slabs don’t need more than an occasional sweep and keep their color as they age.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: Better for Weight-Bearing
Stamped concrete isn’t an ideal solution for weight-bearing locations. This is why most contractors suggest pre-cast pavers over stamped concrete for driveways since the weight of the vehicles could crack or break the stamped concrete over time.
This weight-bearing issue is also something to consider if you plan to place heavy objects like large planters on your patio or path. In this case, a pre-cast slab might be a better alternative as heavy objects aren’t a danger to interlocking paver and slab systems. Interlocking systems do an excellent job of handling and distributing the weight of both driving cars and parked cars (moving weight and static weight), while still maintaining strong, uniform flexibility. This ensures longer-term performance and value.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: More Weather-Resistant
Finally, depending on where you’re located, you need to consider how the seasons will affect your concrete. In areas with heavy rains or cold winters, the ground is prone to heaving and expanding, which will accelerate cracking in stamped concrete. Pavers and slabs, with their regular seams between each piece, will withstand these forces better over the long term.
Plus, pre-cast pavers and slabs can be used to build permeable pavements, a benefit stamped concrete doesn’t offer. This means you don’t have to sacrifice style or your overall aesthetics to get the benefits of permeable pavements, which let water pass through them to avoid flooding or pools of water after rain.
4) Repairs and Replacement
If your stamped concrete gets stained or cracks enough that it needs to be repaired, it’s not a simple process. You’ll need to hire a contractor who will either patch the damaged area or cut it out—along with a bigger area around it to keep the finished work clean. Matching the existing concrete with the new patch or repair is tricky because the old area will have faded over time.
✓ Pavers and Slabs Pro: Easy to Replace
By comparison, in the unlikely event that one of your pavers or slabs cracks or gets stained and can’t be cleaned, replacement is as simple as removing the blocks in question and putting new ones in their place. If only one or two pieces need to be replaced, you might even be able to do it yourself. And because they don’t fade, color matching is much easier.
The Key Takeaways: Which Is the Better Choice?
You just absorbed a lot of information, and you’re probably just wishing we could give you a straightforward answer. To summarize, stamped concrete does have some advantages over pavers and slabs – but concrete blocks win when it comes to…
- Pattern consistency
- Ease/speed of installation
- Strength and weight-bearing
- Simple replacements
At Central Home Supply, we tend to recommend pavers and slabs for most projects. You simply cannot beat the consistency and quality of concrete blocks placed with intention and care.
Ready to get started?
If you’re looking for inspiration for your next path, patio, or driveway project, visit Techo-Bloc’s page to see the variety of pavers and slabs available. Whether you want the look of a classic travertine pool deck or sleek modern pavers in a variety of sizes and colors, we have a product to inspire your design.
Also, discover the products that will bring your landscape vision to life in our Landscape Catalog!
Published on: Jul 22, 2021
Updated on: Jan 12, 2022