Whenever working with clients during the planning and design phase of their landscape design, the question of which hardscape material is best often gets asked. This question is a great one because often times with residential projects, the hardscaping—that is the construction of the walkways, patios, retaining walls, or pool decks—is a large portion of the overall costs involved. Two very popular choices for hardscaping today are stamped concrete and interlocking concrete pavers. Here, we take a look at the two systems and their performance in the freeze/thaw climates of Dutchess County and the Hudson Valley.
There is an old (and true) saying that goes "there are two kinds of concrete…concrete that’s cracked and concrete that’s going to crack.” Here in the Northeast, our harsh winters and warm summer’s make this saying resonate even more. Just as you will see with concrete sidewalks along the street side in towns like Fishkill, Hopewell Junction, LaGrangeville, and Poughkeepsie, concrete requires expansion joints—you know, the “cracks” you avoid as kids for fun—as a tool for controlling this inevitable cracking. The theory goes that the cracks will happen in these weakened parts of the sidewalk, not randomly throughout. While this certainly helps, it does not solve the problem completely.
The use of interlocking pavers does, however.
Because of the very segmental nature of the paver system, walkways and patios are safe from cracking during the freeze/thaw cycle. The free-floating system allows for flexibility as temperatures and conditions change, allowing the pavers to “move” ever so slightly, as opposed to cracking like stamped concrete. Related: 3 Beautiful Driveway Makeover Tips.
For peace of mind, selecting concrete pavers for your hardscaping comes with the added major bonus of manufacturers warranties. Most major manufacturers of pavers like Unilock, Techo-Bloc, and Cambridge all come from the factory with a transferable lifetime warranty covering the structural performance of the product. Poured concrete that is decoratively stamped and colored, unfortunately, does not. Combine this impressive manufacturer warranty with Harmony Hill Landscaping’s installation guarantee, and you have yourself a very reliable system for your home’s sidewalks, patios, and pool decks.
Stamped concrete can be very beautiful when completed with the highest skill and craftsmanship. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of companies that offer this level of expertise. The major problem with stamped concrete though, is that even when it’s beautifully installed, the system still needs those expansion joints, or cracks, that we explained above. So here you are walking along a nicely patterned walkway or patio, and bam! A huge, ugly crack goes the whole way across the surface.
Concrete pavers come in an ever-growing number of colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. This choice allows for endless design options that landscape contractors can use to ensure the hardscape matches a home’s style and architecture perfectly. At Harmony Hill Landscaping, we believe that interlocking concrete pavers offer the best look in landscaping today. The best part? There’s no need to interrupt the beautiful flow of paver patterns with unsightly expansion joints!
When it comes to maintaining a stamped concrete patio or walkway, there are many challenges. The first being the necessity of regular sealing every 2-3 years. The sealing products can be very harsh and applying them is not a small job by any means. The second challenge concerns the repairing and patching of a crack or damaged section. Because concrete is uncontrollable in the field in terms of color, the repaired patch will never match the rest of the hardscape, creating an eyesore for the life of the structure. And remember, stamped concrete will crack—it’s just a matter of when and where!
Pavers very, very rarely crack once installed properly. In the super unlikely event that something extremely heavy hits and cracks a few, it is easy to remove and replace just those pavers that were broken. With the ability to swap a few pavers here and there, no one will ever know there was a problem spot at all. As for sealing? No need to do any of that unless you choose to! There are many paver sealers on the market today in a variety of finishes, but these are purely for aesthetics. Pavers do not require regular sealing or regular maintenance of any kind other than keeping them clean.
Because of the climate here in Dutchess County and the greater Hudson Valley, concrete pavers are a great choice for patios, walkways, and poolscapes due to their ability to flex with the freeze/thaw cycle. The beauty, performance, extra warranties, and the bonus of having a maintenance-free system, well those are all bonuses that make the choice of pavers even easier.