Stamped concrete and pavers are two of the most popular options for driveways and patios. Both come with pros and cons regarding appearance, cost, and longevity that homeowners should understand. This guide will overview the key differences between stamped concrete and pavers to help you determine which is the best fit for your next outdoor project in Des Moines. We’ll compare the durability, maintenance needs, design flexibility, and long term costs of each material.
Pros and Cons of Stamped Concrete
Stamped concrete becomes patterned and textured to mimic quarry tile, brick, stone, wood planking, and other looks. This versatility makes it popular for driveways and patios. But it has some downsides to weigh.
One downside to stamped concrete is that it can be prone to cracking over time. Concrete naturally cracks as it cures and dries. Additionally, ground movements from freeze/thaw cycles, tree roots, or settling can cause cracks in concrete slabs. Iowa’s cold winters make cracks even more likely to form. To help control cracks, contractors make planned cuts in the concrete called control joints.
But these joints interrupt the look of stamping patterns. And uncontrolled cracks still happen, meaning an unsightly patch job. Cracks are mostly a cosmetic defect, but they can become tripping hazards if concrete sections sink or move apart. Repairing concrete cracking is difficult, often necessitating replacing entire slabs. So while stamped concrete starts cheaper, ongoing crack repairs can add up over time.
Limited color/style options
Another downside of stamped concrete is that color and pattern options are rather limited compared to pavers. Basically, you get a gray concrete base that can be stained with some color integrated during pouring. But the hue often fades unevenly. And intricate stone or brick looks can’t be mimicked as realistically as with modular pavers. The customization is fairly basic.
Lower cost, especially for larger areas
On the plus side, stamped concrete does come at a lower upfront cost than pavers or other stone work. If planning a sizable driveway, patio, or pool deck, the savings add up quickly over other options. Stamped concrete runs $8-$12 per square foot on average. While pricing fluctuates based on pattern complexity, size of the job, and preparatory work needed, it remains more affordable than pavers for larger spaces.
Ease of maintenance
Long term, stamped concrete is relatively easy to maintain as well. Really it comes down to occasional cleaning to prevent build up and stains, as well as reapplying a protective sealer every 1-3 years. The sealer enhances the color and finish. As long as freeze-thaw cycles don’t cause extensive cracking issues, stamped concrete upkeep is straightforward for homeowners compared to dealing with re-sanding joints between pavers. You can power wash and seal stamped concrete yourself rather simply.
Pros and Cons of Pavers
Pavers offer wider design flexibility and long-term durability compared to stamped concrete. But they come with some extra upkeep considerations to factor in as well.
Wider variety of textures, shapes, colors available
Unlike plain gray concrete, pavers now come in a vast array of styles. From tumbled stone shapes to intricate brick patterns, the modular nature of pavers means endless custom looks. Mix different colors and textures to create borders, accents, and patterns like herringbone. Concrete pavers also resist fading and wear better than stamped concrete dye. Drab concrete inevitably shows age, while pavers retain their vibrant palette. With so many sizes, textures, and colors, it’s easier to match existing structures or complement landscaping with pavers.
Individual bricks moved/replaced if settling
Properly installed on a quality base, pavers withstand freezing, thawing, and rain better than poured concrete. But if some pavers sink deeper or crack from tree roots over time, they can be pulled up and replaced individually without affecting nearby units. So unlike a concrete slab developing cracks or uneven spots necessitating a full replacement, pavers allow simple spot repairs. Just swap in new units as needed for an even surface.
Higher upfront cost but long term value
On average, pavers run $7-$20 per square foot including professional installation and base preparation. Over 2-3 times the upfront cost of basic stamped concrete. But unlike stamped concrete inevitably requiring repairs, pavers retain their durability for decades with minimal maintenance. Their longevity, custom aesthetics, and damage resistance mean excellent resale value for homes. Pay more now, but pavers add curb appeal and long-term savings.
Re-sanding joints needed periodically
The one regular maintenance aspect of pavers is occasionally re-sanding the joints. Joint sand prevents weeds or grass from sprouting between pavers. But rain and snow will erode the sand over time. Every few years, more sand should be swept and pressed into joints to refresh things. It’s relatively simple for DIYers, or contractors can perform this maintenance affordably.
Key Factors to Consider
When deciding between installing a new stamped concrete or paver patio, walkway, or driveway, there are a few important considerations to weigh for your home.
Climate concerns like freeze-thaw cycles
Iowa’s cold winters, with repeated freeze/thaw cycles, take a toll on outdoor surfaces. Concrete expands and contracts with temperature swings, leading to cracks over time. Pavers allow slight movements with less cracking. If your property sees a lot of shade/ice buildup or drastic temperature shifts, pavers hold up better. But in more sheltered, stable microclimates, stamped concrete may suffice. Evaluate your lot’s exact conditions.
Stamped concrete runs just $8-$12 per square foot installed, while pavers range from $7-$20 per square foot. Upfront cost savings drive many homeowners to concrete. But pavers offer better long term value and fewer repairs. Set a patio budget beforehand to see if low-maintenance pavers can fit within your finances for superior durability.
If a gray concrete surface suits your needs, stamped concrete works fine. But for tons of colors, intricate designs, and custom accents, pavers provide far more flexibility. Choose pavers if matching existing architecture details or complementing landscaping colors matters. Their appearance holds up better over decades too.
Long term upkeep
Pavers demand periodic re-sanding of joints to prevent weed growth – the main extra maintenance aspect compared to concrete. But stamped concrete inevitably sustains some cracking and color fading as it ages. This requires repairs and heavy cleaning/resealing to keep it looking decent. Evaluate which long term upkeep tasks fit your DIY comfort level.
Which is Best for Your Home?
When choosing between stamped concrete and pavers, start by honestly assessing your climate and property. Concrete lasts longer in sheltered, stable areas. But in zones with abundant shade, trees, poor drainage, or extreme freeze/thaw cycles, pavers resist cracking better.
Also weigh how much design flexibility matters visually to curb appeal and architecture cohesion. Pavers offer far more variety to complement landscaping or structures. Budget is a practical limitation too – pavers cost more initially.
If climate resiliency, aesthetics, and long term durability edge out budget concerns for you, interlocking pavers make the best investment for Iowa living. Well-installed pavers grace homes for generations. But if concrete suits your basic design needs, a sheltered back patio may hold up fine at a smaller scale for the cost savings. Get professional guidance tailored to your property too.
In summary, while stamped concrete costs less initially, interlocking pavers better withstand Iowa’s dramatic temperature swings and offer superior customization. Assess your budget, design tastes, and property conditions. Many homeowners find pavers the wiser long-term investment. For help determining which material best suits your next walkway, patio, or driveway project, contact our team with any questions!