WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STAMPED CONCRETE AND PAVERS?
Stamped concrete and paver driveways are upscale options that make the drive more than just functional – these materials add curb appeal and can increase the resale value of your home when they are a good fit for the neighborhood – you won’t get a good return on your investment where homes mostly have asphalt and plain concrete driveways.
The core material is often the same – pavers are typically made from concrete, though clay brick pavers are common too. Genuine stone pavers are rarer and can cost up to $30 or more per square foot installed.
Pavers come in an impressive spectrum of colors, shapes and sizes, so you’ll enjoy selecting the right “look” to fit your home’s architecture and style.
Concrete by itself is dull – but it can be stamped to look like many paver types or cut stone. Adding colorant or acid-staining the surface during the process enhances the visual appeal.
The biggest difference is that concrete is poured and forms a continuous hardscape, even though the stamping makes it look like it is comprised of individual pieces. This generally means significantly lower installation labor costs than what is charged to place each paver separately.
The downside is that the continuous surface of a concrete driveway can create issues with runoff and erosion from heavy rains. It might pool and freeze in low spots too. Water is able to drain through the gaps between pavers, eliminating these issues. And if significant cracking or settling occurs, replacing a large section of concrete is quite costly. Matching the appearance of the new section to the remaining driveway is very difficult.
WHAT IS STAMPED CONCRETE?
Simply put, a stamped concrete driveway is poured concrete that is allowed to partially harden and then is stamped to create a design in the surface.
Most often, the stamps create the look of pavers, bricks, flagstone or other type of individual pieces.
Related Reading: Cost to Install a Flagstone Patio
WHAT ARE DRIVEWAY PAVERS?
As noted, pavers can be concrete, clay brick or cut natural stone.
Your widest selection of pavers includes those manufactured with concrete. They are produced in many shapes including interlocking designs. Colorant is used to give the pavers the look of genuine stone, such as slate or granite, or clay brick.
COST OF STAMPED CONCRETE VS PAVERS
If you’ve read our driveway guides then you’ll already know concrete and pavers are the two top choices for homeowners looking to install or replace their driveway. Concrete driveways can be stamped to resemble paver driveways so which option offers the best value for money?
Any product’s cost value compared with another can be determined with this equation:
- Initial cost + maintenance + repair costs / how long the product lasts = value
When plugging in data about stamped concrete vs pavers cost, an objective monetary value can be arrived at.
LABOR COST DIFFERENCES
These handsome driveway choices are among your more expensive driveway options, costing significantly more than gravel, asphalt and plain concrete. The preparation required for these two driveway types is basically the same. For new driveways, the path is excavated and aggregate materials are used to form a base at a cost of about $2.00 per square foot.
Here are stamped concrete and paver driveway costs just for the final material and installation:
- Stamped concrete driveway costs: $10.50 to $18.00+ per square foot
- Paver driveway costs: $9.50 to $25.00 per square foot
In the stamped concrete cost spectrum above, the price rises with stronger concrete, a more complex stamping pattern and the addition of tinting or acid staining. Prices can exceed $18 if acid staining or multiple colors are included.
For the paver cost spectrum, the price rises with the type and quality of the pavers and the complexity of the installation design. Prices always go higher above $25 per sq/ft with complex jobs and intricate designs.
MAINTENANCE COST DIFFERENCES
Stamped concrete must be sealed; for paver stones, sealing is a recommended option. Sealer makes both concrete and pavers resistant to dirt and stains.
The frequency of sealing is about every 3 years. The concrete or pavers should be power washed first. Some homeowners have their driveway power washed on an annual basis, even if they don’t also have it sealed.
- Concrete (mandatory) and paver stone (optional) power washing and sealing: $1.75-$3.25 per square foot
- Power washing alone: $0.33-$0.75 per square foot
- Average cost for the combined services: $2.25 per square foot
REPAIR COST DIFFERENCES
Driveway repair is where costs vary quite a bit and the value difference becomes clear.
The most common repair need for paver driveways is to remove and replace the infrequent cracked paver. Professional installers charge a minimum fee of $50 to $150 for the first hour of work. In that time, 5 to 10 pavers can be replaced. Because of the minimum fee, many homeowners do the repair themselves, live with a few cracked pavers or wait until there are several in need of repair before calling a pro.
Concrete is prone to cracking, and cracks must be filled or else they will grow quickly. Crack repair can be included in the sealing cost or done on an individual basis. When cracks are numerous and large, an entire section of concrete might need to be replaced.
- Stamped concrete crack repair when included with sealing: $0.75-$1.50 per square foot
- Individual crack repair: $2-$5 per linear foot based on the severity of the crack and material used to repair it
- Concrete section removal and replacement: $10-$15 per square foot
A stamped concrete driveway starts with concrete poured into a bed that has been prepared with the right materials and framed. Base materials include sand, small stone and gravel depending on site conditions and what is locally available.
When the poured concrete has hardened to the point of being firm but still workable, stamps are used to press a design into the top quarter inch to half inch of material. Expansion joints are typically cut too. They might be straight of follow the pattern of the stamping to be less noticeable.
If the stamped concrete will be acid stained to give it the look of genuine stone, it should cure for a minimum of 28 days – often up to 60 days are recommended based on weather conditions.
For a paver driveway, a bed is prepared using gravel, pea stone or similar material. And the pavers are placed on top of the bed within a framed space. Design options are unlimited, and the more complex they are, the higher the labor costs. For example, a driveway made of straight rows, perhaps with a border of pavers of a different size or laid in a contrasting direction, will cost less than one that includes circular or spiral designs.
When the design creates large gaps between pavers, a new paver is cut in a shape to fill the gap. Small gaps are filled with fine stone poured onto the pavers and broomed into the gaps.
MAINTENANCE – WHAT’S INVOLVED
Let’s start with stamped concrete.
Cleaning requires occasional power washing. The stamped grooves are ideal places for dirt to accumulate, and brooming the driveway won’t remove it all. Without cleaning, the dirt can stain the grooves and allow algae and moss growth.
Cracks must be filled pronto. Allowing cracks to persist through a winter where freezing temperatures happen will make them worse in a hurry. Water freezes and expands in the cracks, widening them, and the cycle repeats. Fill cracks with a concrete crack caulk that will expand and contract (i.e., elastomeric) with changes in temperature.
Sunken sections can be raised, using a technique called mud jacking, or replaced. But an ounce of prevention here – by hiring an experienced installer that knows how to properly prepare the bed to eliminate sunken areas – is worth at least a pound of cure.
Maintenance of a paver driveway is a little different.
Cleaning involves getting debris out of the gaps to prevent the growth of weeds, algae and moss. Herbicide can do that, but it’s wise to choose an eco-friendly product, if you can find one. Occasional power washing will remove debris and restore the original vibrancy of the color.
Individual broken pavers can be dug out and replaced with eased compared with concrete replacement.
Sunken areas, caused by washing out of the bed beneath the pavers, will worsen if not addressed. The pavers in the area are removed, and the bed is filled and compressed until it is level with the surrounding bed. Then the pavers are placed in the repaired bed.
ROI – WHAT IS THE RESALE VALUE?
Pavers have a slightly higher resale value because they are considered a bit more high-end and they last longer. The ROI is definitely higher for pavers vs a stamped concrete driveway with significant visible cracks.
Keep either type in excellent condition for maximum resale value.
Just keep neighborhood norms in mind. If you’ll have the only stamped concrete or paver driveway on the block, and that’s your preference, then go for it. But the ROI will be negligible when surrounding homes have driveways constructed of less costly materials.
LIFE EXPECTANCY FOR STAMPED CONCRETE VS PAVER DRIVEWAYS
Stamped concrete driveways start showing their age in 20-30 years. Let’s use 25 years as an average lifespan.
Paver stone is the most durable type of driveway commonly installed. There are paver driveways 50+ years old in good condition, though 40 years is a useful average.
THE VERDICT: PAVER DRIVEWAYS ARE BETTER VALUE THAN STAMPED CONCRETE DRIVEWAYS
When maintenance is done every three years, the lifetime cost is $18/sf for a 25-year stamped concrete driveway and $27/sf for a 40-year paver stone driveway. Here are the cost equations:
- Stamped concrete: Initial cost ($10.50-$18) + lifetime maintenance cost ($18) / 25 years = $1.14 to $1.44 per square foot lifetime cost
- Pavers: Initial cost ($9.50 to $16.25) + lifetime maintenance cost ($18) / 40 years = $0.69 to $0.86 per square foot lifetime cost
The variable we left out is repair, because the cost of paver driveway repair is so small relative to the cost of concrete driveway repair.
In years 10-25 of a concrete driveway, you’ll probably spend the equivalent of 15 to 25 percent of your initial cost on repairs, boosting the lifetime cost to $1.20 to $1.62 per square foot.
After about age 25, the deterioration rate and repair costs can speed up quickly until replacing the driveway is the cost-effective option.
The bottom line is that the lifetime cost of paver driveways is approximately 57 to 60 percent of the cost of stamped concrete driveways.