WAR: Pavers vs. Stamped Concrete

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by JimLewis, Apr 8, 2009.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    Well, first of all, I should note that pavers are HOT HOT HOT this year. I've never seen more requests for paver jobs in all my life. I don't know if that's because we now have a lot more photos of our paver work on our website or just because it's getting more popular in general or maybe because the variety of pavers these days are a lot nicer than what used to be available. I tend to think it's a mixture of the last two, but requests for paver jobs are the #1 thing we get these days. It's crazy.

    Anyway, I was giving a bid last night and was reminded of something I come across fairly regularly; A customer is looking for a new patio for their back yard. They are considering pavers or stamped concrete. And someone has already come by and tried to talk them out of pavers and got them all excited about stamped concrete. So now they are leaning toward stamped concrete and asking me if I do that (no, we don't). So now I am in the position of talking them into pavers, so we'll get the job.

    The customer asks me what I think of stamped concrete and tells me they really like the look of it and are leaning that way. So I tell them, "Well, I really like the look of a good stamped concrete job too. Concrete has come a long ways in recent years. But some of the same problems remain....." Then we get into a discussion of concrete's weaknesses. I mention things like cracking. My paver rep. always says, "There are two types of concrete: Cracked Concrete - and - 'Gonna Crack' Concrete". So sometimes I'll use that line. I also discuss how the stamped concrete makes a nice facade of rock or tile or whatever - until you get to the control joints. Then that always kind of ruins the facade. I mention that it's difficult to add on to and impossible to fix if it cracks or settles. All these problems are things that pavers don't have.

    Then I start to sell them on the strengths of pavers. First, I show them some of the new varieties out there (Arbel by Belgard, Venetian by Pavestone, etc.) just to show them how far pavers have come in recent years. I find a lot of people still have the old-school home depot interlocking pavers in their head. So I update that image in their head with some photos of newer paver products and jobs. Then I discuss the benefits of pavers; doesn't crack, easy to add on to, easy to fix if something like tree roots cause part of the patio to rise, no big control joints, etc.

    Finally, I try to address any concerns with them. Seems the two most common concern is with weeds growing in the joints and with settling. They've seen paver patios that have settled and look all warbly and seen pavers with lots of weeds in the joints. I explain we use a polymeric sand that doesn't leave anything soft in the joints to grow in and I explain how those paver patios they've seen were not installed by someone who knows how to prepare the base properly and then I point out several large complexes around town they know that have had pavers for years and they still hold up like the day they were installed.

    Anyway, seems like I am in a constant war with these Stamped Concrete contractors. Seems they don't do pavers so they just bad-mouth them. And then I am in a defacto war against them trying to explain why their product has some concerns and trying to defend pavers.

    Just something I've seen over and over again. I've actually landed a lot of bids this way - talking people out of stamped. But there are times I never hear back too and I assume they went with the stamped anyway.

    Anyone notice the same thing when you are out giving bids?
  2. dougaustreim

    dougaustreim LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 488

    I fight this same battle all the time. We were able to switch a job from stamped to pavers last year at a new research part. The project had a truck run over slab around the inside of a turnabout. It took awhile to convince them that the pavers were actually stronger than concrete, but in the end they went with the pavers. Probably the biggest determiner was the fact that if a truck did run over and cause damage, the pavers would be a whole lot easier to repair. I also point out to people that most stamped concrete is made to look like pavers, so why not have pavers. The PSI of most pavers is double that of poured concrete. Also stamped concrete is quite expensive in this area, so cost wise, pavers usually aren't that much higher

    One of the biggest sellers of all for us, though is for backyard patios is the minimal amount of damage to the rest of the landscaping that we cause. Every concrete contractor will run a skidloader around the house multiple times. Unless it is absolutely necessary, we use wheelbarrows in those situations and minimize the extra damage. Better to pay a little more for the patio than have to pay us to come and fix the yard after the concrete guys are gone.
  3. Bru75

    Bru75 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 585

    The problem in my area is all concrete, not just stamped. The builders automatically pour concrete walkways because that is what they are used to and they can do it cheap. Most homeowners are not familiar enough with pavers to understand the system, so they don't trust it.
    Almost every first visit with a potential customer involves an education session about the benefits of concrete pavers vs. poured. Some people still won't believe it and go with poured concrete anyway.
    One lady told me about her neighbors paver patio and how it was "coming apart". I asked her if she knew who built it, and she said "I think they did it themselves". That pretty much explains the problem.
    I was there to talk about replacing her 50 year old concrete walkway that was cracked to pieces, and she still wouldn't believe me.
    It seems to be getting better, though, as more pavers are being installed and people see the results.
  4. neighborguy

    neighborguy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 186

    I see the same battle all the time. Most of the time it boils down to cost. People believe that concrete and stamped concrete are always the cheapest. Most of the time it is cheaper than a decent paver patio. I explain that the pavers do have a higher up front cost but long run when the time comes to repair (in northern climates everything will move eventually) it is not unusual to pull up the pavers; repair base; and relay the patio. you may have to introduce a new border to compensate for broken pavers or a change in pattern but it can look awesome.

    I usually bring it back to the cracking aspect and point out that every intersection of a paver patio is acing as a control joint. We did one stamped concrete job last year (we form it up and sub out the finish stuff) and I agree that the coloring looks good but as Jim said the control joints ruin the whole effect. A slab of concrete is a slab of concrete I don't care what the top looks like, it will crack.
  5. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,417

    The market for stamed is growing, thanks to the recession.

    #1. It's usually less costly (in most cases)

    #2. Many concrete contractors have always had builders FEED them with work EVERY DAY. Well, now builders are slow, therefore the concrete guys don't have anything to do. And in turn, they're advertising / marketing stamped patios.

    About twice a week people ask me about stamped. I usually say "stamped is nice looking but is better suited for warmer climates such as florida, south carolina, etc". I then go on to explain heaving of the ground during the winter months. And after that I explain that pavers are individual units that float with the ground.

    As long as the economy remains in it's current state - stamped will be a big competitor for us hardscapers.

  6. PlatinumLandCon

    PlatinumLandCon LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,315

    DVS, why do you put a period at the end to make your posts seem longer?

  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    He probably does it for the same reason I do sometimes. If you don't, sometimes your paragraph runs right into your sig. line and it looks too jumbled together. I usually try to separate my posts from my sig line with a few lines of space to. But if you just do spaces, lawnsite will erase the spaces. So you have to add something down below (like a small period) in order to get the spacing between your post and your sig. line right.
  8. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,417

    Because I'm a super dooper looper bronze member :weightlifter:

    Would you rather I put a comma :dizzy:

    Seriously, the ability to recognize flaws and work around them is crucial if you're going to work in a construction trade.

    Last edited: Apr 8, 2009
  9. fool32696

    fool32696 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 991

    Great thread guys. I'm a concrete overlay installer. I don't do any pavers, but like to hang out in the hardscaping forum. I'm going up against paver installers all of the time. There are a few good paver installers in the area that are priced very cheaply compared to what I see posted on here. When I'm competing with them on bare ground (no existing patio, just dirt), they usually win on price. When there is existing concrete in decent structural condition, I can usually beat the price for thin pavers and for concrete removal and normal paver installation. In one circumstance where I was significantly higher than pavers, I told the guy that the company he got a paver quote from did great work at good prices (obviously never heard back on that one). I wouldn't have thought that stamped concrete would be a competitor up north, the freeze/thaw cycles must destroy it.
  10. stuvecorp

    stuvecorp LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,214

    A long time ago(may be five years?:)) up here it was pricey and close to pavers but the supply houses really pushed the stamped concrete and now it seems like everyone does it very cheap. I have seen some stamped that really wasn't bad but pavers have soul.

    I do think pavers are the in thing right now and there is some definite train wreck stuff being thrown in that hurts pavers reputation. I love the sound of driving on pavers.

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