Permeable Pavers? Really???

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by JimLewis, Sep 8, 2011.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I just wanted to start a conversation about "permeable" pavers. I put quotes around that phrase because I sort of question really how permeable they really are. I'd love to see some numbers on that.

    Regardless, I almost never get a request for these. Every once in a while (1 out of 20 calls) I will get someone ask me about them. But then as we get into discussing the advantages and disadvantages, they always end up talking themselves out of it. Then we end up building them a regular paver patio.

    It seems like one of those things that the "industry" thinks is really hot, but - at least in the residential market - isn't really hot afterall.

    First off, I've never seen one that looked all that impressive. The few that I have seen look a little too 'commercial' and not very attractive. When I see one, I am usually thinking to myself, "Hmmm... Permeable pavers.... Well, that's interesting." I never say to myself, "Wow! That patio looks sharp!" So I a hesitant to get into doing them just for that reason alone.

    I also hesitate because I read somewhere that they really aren't that permeable. It was in one of my trade journals, I think. But I can't remember which one or when I read that. So I wonder really how permeable these things really are. Are they 75% gimmick and only 25% really helpful?

    Another hesitation is the gravel that has to go in the joints. My experience with wider joints and having gravel in them (the few times we've done that with flagstone) is that the gravel is constantly coming out of the joints and creating a mess. Also creates more maintenance as you have to replenish the gravel or sand more frequently, I would think.

    Anyway, they're not that popular with residentials so far - at least not yet. But I do see a little bit more interest in them these days. Got a call today for one. Just not sure I want to go down that road. I'm pretty happy just using the pavers we use now. They always turn out great and very little maintenance and our customers love them.

    I'd love to hear your opinions, see any studies or articles you guys can point me to regarding how permeable they really are, see some photos of ones you've done, hear about what kind of interest you're getting from residential clients in your area, etc.

  2. AztlanLC

    AztlanLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,051

    they work pretty good in my opinion, I have talked to couple contractors that live in certains parts of the the country where people want to install a pool or patio but due to restrictions they can't use any surface that would increase run off using permeable pavers they get around that, also I have heard many areas are starting to implement requirements for new commercial sites where a certain percentage of parking area has to be permeable.
    My only experience with permeable is a small section in front of my driveway that I used them due that I was getting water in the garage and they do work pretty good they can take a pretty good amount of water.
    you will get minimal stones in the surface compare to flagstone or cobble stones.
    Techo-bloc, cambridge, and unilock have some nice looking permeable pavers.
    I think in a residential application I would only use them for a special purpose.
  3. SDLandscapes VT

    SDLandscapes VT LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 581


    The University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum constructed a test display to show the effectiveness. This isnt the best link, but best I could do fast-- Model Outreach.pdf

    Very industrial looking but functional. I think for residential unless they were planning on doing the driveway the benefits would not be large enough to justify the extra cost and extra maintenance.

    my .02
  4. TomG

    TomG LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 674

    We do three or four permeable paver jobs a year, mostly residential, mostly at houses on lakes. We had one job this year that a homeowner (on a lake) was waiting for a permit for 3 months for a small 200sf patio. They got sick of waiting and asked us what they could do, we suggested permeable, we re-did the design and it was approved in one week! PICP's are still not that common in my area but they are definitely catching on, we have done more and more each year in recent years. Remember PICP's are still very new.

    PICP's can handle ALOT of water, yes if you look at just the percentage of area that is permeable (the joints) not a large portion of the overall area is permeable. I was at a class for PICP's and they had an area that was permeable pavers and they took two 50gal drums of water and dumped them out over the pavers at the same time and the water didn't go more than 15 ft. I was extremely impressed. I wish I had it on video...

    PICP's in my opinion will be HUGE in a few years, especially because everything is going "green". PICP's have no runoff, and they can deposit the water directly below where the rain falls. They have so many uses, you can put a rubber liner in them and collect rain water to water your lawn, or use it as a retention pond at a big box store. Just think if wal-mart can make 100 extra parking spaces because they don't have to build that big ugly retention pond will they do it? Yes. Or if a builder in a new development makes a new road out of permeable pavers or even just a section and can eliminate making a retention pond, therefor saving a build-able lot or two, would they do it? Yes.

    The problem is not a lot of people even know what a PICP is including town engineers. Installation of a PICP is WAY different than a normal paver application and a lot of contractors don't realize that so they install them wrong and PICP's intern get a bad wrap. The company I work for has helped a lot of towns near us design PICP test sties so the town can do research on PICP's so we also get a lot of calls from towns and homeowners saying "why is my PICP not working? can you come out and look at it." I have been out to sites where the PICP was placed on the normal 3/4" base or the contractor used poly sand in the joints...:hammerhead:

    I would HIGHLY recommend to everyone going out and getting PICP certified (my father an I both are). We are noticing more and more towns and commercial projects requiring the installer to be PICP certified. I believe ... not 100%... that my father and I are the only PICP certified contractors in our state. So that means we get all the calls. Also don't quote me on this either but I believe there are less than 200 certified individuals in the US.

    Bottom line is, PICP's are going to be a huge part of the paver industry in the coming years. People just need to get educated about them.(Mostly engineers and town engineers)

    Also paver companies are constantly coming out with new PICP's that look good. Also remember you can make ANY regular paver permeable, just by adding some plastic spacers in between the pavers. (Yea its a pain)

    Here are some pictures of a few projects we have done...

    First 2 pictures are of a patio we did on a lake.

    Second 2 are of a driveway we did, client had a problem of the water running off the street down his driveway and into his house, since our installation about 5 years ago he has not had one problem.

    Last picture, this was done with plastic spacers. Its in a completely inclosed court yard in the middle of the high school i went to. They had no area for run off so we did permeable.





  5. TomG

    TomG LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 674

    Here are some pictures from the college I went to (University of New Hampshire). UNH is one of the countries leading researchers in all types of permeable pavements. They recently did this large parking area in conjunction with ICPI and a lot of other research groups. We didn't do the original install, but we helped with the design and a few weeks ago we went and re-infilled the joints with 3/8" stone. Not exactly sure the square footage but its a lot.




  6. jonesy5149

    jonesy5149 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 259

    The down fall of these pavers (my .02 cense) is we do lots of work for Engineers and the little one we did for stair bucks three weeks ago we had to dig down 4' (to get the geo thermal of the earth) (crazy idea) then pipe it to a tank that held 400 gallons then into the drain in the road. Thanks walmart
  7. big daddy b

    big daddy b LawnSite Member
    Messages: 95

    We've done a couple permeable paver patios so far this year, also lake houses, they worked out really good.
    As far as the above mentioned for the stone falling out of the joints, there is a glue that we put specifically designed for that application and again it worked out great, but was a huge pain in the ass applying and not getting any on the pavers.
  8. TomG

    TomG LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 674

    Well I'm intrigued, what was the glue? I would think any sort of glue would reduce the permeability of the joint stone?
  9. STL Ponds and Waterfalls

    STL Ponds and Waterfalls LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,174

    We did a parking lot in '08 and they are holding up great. It's kind of cool to watch the water flow into the area's and flow right into the joints with ease. We use 3/8 granite chips and they lock in good. At first they are a little bit of a pain maintenance wise. All new construction or rebuilds in some area's of my state have to have a percentage of permeables.

    The thing I like about the PICP's is buiding them in the winter time. No frozen minus or sand to thaw, your biggest challange maybe the frozen soil on excavating, but you usually have to go past the frost line in these pits anyway. You also save a little time on base prep using all clean stone vs minus/crushed base.
  10. big daddy b

    big daddy b LawnSite Member
    Messages: 95

    it's called gravel lok. Like I said it worked awesome, just really bad if you get it on your hands, clothes, pavers, trucks...basically just about anything that isn't stone. It was still very permeable and gives the stone a little bit of a shine when first applied, but wears off after a little bit.

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