Precast Concrete Pavers
Cast in molds, these concrete pavers often resemble brick, stone, and tile. The brick pavers, perhaps the most popular pattern, are now getting competition from other shapes: circles, chamfered squares, diamonds, hexagons, octagons, crescents, and fans. Interlocking styles and textures with embedded terrazzo and aggregate are newer options.
Unlike brick, which is made of fired clay, concrete pavers are cast from dense, pressure-formed concrete. That makes them more durable than poured concrete. Some paver manufacturers claim their products are virtually impervious to oils and other stains, making them ideal for driveways.Sizes, shapes, and types
A few years ago concrete pavers were easy to classify, and the natural tendency was to compare them with brick. With more designs available, however, pavers don't fall so easily into categories. Some pavers are thinner and lighter than brick; others are heavier. Most pavers range in thickness from 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches (that of common brick). Some are thicker. You'll find pavers in the shape of rectangles that measure from about 4x6 inches up to 24 inches square. There are also geometric shapes about 2x4 inches, and keyed and triangular shapes that make circles and fans. Most precast pavers are set in a sand bed, but you can mortar some of the thinner styles to a slab. The method of installation varies for different types of pavers. There are interlocking pavers, standard pavers, and turf blocks.
Interlocking pavers resist lateral movement because their shaped edges fit together, linking the units. They stay in place even under heavy loads and weather changes. Some styles require cutting to fit a patio or walk. Others come with premade corners, edges, and end pieces.
Standard pavers are rectangular or square. They are less stable than the interlocking variety. Like brick, they may shift over time, especially if set over poorly drained soil.
Turf blocks have an open design with holes for planting grass. They are strong enough to use in driveways.Designing with precast pavers
With so many styles, colors, and textures available, you can easily find a precast paver that will match your outdoor landscape theme. Warm colors predominate -- reds, browns, and earth tones -- but pavers also come in black, grays, and off-whites. Textures are also plentiful, from smooth to stamped designs.
Although precast pavers look at home in both formal and informal landscapes, their modular uniformity suits formal designs the best. Geometric patterns such as circles, fans, and crescents that are difficult or impossible to achieve with other materials, can be done with pavers.
Standard rectangular pavers must be cut to create geometric designs, but so many geometric varieties are now available that you should be able to find a style that minimizes or eliminates cutting. Some pavers have tabs cast in their sides, which automatically space the pavers for sand-set patios and walks.
Tightly set sanded pavers usually will not require weeding, but they may require resetting from time to time. Like brick and stone, the smaller sizes of precast pavers conform easily to minor variations in terrain. Pavers mix well visually with other paving materials.Design tips
The relationship of the size of each paving unit to the overall size of the patio or walk is an important design consideration that's easy to overlook. A paver that's too small in relation to the space you're covering can result in a busy look. On the other hand, large pavers take less time to set because each unit covers more area, but their size may overwhelm your installation.
In the planning stages, if you sense that your design will end up looking too busy, consider a larger paver. Or if it's a rectangular unit, consider setting it with wider spacing. Planting groundcovers between gaps can minimize the busy look, and the green plants help frame the pavers, adding another design element.
Make your own precast stepping-stones
You can cast your own stepping-stones with premixed concrete and homemade or commercial forms. Rectangles and squares are the easiest to make yourself. Commercial forms, available at garden and home centers, come in a wide variety of shapes. You can also use commercial precast stepping-stones as a base for mosaic pavers.
Be wary of inexpensive pavers. Most likely the cost savings comes from the way the pavers were colored. Look carefully at the depth of the color, and avoid pavers with shallow color. Colors applied only to the surface wear off quickly, exposing bare concrete. Buy pavers that have pigment impregnated throughout their thickness.
Buying precast pavers
Building-supply dealers, concrete suppliers, landscape stores, and home and garden centers sell concrete pavers individually, by the square foot, or in banded cubes with enough pavers for about 16 linear feet.
Compute the area of your patio or walkway and divide it by the area covered by the particular paver style as recommended by the manufacturer or distributor. Order 5 to 10 percent more if your project will require a lot of cutting.Mosaic Pavers
Add style to plain pavers
- Remove the cured stepping-stone from its form and apply 1/4 to 1/2 inch of latex-modified thinset with a notched plastic trowel. Press broken pieces of ceramic tile mosaic in the mortar, leaving a 1/8- to 1/4-inch gap for grout. Scrape off excess mortar with a spatula and tile the remaining stones.
- Mix up enough latex-modified grout to cover the stones. Force it into the gaps with a spatula or a grout float. Remove the excess grout with the edge of the spatula and smooth the grout along the edges of the paver.
- Let the grout set for 10 to 15 minutes, then clean off the stones with a wet sponge. Rinse the sponge often, but don't pull the grout from the gaps. Let the stones dry 24 to 48 hours, then buff with a soft cloth and set them in a sand base in recesses on your path.