Pavers are hard blocks laid on flat surfaces to create either landscape elements or smooth, hard surfaces outdoors. They are often made of stones or stone-derived materials. Cast concrete, glass, clay tile, brick and even plastic can also be used for pavers. They are installed over a sand and/or crushed limestone base. They are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. To install pavers, the ground has to be cut, leveled and compacted first. Failure to do this can result in subsidence, causing the pavers to buckle or sink. Then the pavers are laid on the flat surface according to the pattern required. Finally, sand or other packing material is forced between the cracks in the pavers to discourage weed growth and to keep the pavers even and stable. Standard thicknesses are 60 mm (for light traffic) and 80 mm (heavy traffic).
The most common types of pavers are:
Interlocking Pavers: Interlocking pavers do not denote interlocking of individual pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Interlocking comes from the fact that each paver cannot move independently from its neighbour. The pavers are held together because of the sand filled in the joints and the edge restraints. Interlocking tiles are durable under heavy weight and harsh weather conditions, aesthetically pleasing, permeable, very easy to repair, available in a large variety of design options and colors, and allow access to underground utilities if needed. But they are little more expensive than the traditional paving materials, require occasional maintenance, allow weeds to grow in the paver joints and they may shift over time and need adjusting.
Natural Stone Pavers: These are natural, durable, strong, and can withstand the harshest of climates. They are suitable for both pedestrian and vehicular movement. There are thousands of types of natural stone such as; limestone, bluestone, granite, travertine, cantera, marble and flagstone, to name a few. Granite has a crystalline appearance that equals its hard-wearing surface. Slate pavers are more slip-resistant. Travertine is one of the most colorful stone choices. It is naturally slip resistant and resists heating in the summers.
Brick Pavers: These are made up of natural clay which is fired in kilns at extremely high temperatures. These are very strong pavers as the ingredients get bonded together very well due to heating. Brick pavers are very durable, have long lasting color that never fades, create an authentic look.
Concrete Pavers: These are manufactured artificially by using cement and aggregates. They can withstand harsh conditions and high traffic conditions. The concrete pavers are made to resemble the look of natural stone but at a very low cost than that of the natural stones. They are available in a variety of styles and colours. To create any desired colour, pigments and dyes are added during the manufacturing process of concrete pavers. Color sealants should be used on concrete pavers so as to preserve and maintain their vibrant color.
Rubber Pavers: These are an environmentally friendly paving material as they are made from recycled tyres. They are great for stables, sporting arenas, playgrounds and gymnasiums. Besides being environment friendly, rubber pavers are cost effective, very low in maintenance, easy to install and provide an extremely safe non-slip surface.
Flagstone Pavers: Flagstone is flat and thin in nature because of the splitting layers of sedimentary stone. This makes it easy to work with. Flagstone pavers are available in several different shapes, thicknesses and colors varying from red, pink, orange, brown, blue, gold and even white. The large, flat stones are used in a variety of landscaping projects ranging from patios, paths, walkways, seating areas, and walls. Flagstone pavers are durable, low maintenance, permeable if laid with plant material in between and due to each stone’s unique shape and colour, they give limitless design options. But they are a bit expensive.
Permeable Pavers: Permeable paving is categorized using many different building materials; however, they are all sustainable and help groundwater recharge by allowing water to flow into open spaces between the materials. These are porous materials and they filter pollutants and solids from the water as it percolates through the surface. This topic is discussed in detail separately under the sub-heading ‘Permeable Paving’.
Suggested Uses - Pavers are used for both residential and commercial projects. They can be used to construct pathways, driveways, patios, outdoor steps, landscape features, pool decks, as garden borders or for constructing retaining walls. They can also be used at airports or loading docks.
Pros - Pavers are extremely durable, easy to install, more environmentally friendly than solid poured surfaces. They allow the water to drain by seeping through the joints between the pavers. It is easy to lift the offending pavers out and repair the uneven surface under them or replace a cracked or chipped paver, hence resulting in low maintenance costs. They are available in a wide range of shapes, sizes, colors and textures, offering a huge range of design ideas.
Cons - It is expensive to install especially if a professional does it. To prevent weeds and anthills between the pavers, some people use strong pesticides which have bad effects on environment. When the pavers shift or sink, this settling can leave small potholes or raised edges that may be hazardous.
Care - A regular maintenance of pavers is required to prevent a buildup of dirt and debris and to keep the surface looking beautiful. Pavements should be regularly washed down with a high pressure hose to remove dirt. Alkaline cleaners should be the only ones to consider when cleaning natural stone pavers. The levels of joint sand should be checked and refilled at least twice a year. Applying a sealant will also help hold the joint sand in place.