Best Value Pavers vs Concrete vs Decking
What is the best value for your patio?
Are you looking to install a new patio? Or are you looking to replace an existing patio or deck that has come to the end of its serviceable life span? If so, you are in good company. A patio is a versatile amenity that has become much more popular in recent years. A properly designed and installed patio can give you enjoyment throughout the year and add value to your property that can increase curb appeal and ultimately increase value of your home. It’s difficult to know where to start when it’s time to take on a patio project. Hopefully, this article will help you compare several types of patios and select the type best suited to your application.
The first key to any successful construction or renovation project is having a good plan in place. In the case of a patio, this means having a good design (drawing(s)) and construction management plan. Some may choose to do some or all of this work themselves, if they have the skill and the time. This requires a clear understanding of their real ability and realistic evaluation of the time commitment involved. There certainly are those who can take on these projects and come through the project quite successfully. However, if you haven’t taken on a project like this previously, be forewarned. Rarely, will a first project go as easily as planned. If experience and time factors cause you to look to professionals for their expertise, you should be able to find qualified, competent help to create a project that will give you years of enjoyment.
As with any professional service, there is a cost involved in getting a well thought out design, and an experienced, thorough crew to implement the design. However, the cost of cutting corners in either design or installation will prove to be much higher. A Landscape Designer can help you to create a budget, work through functional priorities, select materials and design style, as well as help you phase in a larger master plan to keep the totality of the design cohesive. A Landscape Designer can also manage the installation of your project from beginning through to completion and beyond.
A primary consideration in the design of your patio is going to be the method of construction and material type. There are a number of types of patio construction and an unlimited number of variations and combinations, but for simple comparison purposes, the three we will cover are; Wood decking, poured concrete, and pavers. Whether you are installing the project yourself or enlisting professional help, selecting the right type of patio is critical to the success of your project.
So, what is the best type of patio?
From least expensive to most expensive, initial cost in Omaha metro area. (Averages for Qualified Reputable Contractors)
Concrete- $6-$18 per square foot. (Stamped and colored concrete = higher $)
Wood Decking-$15-$35 per square foot. (Composite decking = higher $)
Concrete Pavers-$20-$35 per square foot. (Intricate patterns and limited access projects = higher $)
Note: Local suppliers will sell materials for all three types of patios at a fraction of these costs; however the cost of installing any patio is much more dependent on the amount of labor required than the cost of material. Generally speaking, poured concrete is the quickest and therefore least labor intensive method, thus in its simplest form, it is the least expensive.
Here is the real hidden cost difference of the various methods of patio construction. The cost of maintenance as well as longevity criteria factor in to this discussion.
Concrete, depending on the attention to detail, can last several decades; however, regardless of the quality of the installation, concrete will crack when subjected to Omaha’s freeze/thaw cycle. It will require minimal maintenance during its life, however, making it an excellent value for short-term investment, for example renovating a home for resale or rental.
Wood decks are the most maintenance-intensive type of patio. Pressure treated lumber with composite decking has the longest life span and the least maintenance required in this category. Realistically, if kept clean and regularly inspected and repaired as needed, a deck can last 30 years or more before needing partial or total replacement. A natural wood deck will require more frequent cleaning and sealing and will usually have a shorter life span than a composite deck.
The paver patio shines in this category. However, that is only if it is installed correctly. The pavers used to build the patio are only a small part of the total patio system. A properly built paver patio is constructed through a series of precise steps including; compacted aggregate, bedding sand, pavers and joint material. Concrete pavers are manufactured in a factory of much denser concrete than what is used in a poured application. Because of this, the concrete in a paver is not as susceptible to absorption of moisture, thus the individual paver is unlikely to crack due to freeze/thaw cycles. A paver patio also has a multitude of control joints to almost completely eliminate the opportunity for surface cracking, unlike poured concrete. Maintenance required includes cleaning (similar to poured concrete) and occasional addition of joint material (every 3-4 years). The lifespan of a paver patio can be 50 years or more. Consequently, some contractors offer a lifetime warranty on paver patios.
With the variety of products available, as well as the creativity of landscape designers, in the aesthetic appeal category, a case can be made for the beauty of any of the three types of patios discussed. The internet is filled with spectacular photos of decking, concrete, and pavers and combinations of all three. The warm appeal of a wooden deck, the fluid nature of poured concrete, the textural quality and historical reference of pavers, all have design merit and appropriate uses in the landscape design.
In some applications, the choice of patio type is dictated by site considerations. A raised concrete or paver patio is a good solution if the height of the patio is 3 foot tall or less. However, a patio that is a full story off of grade lends itself to a wooden deck. A tight lot that is already at its maximum allowable paved area due to building code may lend itself to a permeable paver patio to mitigate this requirement. A patio may receive occasional vehicular access, eliminating the possibility of using wood or composite decking. An underground utility may be present that could need future access; poured concrete could only be broken out and replaced if access was required. Both decking and pavers could be removed and replaced seamlessly, if necessary.
If you are looking to install a patio, do a thorough evaluation of your priorities. Consider your budget for installation as well as maintenance and replacement. What are the aesthetic and functional considerations involved? What type of patio best fulfills my requirements and priorities? These criteria will help you determine what type of patio best suits your application. If you are having difficulty working through this process, a Landscape Designer is a valuable resource to help guide you to the best patio solution for your project.