The term hardscape has come to mean anything solid in your landscape and encompasses a range of hardscape materials – bricks, stones, concrete pavers, wooden structures and water features. Planning a landscape renovation in Madison WI in the 21st century includes evaluating the latest paver options for walks, driveway and patios. The two most common choices – natural stone and man-made pavers – are broken into three
categories: Brick, Concrete Pavers and Natural Stone as
the building block hardscape materials.
Each of these hardscape materials is installed in the same way and require the same site preparation – leveling, concern for proper drainage after the installation and creating a solid subsurface to guard against the stress of Wisconsin’s annual freeze/thaw energy.
The final selection of paver options is a matter of personal preference, choosing hardscape materials that work within your overall plan. Using a combination of the three options is very popular and provides excellent results.
A Closer Look at Hardscape Materials
A good place to begin is defining the difference between brick and concrete pavers. Both are man-made and available in various colors. Why would you choose one over the other? Simply put, a paver is a thin, mostly flat object designed for walkways, driveways and patios. While considered by some to be the hot trend in hardscape materials, they are a throwback to the days before poured concrete walks and roadways. In today’s landscape, bricks are often used for more formal layouts or colonial-style installations because of their hard lines. Concrete pavers, while they come in squares and rectangles, or most commonly thought of for their “cobblestone” appearance in casual settings.
Review paver options one at a time:
Bricks are made today as they were decades ago – formed from clay and cured at high temperatures. One of the most popular trends in hardscape materials is to use reclaimed bricks – recovered from old buildings – to provide added character and interest.
TIP FROM A PRO – Be careful when shopping for bricks, the word has come to mean anything with the “brick” shape and not the true material. Anything called “concrete bricks,” for example, aren’t real bricks at all.
True, clay bricks offer advantages:
- Color – the natural color is literally baked in so they don’t fade like concrete over time. They stand up well to UV rays.
- Build to Last – real bricks may chip or crack but they will last for generations. They may break under extreme stress but won’t erode or fade like some paver options.
- Few Worries – because they resist staining bricks require less maintenance and cleaning.
- Timeless Good Looks – there’s a historic charm that comes with even an aged, worn brick walkway when other paver options look warn out.
- Sustainable Choice – among all hardscape materials, bricks are frequently salvaged, cleaned and repurposed from buildings and walls to garden walks and suburban driveways.
There are shortcomings, too:
- Cost Considerations – real bricks can cost more than their concrete counterparts.
- Limited Supply – the demand for bricks has decreased so production is limited and the reclaimed ones with “character” can be hard to find.
- Fewer Choices – because bricks are made from clay there are not as many color options, they are usually of a more or less standard size and the traditional shape is what makes them bricks.
TIP FROM A PRO – Not all bricks are created equal. There are variables from one brick-maker to another so dimensions can be slightly different from brick to brick and batch to batch. These changes can make bricks trickier to install.
- More Work – bricks are harder to cut than other paver options and that means more work (and often more cost for labor).
- Breakable – while bricks don’t fade and resist stains, they are more likely to crack or chip in high-traffic installations,
Concrete Paver Options
Concrete pavers come in more and more styles, colors and shapes as their popularity grows. These hardscape materials are formed in molds, compressed and cured. The advantages of concrete pavers include:
- Least Cost – concrete pavers, because raw materials are readily available and the manufacturing process is fast, are less expensive than other paver options.
- Design Advantage – Because these pavers are available in so many shapes, sizes and colors they provide great flexibility in layout and installation.
- Evolving – new and better pavers are being created all the time.
- Easy to Use – concrete pavers are uniform and easy to cut and shape for imaginative creations.
There are disadvantages, too:
- Color Changes – because the color is a dye added to concrete in the mold, the pigments can fade, especially in areas with hours of direct sunlight.
- Higher Maintenance – there are sealants that protect the colors, but they require repeated applications.
- Wear – while erosion from traffic is a slow process, concrete will wear and the surface can look dull.
- Quality – not all pavers are created with the same level of concern for longevity. Some look like natural stone and last decades while others may crumble and crack quickly.
TIP FROM A PRO – Because there can be so much variation from one paver brand to another, work with a professional hardscape materials contractor who provides top-of-the-line paver options, has experience with installations and stands behind the workmanship.
Stone, the Most Natural Hardscape Materials
Supply and demand dictates that natural stone is often the most expensive choice – it cannot be made to order. Natural stone provides an eye-catching landscape element and the truly rustic look that’s a popular trend in 2018. Options for using natural stone include:
- Use natural stone as an accent – cap a retaining wall made from pavers with natural stone or highlight a paver patio with a natural stone edge.
- Combine stone with other hardscape materials – use pavers to create large spaces while stone walks and borders soften the overall look.
Maximize Hardscape Projects, Avoid Costly Mistakes
Contact Marvin Martinez at Martin’s Brick Pavers, 608-630-8855 or email us at www.marvinsbrickpavers.com for professional, creative installations and detailed, trusted hardscape planning with the right paver options and the best hardscape materials in Madison WI.