Stamped Concrete vs. Interlocking Pavers: Which Is Better for the Ontario Climate?

8 March 2023

When investing in exterior home upgrades, you need to consider what materials will add curb appeal and stand up to the weather we experience in Ontario. 

Of course, durable, low-maintenance materials are always best for installations such as driveways, patios, steps, and other hardscaping projects, but how do you know which materials are the wiser investment? 

In today’s blog post, we compare concrete and interlocking pavers, to help you decide which is best for your next exterior project.

What are the Challenges of “Hardscaping” Materials?

The climate is a significant factor in hardscaping performance and maintenance. Some materials are better than others at dealing with extreme weather changes. Our drastically high summer temperatures, and increasingly more severe rain storms in Ontario, can significantly impact pavement and hardscape performance. 

Contrast this with freezing temperatures, snow, and ice in the winter, and you’re faced with year-round challenges that impact the durability of your hardscaping installations.

The continual change in temperatures can cause most materials to naturally expand and contract to an extent. Popularly known as the freeze-thaw cycle, this process impacts porous materials that hold onto water. With the changing Winter temperatures in Ontario, the water freezes, melts and then refreezes. 

The more flexible the surface, the better it will stand against freeze-thaw.  Also, the more vulnerable the material is to moisture, the quicker it will deteriorate. The good news is that advancements in modern materials provide better resistance than ever against the harmful effects of changing weather conditions.

Stamped Concrete vs. Interlock Pavers

Concrete and interlocking pavers are both hard-wearing materials with the strength to withstand the movement and weight of vehicles. 

If the cost is a concern, concrete may be more affordable as it is easier to install and produce, but although interlocking pavers may cost more upfront, they last longer, hold up better against freeze-thaw and offer a more comprehensive range of customization options.  

Stamped Concrete

Compared to some other hardscaping surfaces, Stamped Concrete is easier to install. Stamped concrete is a good option for patios as sitting areas are not frequently used during precipitation.  Stamped concrete has a tendency to become very slippery when wet and can become quite dangerous in the winter months. 

Patterned concrete can be customized using finishes, tints, and stamps. Stamps come in various styles to create different textures, such as stone, tiles, or brick. Although there are stamps on the market that can create better traction, most stamps make the concrete surface slippery as they offer a smooth textured feel.  

Stamped concrete can be coloured using two different application methods. Colour can be applied integrally or by casting the colour onto the surface.  Integral colouring is the process of mixing the colour into the concrete mix while still in the concrete mixing truck.  

This process embeds the colour into the concrete so the colour is consistent from the top of the slab right through to the bottom.  This is beneficial compared to throwing the colour on top of the slab after pouring as the colour will not chip or flake off over time.  

The downside to this application method is achieving a consistent and predictable colour.  Each time you install a slab using integral colours, the slab will have different depths to the colours and can appear completely different from the last.  

Every few years, stamped concrete requires the application of a protective coating (1-2 years in the front yard and every 2-4 years in the backyard). The protective coating is called sealer, which protects against deterioration and chipping. This is more so important for concrete where the colour was cast on the surface.  

If the colour was not installed integrally, it is recommended to re-seal your concrete every year to prevent the colour from flaking off in the long run.  

The more deicers used during the winter months, the more susceptible non-integral coloured stamped concrete will be to deterioration.  This coating can also become quite slippery which can add an element of liability on driveways and pool decks due to slip and falls.  

There are sand mixes that can be added into the sealer that allow for better traction although these will offer a very grainy texture to the concrete’s surface.  

Interlocking Pavers

Interlocking pavers require a more complicated installation process which can increase the upfront cost vs concrete.  Interlocking pavers provide greater design versatility than concrete, with a broader range of sizes, shapes, textures, and colours. 

With a high level of customization, pavers make it easy to create the tailored look you desire. The manufacturing process allows interlocking pavers to be available in consistent colours and textures throughout each batch created.  This means you can expect a consistent look across your property. 

A major concern with interlocking pavers and slabs is weed growth.  This can be easily avoided with regular maintenance.  Interlocking patios and driveways should be maintained every 2-4 years.  

During that maintenance process, a protective coating can be applied to help protect the surface of the pavers.  Although your interlocking pavers can withstand inclement weather very well, this added step helps your pavers last even longer and will protect against de-icing salt. 

With proper installation and maintenance, your pavers won’t shift or sink for 15 to 25 years. Through the first 15 years, minor maintenance may be required, but in case of a major restoration, the interlocking can be lifted and re-installed quite easily.  

Which is better against cold weather, interlocking pavers or stamped concrete?

Interlocking Pavers

Pavers and slabs are more resistant to the freeze-thaw cycle than poured cement. However, they can be vulnerable to “frost heaving” when improperly installed. That’s why hiring a contractor with experience in installing interlocking paver driveways is essential. Interlock experts at Enviro-loc will ensure the stones are laid properly.  

Once installed, the materials have the strength and durability to hold up against varying temperatures and weather conditions.  

The beauty of interlocking pavers is that damage tends to affect individual stones or centralized areas. As a result, unlike damaged concrete, which has to be entirely replaced, interlocking pavers can be replaced individually.  

A contractor can remove the affected areas by lifting out the stones in that area, and replacing the damaged pieces or re-leveling the base material.  Depending on the size of the area, this can cost anywhere between $5 to $15 per square foot.

Protective sealer coatings can preserve the natural colour of interlocking pavers and protect their surface.  Typically, these pavers last longer and can withstand more extreme weather conditions for a longer period of time. 

The proper coatings maximize your investment while minimizing additional maintenance costs down the road. Although these coatings are beneficial, they are not required to protect the interlocking pavers and patio slabs.  

Concrete

The freeze-thaw cycle is a significant cause of damage and deterioration in concrete. Over time, small cracks develop in the concrete allowing for water seepage. Then, when freezing weather arrives, the water in those cracks freeze. 

This freezing process causes the cracks to spread further and become more pronounced, leaving additional paths for water to set in during the subsequent thaw. Each year, the cracks get more prominent, further damaging the integrity of the concrete. 

Another weather-related concern is the surface deterioration of the concrete.  Over time, the surface can flake and deteriorate, causing the unfinished concrete from below to appear.  

This is very unsightly and cannot be repaired well. There are epoxy resins that can be applied to cover the deterioration; however, they can be very costly and may only last a few years.  

Unfortunately, the only solution for badly cracked concrete is the removal and replacement of the entire slab, which is extremely expensive and inconvenient.  

Concrete vs. Interlock Cost

Upfront, concrete may be a less expensive material that saves labour costs during installation. However, the keyword here is upfront. Stamped concrete requires more ongoing maintenance and will require complete replacement once damaged, making it a less wise investment in the long run.  

Concrete can be properly installed and may last the test of time, but with companies competing more on price these days, it’s few and far between to find a concrete project exceeding 20 years of life before needing to be completely removed and replaced.  

The upfront costs for Interlocking pavers’ durability, customization, and longevity, are more than concrete. In addition, interlocking maintenance can cost more over the long term.  The main point of focus is usually around the 10 to 20-year mark as interlocking can be easily repaired where concrete cannot.   

The cost of removing and reinstalling concrete greatly outweighs the upfront additional expense of choosing interlocking pavers.  

The overall concrete vs. interlock cost will vary depending on your project’s size, material, and extent of excavation. Price is typically determined first by square feet and then by the complexity and challenges of the project. You can expect your concrete project to cost less than interlocking pavers upfront, but cost far more over time.  

Concrete may win the cost comparison when looking at the first 10 years, but when looking over a longer period of time, Interlocking pavers and patio slabs will usually come out ahead.  

Before deciding which material you prefer, getting quotes from reputable contractors is best. They will listen to your needs, develop a design and then provide a detailed quote based on the specifics of your project. 

At Enviro-Loc, we offer free consultations for interlocking driveways and stone patios.  Our design consultants can explain the pros and cons of interlocking pavers so you can decide if it is a suitable investment for your home. 

How to Start Your Next Project

If you’re interested in exploring the world of interlocking designs and how they can elevate your outdoor space, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the landscape design experts at Enviro-Loc

Whether you’re looking to create a new patio, walkway, or driveway, our interlocking designs offer a wide range of benefits, from enhanced durability and safety to improved aesthetic appeal and property value.

For more information about interlocking pavers or to schedule a free consultation with our landscape design consultants, call 289-270-6711 or click here to fill out a form.  

We’re always happy to answer your questions, provide advice, and schedule a consultation at your convenience.

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YOUR HOME. YOUR PLANET.
OUR COMMITMENT.

Talk To Us Today, Call 1-888-615-5562

YOUR HOME. YOUR PLANET. OUR COMMITMENT.

Talk To Us Today, Call 1-888-615-5562