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Concrete and Clay Brick Pavers

Using pavers will add ambience and interesting detail to a new or old outdoor area. Both concrete pavers and clay brick pavers are long lasting, durable materials.


There are several alternative paving materials to use for a driveway, a walkway, or a patio or terrace besides poured concrete or asphalt. One of these alternatives is a paver unit with standardized dimensions. Two types of pavers fall into this category: the concrete paver and the clay brick paver.

Clay brick pavers with mortar joints set on concrete base

Both of these types of pavers will create long-term appeal to hard surfaces, and enhance the appearance of your yard. They may very likely add to the value of your property. They both are manufactured in many dimensional sizes, such as 4”x 8”x 2 1/4”.

Before you begin your project, you may want to visit a paving supplier’s showroom to become acquainted with all the styles and colors that are available. You will be able to experience the visual and textural characteristics of both the concrete paver and the clay brick paver. At this time you will also be able to get the prices for the various pavers; there should not be too much difference in price between the two types. Usually, these businesses will let you take home samples so that you can get a feel for which colors, shapes, and textures will be right for your project.

Both concrete pavers and clay brick pavers are available in various styles. You can get them with a crisp, square edge, a beveled or chamfered edge, or an edge that appears worn and aged, as if it has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years. There are some clay pavers that are made by placing the clay in specially formed molds that gives the finished pavers a hand-hewn appearance (the way the earliest masons used to make their pavers).

Many outdoor residential projects, in recent years, have seemed to favor the concrete paver. On the other hand, the clay brick pavers’ history has made it a timeless classic and a traditional material typically paired with period architecture. Whether you choose concrete pavers or clay brick pavers, it is purely a personal preference. Both types of pavers have the ability to provide high aesthetic value and years of high performance and enjoyment.

Concrete paver driveway with sand joints

Concrete pavers (and concrete) are considered man-made products, even though concrete is made from natural ingredients like limestone, clay, gravel, and sand. Concrete does not exist naturally, but is a combined mixture of these specific ingredients and, after water is added, hardens and cures over time. During the manufacturing process of concrete pavers, pressure and vibration are applied, producing a high density paver with great compressive strength and durability. They have an average compressive strength of 8000 psi, which is much greater than poured concrete.

Concrete pavers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors to create interesting patterns. One is only limited by their own creativity. Do exercise control though, for many patterns get too ‘busy’ and may actually detract from the project. Since concrete is naturally grey, various color pigments are added during the manufacturing of the pavers to get the many color choices that are available. Technology has made improvements to these pigments over the years, to reduce the risk of the color fading when exposed to the ultraviolet light from the sun. There are products available from the paving suppliers, like sealers to help reduce the chance of color fading, and color sealant, if color fading is occurring.

Both concrete (in its earliest formulations) and clay have been used for pavement for thousands of years. A common misconception of the clay brick paver is that it is a fragile paving material. If you have ever visited any of the oldest cities in the United States, or even gone back to your own hometown, you may have driven over, or walked on clay brick pavers that have been there for hundreds years.

Clay brick pavers with sand joints

Clay brick pavers are different from the face bricks that are used for houses. The pavers are a solid unit, whereas the house brick has holes. Clay paving bricks are fired at 2000+ degrees to achieve their long-lasting quality. The resulting finished paver has an average compressive strength of 14,000 psi. The clay brick paver has the ability to stand up to harsh weather and freeze-thaw cycles, allowing them to last for generations.

Its primary raw material is clay, and sometimes shale is included. The clay is mixed with water where it becomes malleable, and can then be shaped into a paver. The natural colors of the clay give the paver its rich range of colors, from light tan to deep earthy red and brown. The color is consistent throughout the brick paver and will never fade. It has been noted, that age will only improve on its appearance.

Concrete pavers and clay brick pavers can be used in a sand joint application on a setting bed of sand, supported by a compacted limestone base and compacted subsoil. The pavers, in this application, are referred to as interlocking pavers because they have the freedom of movement on a flexible base whereby the load is transferred to adjacent pavers and the base. The depth of the base will depend on the project: driveways will normally require greater base depth and a thicker paver dimension than walkways and patios.

To save money, many homeowners find that the sand joint application is a manageable do-it-yourself project, but it will be a time consuming task. In a sand joint application, there is no need for expansion joints, and no reason to worry about the risk of cracking due to shrinkage or ground movement, as there is with poured concrete. Also, this type of application allows for easy repairs if any pavers are damaged or stained with things like oil and paint. Simply remove the damaged paver, add sand to the setting bed (if necessary), and replace with a new paver and joint sand: if the damage to the paver is not structural, making the repair may be just a matter of flipping it over, depending on the style of the paver. The sand joint application, also, allows for easy access to repair the base material, if necessary. Only the pavers over the repair area need to be removed. Remove them by hand and stack them off to the side for relaying after the repair is made.

Both types of pavers also can be installed on a mortar bed with mortared joints, supported by a concrete slab, base material and compacted subsoil. The mortar joint installation will require skilled labor for both the poured concrete base and the laying of the brick in mortar, thus having higher initial costs, and higher maintenance costs.

Both paver types can stand up to harsh weather conditions and freeze-thaw cycles, if they possess the tested standard for high compressive strength (as noted above) and low (8% or less) water absorption. For snow removal, using a paver with a worn, or beveled, edge may reduce the opportunity of the snow shovel getting caught on the edge or corner of the paver (get the manufacturer’s recommendations for using a snow plow).

For whatever project that you are planning to use pavers (driveway, walkway, patio, etc.), be sure to check with the paver supplier and the manufacturer’s product literature for both the recommended paver thickness and base depth needed for your specific project. Also, check with your local building department for any requirements they may have concerning your project, including possible building permits.

Finally, be sure to read the manufacturer’s product literature for any product that you are considering using.

Tip: You may want to keep any leftover pavers, after completing the project, for any possible repairs that may occur.

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