Concrete pavers, formed and pressed concrete blocks, are an attractive do-it-yourself method for creating walkways, patios and driveways. Unlike bricks or stone, they are both durable and easy to work with, not to mention relatively inexpensive. Pavers come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes and thicknesses, with manufacturers introducing new types frequently. Choosing the right paver for your project is a matter of knowing your preferences and making a few key decisions.
Map out Your Project and Budget
When choosing a paver, start with a clear picture of what your project will look like when it is complete. The size and shape of the area you need to cover, the slope of the ground (if any), the soil drainage and the local weather will influence your choice. Seek out planning resources -- many home improvement centers will provide these for free -- and, if possible, visit homes and businesses with paver installations you like. Consider the overall project budget because paver prices vary greatly, and your budget will determine which pavers are in your range. Paver projects are labor intensive and depend on the weather. Make sure you will have enough time and people to complete the project if you choose to do it yourself.
Pavers come in a wide variety of colors, ranging from concrete grays to brick-like reds to browns, blues and multicolored mixes. Manufacturers add pigment to the paver concrete before pouring it into drying molds. Most charge a slight premium for colored and multicolored options. When choosing a color for your paver, consider what kind of traffic will pass over the pavers. For driveways or parking areas, consider darker colors to hide potential stains from gas or oil. Very light paver colors may show stains from fall leaves and other debris.
Sizes, Shapes and Patterns
Pavers come in a large number of shapes and sizes, and most are arranged in a geometric pattern when set in place. The size of your paver selection depends on both practical and aesthetic considerations. In areas with large frost heaves and other ground disturbances, smaller pavers are better, as they are less likely to crack and adjust better to the changes in the layer below your installation. The larger your project, the more may want to consider larger pavers, especially if you will be doing the installation yourself. Shapes of pavers are a matter of personal preference. Pavers come in square, rectangles, triangles and nearly every shape possible. Some are prefit to assemble into specific patters that cover a certain number of square feet. It is even possible to buy "kits" to create large circles and geometric patterns. The pattern of installation can also vary according to your project and preferences. If you know you will use, for example, a Herringbone layout, you need to select pavers that have the correct shape to make this pattern. It is possible to cut pavers to shape, but this is labor intensive and requires special tools.
Texture and Finish
Pavers come in a variety of textures and finishes. Pavers can be sanded smooth, rough-sided or even tumbled, which creates a distressed finish with rounded edges. Some pavers are imprinted with simple or complex textures, and others have finishes applied to enhance the color and texture. Be sure these finishes will last as long as you expect to use your patio, deck or other paver project.