Natural Stone vs. Concrete Pavers: The Ultimate Patio Material Showdown
So you’re weighing the pros and cons of natural stone vs. concrete pavers for your patio. As you move ahead with your research, allow us to share a few data points for consideration.
- The Parthenon was built in 447 with marble.
- Stonehenge was built around 2,500 BC with bluestone and sarsen (a sandstone).
- The Sphinx was built around 2,500 BC of limestone.
These breathtaking structures, still standing strong after thousands of years, were all made of natural stone – some of the same varieties of stone we use for patios, pool decks, and walkways. Look at pictures of these wonders. The stone radiates atmosphere, history, and mystery. Can a concrete stamp do the same?
“When you have natural stone, you have a story behind it,” Instone Territory Sales Manager for New England Jake Alicandro said in a recent episode of InBuilding Design.
“You have a stone that’s coming from the earth, that’s been here thousands of years, vs. a paver that’s manufactured, that’s only a few months old or so.”
Don’t Oversimplify Patio Paver Cost
Too often, the choice of natural or artificial hardscaping comes down to cost and the notion that concrete products will save you money. Sometimes that’s not even true. There are manufactured pavers that cost more than natural products, so buyers should compare the specific products they’re considering.
Overall, the gap between the initial costs of concrete pavers and natural stone pavers like those produced by Aura Natural Landscapes have been narrowing. But when comparing prices, it’s important to factor in the costs of upkeep and the expected life of the product. The greater durability of natural stone can save money in the long run on repairs, maintenance, and the need to replace materials vs. concrete pavers, which are prone to suffer chipping, cracks and deterioration.
And then there are the intangibles. Getting beyond the initial material purchase, here are a few reasons why purchasing natural stone products is money better spent.
Natural Stone Pavers Retain Their Natural Beauty
Mother Nature is a talented designer. Natural stone is full of the speckles, swirls, tints and other details that give each piece its own unique character. There’s a reason why many manufactured stone varieties are created to look as much like natural stone as possible.
“The great part of natural stone is the creativity you see within it,” Alicandro said. “You have stones that have a lot of movement in them, and there are stones that are very uniform and linear. The possibilities are endless when it comes to natural stone.”
You can amplify those qualities by laying out your stones in irregular patterns. Irregular pavers are pieces of stone that are not uniform in shape and size, like squares or rectangles, but can be arranged together to create attractive mosaics that call other patterns in nature to mind. Aura Natural Landscapes irregular pavers come in consistent cuts designed to fit together like a puzzle, making them 10 times faster to install than other irregular flagging products.
Eliminate the Vulnerability of Concrete Pavers
Manufactured pavers have come a long way, but even the best of them can’t match the shelf life of natural stone. They are far stronger structurally.
According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), an independent organization that develops standards for construction materials, typical granites can withstand 16,000-25,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure; sandstones upwards of 15,000 PSI; and limestones in the range of 8,000 PSI. The regular concrete used for projects like patios and sidewalks support in the neighborhood of 2,500 PSI.
Even if your stones or concrete won’t be used for a project that will bear the brunt of heavy weights on a regular basis, the elements will deal plenty of abuse over time. The harsh freeze-thaw cycles of the Northeast and the extreme heat waves of the South expand and contract your material, causing a gradual degradation. Concrete pavers are more vulnerable to these swings. .
The fresh appearance of concrete pavers also won’t hold up like a high-quality natural stone. Concrete paver colors are made with pigments and dyes that eventually fade from exposure to sun and the elements, while standard white concrete tends to stain. Take a look at the sidewalks and curbs around your town – are they pretty to look at? And while trends in paver colors and patterns come and go, a classic natural stone never goes out of style.
The Eco-Friendly Choice
The concrete manufacturing process is energy intensive and can rely on chemicals, rocks, cement, and other ingredients being shipped from far and wide. The Natural Stone Institute notes, “From an overall sustainability perspective, natural stone has a lower environmental footprint than precast concrete. This is due to the minimal resources used to quarry, fabricate, finish, and transport natural stone. … Every step in the precast concrete manufacturing process requires the use of a lot of energy, which contributes to their total global warming potential.”
No environmental harm comes from the disposal of stone. In fact, the waste materials from quarrying and preparing natural stone flagging can be recycled for a range of uses, including gravel, artificial reefs, the foundations of construction sites, the bedding beneath patios, and even as ingredients of concrete.
For these reasons, using natural stone can help a project earn points to attain a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
To learn more about the possibilities for a property you own or are working on with natural stone products, visit our Aura Natural Landscapes page . There you can browse its online catalog of granites, sandstones, marbles and other natural stone varieties in a range of colors and patterns, all competitively priced. You can also count on Aura’s design services team to collaborate with your architects, consultants, and other professionals through each project phase.