Article No: 225

2007-12-10 16:49:13
Decorative Concrete: Hardscaping
By: Christopher Brooks

In today’s highly competitive new homes, market curb appeal has never been more important. Nothing can underscore the beauty of an attractively landscaped property more than its hardscaping, whether it’s a dramatic retaining wall, edging around a pool, or merely a walkway. There are many manufacturers of hardscaping and other paver type products. Most have offices that distribute exclusively in a specified territory. Many have even developed their own colors and designs that draw upon the natural colors of their region.

Recently, the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI) in Washington, D.C., released its annual Industry Sales profile survey that examines the growth of the concrete paver market in North America. In 2006, approximately 800 million square feet of concrete pavers were sold in North America. This represents a 3.2 percent increase from 2005 to 2006.

Last summer the ICPI applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for taking action to update a government database that helps design professionals and builders generate “green” construction projects that reduce stormwater pollution. “Pavements using permeable interlocking concrete pavement systems are different in that they allow stormwater to penetrate into the underlying soil, much like nature intended, rather than be trapped above ground, flowing into streams and flushing massive surface pollutants into the streams,” says Charles McGrath, ICPI executive director.

Environmental Trend
In general the trend is to create more environmentally friendly, “green” products. Rinox Pavers, based in Douglassville, Pennsylvania, is an example of a manufacturer that has developed solutions for both environmental and structural issues, distributing its products from Canada to South Carolina. The company is a leading manufacturer of concrete pavers, retaining walls, and masonry products, all quality alternatives to asphalt or concrete. “Due to increased development in urban areas, and growing ecological concerns for impervious surfaces and storm water runoff, concrete product manufacturers have had to develop new products to address these environmental concerns,” says Katie H. Blitzstein, marketing coordinator for the Commercial Division of Rinox Pavers. “Today’s homeowners may be faced with a need for a structural pavement, yet they cannot use a traditional surface like asphalt or concrete because it is not considered a pervious surface.”

Rinox’s Green Products

With the proper base preparation Rinox’s new product TerraStone is structurally designed to withstand heavy vehicular loads and offer an aesthetic appeal unlike other systems. Like the more traditional pavers, the TerraStone grid sections can be installed in driveways, walkways, or for extra parking space. This new green product was specifically developed to respond to the concerns of stormwater. “The unique design of the grid allows rainwater to be filtered back into the earth naturally,” says Blitzstein. “Voids in the pavers allow for vegetation growth to provide both an aesthetic and an erosion control benefit.”

The manufacturer also offers TurfStone grid sections. This provides a completely different look while allowing for the same environmental considerations, and offering the same weight bearing capacity as the TerraStone.  

Permeable pavers allow large amounts of water and runoff to pass through during rainstorms. This helps relieve the stress on local sewer systems resulting in less flooding. Permeable pavers also make it possible to pave areas around trees and vegetation without concern for the normal watering challenges.

Create an Oasis
Instead of a muddy backyard or chipped and cracked concrete, homeowners can transform their home’s outdoor living space into an attractive oasis. Proper installation requires layers of crushed stone, sand and separation fabric, making it nearly impossible for the up-growth of pesky weeds between the stones. Best of all, using such products for a patio or garden path requires little or no maintenance, freeing up precious weekend hours for family and friends.

Exterior Accessory
When choosing a color or style of pavers to match the architecture of your home, keep in mind that pavers are meant as an accent or “accessory” to your outdoor appearance. “If your home is an old-fashioned 4-by-8 brick, opt for a modular style paving system that comes in various sizes,” Blitzstein suggests. “Modular systems offer more room for creativity and pattern options.  It’s also important that you choose colors to match your home, rather than to clash with you current colors. A nice idea may be to match your existing shutters to the color of the pavers, or even the mortar in between your stones or pavers.”

Pavestone Tips

Architectural sales specialist Joey Guedea, of Pavestone Company in Grapevine, Texas—a manufacturer whose paver products are available in more than 40 states—offers these tips for matching pavers to existing architecture. Choose a company with:
•    A wide selection of molds
•    Ability to have multiple finishes
•    Variety in shapes, colors, and textures
Pavestone’s segmental concrete systems include pave stones, edgers, patio stone and erosion control systems. For elderly homeowners or those who don’t have a lot of time to spend on landscaping work, there is a way to make a practical transition between the patio and lawn.  Steve Akin, a CDC and sales representative for the Grapevine branch at Pavestone Company, suggests the following:
•    Use a sufficient amount (a minimum of 4 inches) of compacted base material.
•    For transition from overlay to base, be sure to lay part on base approximately 1/8 inch higher than overlaid pavers to allow for compaction (patio part will not be compacted).
•    Be sure to have a secure edge restraint.

Problem Areas
It is important to understand how to work with special “problem” areas. Adding a wall to negotiate a sharp drop in topography or to correct a sharp slope are among common topography issues. Alan Starling, CDC sales manager and wall expert for the Grapevine branch at Pavestone, suggests the following for residential applications:
•    Blocks offer both an economical and esthetic alternative to traditional retaining wall products. These are available in variety of colors for any landscape décor.
•    Anchor Highland Stone or Anchor Diamond Pro (taller) are two products Pavestone provides that would work well in such applications.
•    Walls can range from simple gravity walls to engineered applications to contain any grade regardless of height. 
•    Due to constructability, radiuses, tiered walls, steps, and sharp angles can be added with no cost compared to concrete walls.
•    Modular block walls are designed with same standards as rigid concrete walls.  However, because the walls are dry stacked and mortarless the blocks allow for increased movement as you go through seasonal swell cycles without distressing the wall. 
There are many options for your paver needs; not only numerous manufacturers, but also a myriad of colors, designs, and styles. Do some research. Check out manufacturers’ websites and you’ll get plenty of ideas to improve your home’s exterior—and make choices that will benefit the environment.

Based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Contributing Writer Christopher Brooks writes about the home—inside and out—for consumer and trade publications.