Concrete pavers have been the mainstay of the paving industry for decades both for large commercial projects as well as residential applications. But does this mean that they are necessarily the best products to use or have the best properties considering other products which are now available on the market? Well no, that’s not necessarily the case. Let’s take a look at porcelain pavers for example, which are rapidly becoming a popular alternative to concrete pavers.
Typically when someone hears the word porcelain pavers they tend to think of a paver about 3/8” thick which is laid on a concrete base using thinset or some other adhesive, and generally being used for interior floors. But advances in ceramic technology and firing techniques now mean it’s possible to make a porcelain paver that’s up to 1 ¼” thick. The big advantage of this is that these pavers are exceptionally strong, in fact strong enough to be supported by a pedestal support system with only the four corners resting on the pedestal head.
So let’s look at some of the features and properties of porcelain pavers. Firstly, porcelain pavers are available in an exceptionally wide range of colors and styles, impossible to achieve with traditional concrete pavers. There are some incredibly realistic wood look colors incorporating, knots, streaks, pin holes and other features which characterize natural wood in colors ranging from light Ash to Ebony, and styles from weathered, to rustic to new. And one of the big advantages is that porcelain is totally fire resistant, fade resistant, scratch resistant and exceptionally low maintenance. In stone look options, there’s a vast range of natural stone simulations available – slate, granite, marble, travertine, limestone, sandstone and much more, all of which avoid the issues of poor stain resistance, freeze thaw cracking etc. common to many natural stones.
Turning to sizes, porcelain paver again offer so much more choice. From 4” x 4” cobblestone blocks to massive 48” x 96” slabs and a host of sizes in between, there’s a size to suit every application. And not just square or rectangles. Plank style porcelain in sizes up to 96” long and 8” or 12” wide are fast becoming the preferred choice for fireproof rooftop decks.
Many people may not be aware that concrete is somewhat porous, which in many regions of the US can give rise to problems of freeze thaw cracking. Porcelain pavers however are essentially totally impervious to water, so freeze thaw cracking is never an issue. And being non-water absorbent means they are exceptionally stain resistant as well. As everyone knows, if you spill oil or grease on concrete, it is extremely difficult to remove. Not so with porcelain pavers.
Admittedly porcelain is a somewhat brittle material, so dropping heavy solid objects on the pavers may cause some chipping, or even shatter the paver. But concrete is not entirely immune to damage by impact from heavy objects either. Remember though that pavers made of concrete are generally substantially thicker than ¾” porcelain pavers, which of course then makes them substantially heavier. And this in turn is another advantage of the porcelain pavers – they are considerably lighter. So not only are porcelain pavers much easier to transport, move to various locations such as rooftops much more easily, but also they are much easier and quicker to install.
If maintenance is an issue, then porcelain pavers win hands down. As mentioned above, they are fade resistant, scratch resistant, and stain resistant. So realistically, any maintenance just requires a quick brushing or washing with water from time to time.
So although porcelain pavers may not yet be as well-known as concrete for rooftop decks, paving and general landscaping, they are certainly a product that should be on your option list when considering your next paving project.