Natural Stone vs Concrete Pavers: Selecting Materials for Your Patio

New England’s climate demands durable materials for hardscaping projects with its notorious freeze-thaw cycles and varying weather. When it comes to building a beautiful long-lasting patio, flagstone pavers and concrete pavers are both top contenders. Understanding the nuances of concrete vs stone can greatly affect both the cost and longevity of your outdoor living space. Let’s review the factors to consider when planning your patio and the pros and cons of each material option.

What is Flagstone and Why Use it in Your Patio

Flagstone pavers are made from any sedimentary or metamorphic rock that has been split into layers along the natural lineation planes of the stone. The term comes from the application of these thin cuts in “flags” to create a pattern and have been used in paving since the early 1900’s. Flagstones come in a variety of colors from browns and greys to golds and blues. Most flagstone pavers found in Maine stone yards are typically sourced from quarries in New England, Pennsylvania, and New York State and include bluestone, sandstone, limestone, and granite. Most flagstone is irregularly shaped with varying thicknesses and will need to be pieced together and cut to size for installation as patio pavers.

Flagstone pavers, with their organic shape and earthy tones, offer a unique, timeless appeal that integrates seamlessly with the natural New England landscape. However, due to the labor-intensive process of quarrying and cutting natural stone pavers and the increased time and effort to install, flagstone tends to be more expensive than manufactured products. While the investment may be significant, the result is a naturally elegant space that stands the test of time.natural stone pavers in a patio

  • Authentic Aesthetics: Flagstone patio pavers offer a natural, earthy beauty that is often sought after for providing an organic touch to any landscape design. It fits well with existing elements of the New England landscape such as old stone walls.
  • Durability: Renowned for its natural durability, natural stone stands up to harsh weather conditions, especially when selecting varieties like bluestone that resist freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Varied Textures and Colors: Flagstone pavers come in a range of colors and textures that can match your design.

Some types of natural stone pavers are subject to weathering. If your patio will be exposed to the elements, you should choose a dense stone that is resistant to freeze-thaw cycles, such as granite or bluestone.

It’s important to consider how the characteristics of your chosen material will affect the intended use of your outdoor living space. The natural cleft (irregularly textured surface) of flagstone pavers can make it difficult to keep furniture level and can even present a tripping hazard. Some types of natural stone pavers tend to heat in the sun and can be painful to walk on with bare feet, and stone that becomes slick when wet is dangerous for use around a pool. If any of these factors are of concern but you are set on using natural flagstone, thermal bluestone is an excellent option. Thermal finish bluestone is cut to a uniform thickness and heat treated to give it an even, non-slip finish that is also less prone to freeze-thaw damage. It is available in irregular shapes, which work better with natural designs, or as patterned squares and rectangles, which are easier to install.

The Practical Beauty of Concrete Pavers

Concrete pavers offer a practical and cost-effective solution for homeowners seeking a balance between aesthetics and functionality. They are made from a mix of gravel, sand, cement, and a coloring agent. Due to the relative ease of manufacturing, they tend to be less expensive than natural stone. Because they are man-made, they can be customized to almost any size, shape, texture, and color. Many concrete paving stones are designed to imitate the appearance of natural stone pavers, and in some cases, it may even be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Concrete pavers are also easier to install due to their consistent thickness and interlocking design, and they offer a more uniform look.

These man-made pavers boast an array of benefits that cater to both design sensibilities and practical needs:concrete pavers patio

  • Design Diversity: Concrete pavers come in an array of styles, textures, and colors, offering homeowners the creative freedom to customize their patio to their exact aesthetic specifications.
  • Cost-Effective Solution: When considering Concrete vs stone, concrete is often the more budget-friendly choice, giving the look you desire without the higher cost of natural flagstone.
  • Superior Durability: Concrete vs stone isn’t just a question of aesthetics, it’s about longevity. The strongest and most durable concrete pavers are manufactured with two layers: a high-strength base mix and an architectural surface mix. While some pavers that use a uniform mix are quite durable—take Rinox pavers for example—the use of a face mix is a good indication of high strength and quality. For any type of concrete paving stones, look for a lifetime warranty to ensure you’re choosing pavers that will withstand the New England climate.

Concrete meets the practical needs of durability and maintenance while still providing the beauty of natural looking stone for a patio solution that’s as enduring as it is attractive.

Merging Elegance and Utility

Designing a patio is a balancing act between aesthetics and practical utility, and you don’t need to be limited to one type of patio paver. Integrating both natural stone pavers and manufactured stone within a single design can yield a patio that is both striking and functional. Consider using concrete pavers as your base, providing stability for outdoor furniture, and ensuring an even, non-slip surface for high-traffic zones. Then, incorporate natural stone accents such as granite steps, capstones, or a veneered sitting wall around your concrete paver patio, or play with coordinating and contrasting borders and inlays.

The combination of flagstone and concrete pavers allows for a custom patio that satisfies a range of design preferences, practical requirements, and budgets. Whether you’re aiming for timeless appeal or the clean lines of modern architecture, there are lots of ways to mix and match materials to meet your preferences.

Our Advice: See Your Patio Options in PersonWindham Genest retail center with stone paver displays

Visiting a landscaping supply yard with hardscape displays will allow you to see and touch a variety of materials and determine which stones work well together in texture and color. Genest’s three retail centers in Sanford, Biddeford, and Windham offer a variety of indoor and outdoor displays where you can explore beautiful and durable concrete paving stones in a variety of styles and colors as well as the largest selection of natural stone in the state of Maine. In addition to our own Maine-made concrete pavers, manufactured with our patented Duracon finish, we represent several manufacturers of high-strength premium-quality pavers that meet the requirements of the New England climate. Our trained sales professionals will be able to answer your questions, assist you in making a selection, and even recommend an installer for your project.