29 May Paver Driveways vs Asphalt vs Concrete
How much do paver driveways cost, and how do they hold up in Minneapolis? This article will tell you everything you need to know.
Minneapolis/St.Paul paver patios and paver driveways have nearly the same installation process. The difference is that a paver patio requires a minimum of 4″ of compacted base material, and a driveway requires at least 9″, to handle the weight of cars and trucks. For patios, we use 6″ of compacted base, and for driveways, we generally use 10-12″. (We’ve done raised patios with as much as four feet of base underneath. You could drive a tank on those!)
Comparing Paver Driveways to Concrete and Asphalt:
Pavers: Flexible, Durable Surface, Invisible Repairs
$14-22/s.f. (can be less for huge driveways or no tear-out.)
A paver driveway, properly installed, will last much longer than either asphalt or concrete in our climate. We install paver driveways on 10-12” of compacted base material, ensuring that the driveway will never move. We own a 1,000 pound plate compactor to prepare driveways, the same machine you see on highway projects. (Concrete and Asphalt have much less, and sometimes zero, compacted base beneath them.) Link to our compaction page
The pavers, either clay or concrete, are oven-cured to ~10,000psi (three times the strength of poured concrete) and can withstand much more pressure than a car or truck would ever put on them. So both the base and the surface are solid and durable. Once a paver driveway is installed, it requires no further technical maintenance.
Another great benefit to pavers is that any paver or group of pavers can always be removed and replaced, if necessary. In a disaster where you spill a large amount of something on your paver driveway and can’t clean it off, it’s actually quick and easy to remove and replace the damaged pavers. Clay pavers often have the same texture on the top and bottom, so they can simply be removed, turned upside-down, and reinstalled.
Pavers have been used for thousands of years in Europe and around the world to pave roads. They are still widely used today. Several local landscape supply yards have pavers installed where 20-ton dump trucks drive over them every day. You can use your snowblower or have a snowplow company plow a paver driveway in the winter. They won’t hurt it.
Asphalt: Flexible, Weak Surface, Visible Repairs
Asphalt is a cheap product, designed to be inexpensive to install and repair. Asphalt is installed on 4-5″ of compacted base material, which prevents movement. But it’s not really enough base to be totally stable. Asphalt is soft and easily damaged, particularly during summer heat waves. It needs cracks and holes filled and to be resealed every couple of years to keep looking nice. Oil/fuel leaks can eat through asphalt, surprisingly.
If you have to patch a section of asphalt, you’ll always be able to see where the patch is. Invisible repairs are impossible. With lots of sealcoating it can get close to invisible, but it’s nothing like being able to simply swap a few pavers.
You save money up-front on the installation of an asphalt driveway, but if you want it to stay looking nice, you have to spend money on it most every year. I personally think that asphalt looks pretty nice when it’s new, but give it 5 years of patching and sealcoating, and suddenly the paver driveway next door looks about 100 times better.
Asphalt itself is no longer as strong as it used to be. There used to be some dangerous chemical hardeners added which were very toxic for the environment. Over the last 10 years these chemicals have been banned from asphalt production. So you sometimes see a nice looking older asphalt driveway, which has held up surprisingly well… that one was made out of the “old”, much stronger asphalt than what you can get today.
The price range for asphalt is $6.50-9.00/square foot, depending on the experience of the contractor, the quality of asphalt they’re using, and size of the job.
Concrete: Inflexible, Crack-Prone surface, Visible Repairs.
$9.00-16.00 (regular poured slab)
$15.00-25.00/s.f. (Stamped/tinted Concrete)
Concrete, as we all have observed, starts off looking great, but cracks eventually. It starts in the first year, and every year it gets a little worse. The reason they make those cut lines in concrete is to try to make it crack in those lines instead of through the middle of the slab. But eventually it will crack in the middle, too. There is no way to fix cracks except to tear out the entire thing and start over with a new driveway.
Concrete is totally inflexible. It can not bend with the freeze/thaw cycle, so every winter it develops new cracks. It is installed on little (if any) compacted base material, so it received the full brunt of the frost every year. (see video, bottom of page.)
The surface of poured concrete is durable, but if you spill something uncleanable, you may be stuck with it. There’s no possible way to remove and replace a chunk without leaving a very obvious patch. Invisible repairs are impossible.
Stamped concrete has the same drawbacks as regular concrete, and is more expensive than pavers. Stamped concrete looks good until the cracking starts, and no amount of rebar will stop it. Concrete is too inflexible to stand our winters, long-term.
Concrete pricing has risen in the last 5 years, due to the rising cost of the aggregates in the concrete and the trucking charges to haul it. Nowadays concrete slabs and driveways are in the $9.00-16.00/s.f. range. This also depends on the quality of installation, how much rebar they use, how thick the slab will be, etc. We got three bids for a 1500 s.f. driveway in Southwest Minneapolis last year, and none were lower than $13.00/s.f. That was without tearout!
The one other thing I’ll say, from two decades of seeing concrete being poured near our jobsites… there is a HUGE range of quality among installers. I’ve seen high quality concrete contractors who come in, excavate dirt, compact in 5-6” of base material with a big compactor, and place a lot of rebar in their concrete. Concrete done like that will last a lot longer. But by the time they do all that, the cost is going to be similar to a midrange paver driveway.
We’d love it if you’d contact us for a free estimate. We can give you a rough idea of price over the phone if you know your square footages. You can use the following very general price guidelines:
Paver Driveways: No matter what size driveway or what paver you choose, it’s unlikely you’ll pay less than $14/square foot or more than $22/square foot. This price includes tearout and 12″ of compacted base material under the pavers. For new construction homes, which have no driveway yet, it’s sometimes possible to get under $14/s.f. Call for pricing.
We use huge, heavy compactors to prepare driveways. Be very careful if you get a really cheap driveway quote. There’s no way to skimp on any part of a driveway except the base and compaction— and that’s the most important part.