Concrete Paving Services for both Residential and Commercial Projects
Concrete is the world's most widely used man-made building material, and its unique characteristics make it an ideal choice for a vast array of residential and commercial projects.
Along with offering remarkable versatility, concrete is one of the most durable materials in existence with a service life that can extend for several decades when properly maintained. This is one of the reasons why concrete is the material of choice for everything from parking lots, loading docks, highways, driveways, patios and walkways.
Three of the most attractive and affordable options for residential paving projects are concrete slabs, stamped concrete, and paving stones (known simply as "pavers"). Each of these options can provide distinct functional and aesthetic benefits depending on your needs. Let's examine each one in greater detail, beginning with concrete slabs.
Poured concrete slabs can be found practically everywhere you look. They are an extremely popular choice for outdoor residential applications due to their relative ease of installation, as well as their economical cost.
While the process to install a concrete slab is fairly straightforward, careful attention to detail must be exercised throughout each step. It will also take some time for the material to properly dry and cure. Without the correct preparation, materials, and professional workmanship, you run the risk of hindering the long-term quality of your concrete's appearance and performance.
The installation process is comprised of six main steps: Excavation, setting the forms, preparation of the subgrade, pouring the concrete, finishing, and finally curing. Below are some key details about each step:
This is basically the process of clearing and digging out an area of the ground where the concrete slab will be installed. Your paving contractor will extract any loose rocks or stones, as well as organic matter such as tree roots, sludge, leaves, wood, etc. They will also grade the area as needed in order to make the surface as level as possible.
2. Setting the Forms
"Forms" refer to the straight wooden boards that are used to create an outline of the area to be paved. A variety of board sizes are used depending upon the dimensions of the finished product, with the most typical sizes being 2x4, 2x6, or 2x8 pieces of lumber.
In addition, small stakes are used to support the forms. The forms are essentially the guidelines for the project and as such they must be level and accurately placed.
3. Preparation of the Subgrade/Subbase
While many people use the terms "subgrade" and "subbase" interchangeably, there is a slight distinction that should be noted. The subgrade refers to the native soil that resides underneath the concrete slab, while the subbase is a layer of gravel that is typically placed on top of the subgrade.
There is also often a third layer involved – known simply as the "base" or "base course" – that is applied on top of the subbase and lies directly beneath the concrete slab itself. Believe it or not, the only layer that is absolutely necessary to have is the subgrade because you will obviously need to have some natural ground upon which to lay the slab.
The soil of the subgrade should be clear of debris and finely compacted to ensure that the slab has a solid foundation of support, as well as to maintain an even thickness throughout the concrete. If the subgrade soil is stable enough, it is even possible to lay the slab right on top of it. However, this decision should be left up to the discretion of your paving professional.
More often than not, a subbase and base are both needed to ensure the highest level of strength, durability, and load-bearing capacity for the paving project. The entire subbase/base system will typically measure about 4-6 inches thick, although it can be thicker if your pavement requires more support.
The importance of having a high-quality subgrade cannot be overstated because if neglected, you will more than likely have major problems with structural cracking, erosion, and/or slab settlement over time.
4. Pouring the Concrete
Once your paving contractor has finished preparing the subgrade, they will then begin pouring the concrete into the forms, much like pouring cake batter into a mold. It will be pushed, pulled, and spread around as needed until it is filled up to the top of the forms.
Depending upon the type of project being completed, the concrete will need to be properly graded to keep rainwater from accumulating on the surface of the slab. This is especially important with driveways, as standing water can lead to staining and discoloration. It can sometimes even cause flooding of nearby structures due to poor drainage.
In terms of thickness, concrete slabs are typically about 4 inches thick, but once again, your paving contractor will use their discretion to determine if the thickness needs to be increased.
While increasing the thickness by an inch or two will obviously increase the cost (due to the extra materials being used), it can also provide a substantial amount of extra support. For example, adding an extra inch of thickness onto a concrete driveway slab can boost its load-bearing capacity by nearly 50 percent!
As with any paving job, the main purpose of the area to be paved must be taken into consideration so that adjustments can be made as needed to ensure optimal functionality. During the concrete placement, your contractor might also utilize various reinforcement techniques including steel rebar or a mesh material made of wire or synthetic fiber.
Properly placing these materials within the concrete slab can help provide extra support and – in the case of cracking – can hold the concrete together much more effectively than if these materials were not present.
Finishing involves three major steps: Leveling, floating, and then applying a broom finish. During the leveling process (also known as "striking" or "striking off" the concrete), your paving contractor will basically smooth out the top of the poured concrete to avoid any bumps or irregularities rising above the forms.
This is typically done by a process known as "screeding", a process that involves taking a board, pipe, or other straight-edged object (simply called a "screed"), and dragging it across the top of the forms in order to remove excess concrete. The screed is moved back and forth in a type of sawing motion, similar to how lumberjacks use a two-man band saw to cut down large trees.
Not only is excess concrete removed during this process, but it is also added to lower areas as needed. When this is done enough times, it will bring the concrete to a proper grade and create a nice, uniform surface. At this point, your paving contractor will move to the floating stage where they will use a hand tool known as a float (or "bull float" for the larger version) to further smooth out the surface of the concrete.
This tool will flatten out holes and minor ridges, embed rough aggregate particles further into the concrete, and bring out a smoother surface in order to create a better-looking finish. Finally, your paving contractor will apply a broom finish which simply involves raking a stiff-bristled broom across the surface of the concrete to improve the overall traction.
Curing is one of the most important – and sadly one of the most neglected – steps in the entire process of installing a concrete slab. If a slab is not effectively cured, its strength and surface durability can be significantly diminished. The fresh, newly formed concrete must be kept moist and warm until all of the water and chemicals in the mixture have a chance to fully set.
Until that time, your paving contractor will use a variety of curing methods that may include applying wet curing blankets, covering the surface with plastic sheets, applying a liquid curing compound, or continuously sprinkling the area.
Typically, a new concrete slab will be ready to use in about 7 days after the initial placement. However, it can take up to a month or longer for it to achieve its full strength capacity. Factors such as temperature and humidity can also affect how long it will take for the concrete to cure, which is why it's so important to work with an experienced paving contractor who knows what they're doing.
Stamped concrete has emerged as one of the most versatile paving options available for all kinds of applications including walkways, driveways, pool decks, and patios. For the uninitiated, stamped concrete is basically poured concrete that has been stamped with some type of decorative pattern or design.
Stamped concrete is oftentimes used to mimic a certain look (e.g., brick, natural stone, etc), giving homeowners the ability to achieve the desired aesthetic without the sometimes-prohibitive costs that can come along with installing the actual materials.
As newer technology for stamped concrete continues to develop, homeowners now have even more options to choose from in terms of design, texture, and colors. Some of the most popular options in use today are natural stone patterns such as fieldstone and slate, although cobblestone and brick definitely run a close second.
Another increasingly popular choice for stamped concrete are various types of seamless textures that do not feature joint lines. This lends itself to a smoother, uninterrupted look that can complement a wide range of outdoor decorating styles.
When installed correctly, stamped concrete is exceptionally durable and highly resistant to cracks, and because it has a textured surface, it offers a level of slip-resistance that is often superior to that of traditional concrete. But without question, one of the stand-out benefits of stamped concrete is its realistic look.
This is achieved by way of specially crafted polyurethane stamping mats that have been molded from the actual brick, stone, or other natural materials that the mats have been designed to imitate.
In some ways, stamped concrete can offer a look that even the real materials can't achieve, as many times weed growth and moss between the joints of the natural materials can detract from their overall appearance.
There are also a number of different methods that your paving contractor can use to achieve color variations that appear very natural, including combining a surface-applied coloring substance with dry-shake pigments to achieve a multi-toned color mixture.
As you can see, there is quite a bit of artistry involved in creating various looks and effects for a stamped concrete surface. It all adds up to a finished product that is much more unique and aesthetically appealing.
Concrete pavers – also referred to as paving stones – are an immensely popular choice for both residential and commercial applications. This is due in large part to their outstanding versatility, ease of installation and wide range of colors, textures, and shapes. The primary strength of concrete pavers comes from the fact that they are comprised of interlocking units, which when properly installed can create an exceptionally strong and durable surface.
This concept is nothing new. In fact, the idea of interlocking paving stones can actually be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire. As a testimony to their outstanding durability, many of those ancient Roman roads still exist and are in functional use today, thousands of years after they were built!
Most pavers are made from various sands and crushed stone combined with cement, along with pigments to add color to their appearance. They are extremely dense, which helps to minimize any moisture penetration that could potentially damage the paving stones during freezing and warming cycles.
In addition, the spaces in between the pavers are typically filled with sand, which creates a strong interlocking vertical connection between the pavers. This enables the entire network of stones to work together as a highly durable yet flexible "mat".
The majority of paving stones on the market are produced with beveled edges on the top portion of the stones. This can reduce safety risks or tripping hazards in cases where the stones might not be perfectly flush with one another across an uneven surface. The coarse texture of paving stones allows for better traction and improved slip resistance, which is another nice check mark in the safety column.
Some of the most common applications for concrete pavers include:
* Driveways and walkways
* Patios and pool decks
* Playgrounds, streets, and fountains
Installation of Concrete Paving Stones
Installing concrete pavers is slightly more involved than pouring concrete slabs because you're dealing with multiple paving stones that will have to be individually installed. Below is the basic process that your paving contractor will execute to install the pavers:
Similar to concrete slab installation, the first step will involve digging out the area where the paving installation will take place. Before this happens, your paving contractor will typically work with the local utility provider to get an accurate assessment of where any underground pipes or wires might be located.
The bed depth and base material required to begin the installation can normally be determined by a experienced paving professional. Various types of soil will saturate, expand or hold water differently, all of which can affect the potential movement or positioning of the pavers.
2. Preparing the Subgrade
If the soil is cohesive (e.g. primarily clay), preparation is typically done by compacting the soil by way of a tamping rammer or roller. However, if the soil is granular (e.g. primarily sand), a vibratory plate compactor will often be used to compact the subgrade.
3. Installing Geotextile Fiber/Fabric
Geotextile fiber is a permeable type of fabric that is used to help boost soil stability, improve drainage, and control erosion. It is typically placed between the subgrade and base material for additional reinforcement and stability.
4. Installing Base Material
Base material is, as explained earlier, any type of gravel or aggregate material made of crushed rocks. It is generally installed in a series of 4-inch layers or "lifts", each of which gets compacted down before the next layer is applied.
5. Installing Edge Restraints
This extremely important step is where the desired installation pattern for the pavers will basically be sketched out. These restraints, much like the forms in a poured concrete installation, give shape to the pattern that will be used to lay the paving stones. Edge restraints are secured by way of steel spikes and they provide what's known as "lateral resistance", which helps to maintain proper interlocking and continuity among the pavers.
6. Sand Preparation for the Setting Bed
A 1-inch to 1.5-inch layer of coarse concrete sand known as the "setting bed" is spread over the top of the base material. Granite dust is another popular material of choice for this step.
7. Installing the Paving Stones
Finally, the actual installation of the paving stones! Your paving contractor will work with you to discuss the desired pattern you would like to see for your installation, and then lay the pavers down accordingly.
8. Compacting, Sweeping, and Sealing the Pavers
Sand is then swept and spread over the top of the newly installed pavers and then compacted in order to settle into the joints. This process is repeated several times until the joints have been filled, to create a solid and resilient surface.
Fortunately, you don't have to worry about curing time with concrete pavers as the individual stones have already been cured before even being brought to the worksite. Your paving contractor will, however, have to seal the pavers after installation in order to protect them from staining and to bring out the natural colors of the paving stones.
Over time, you will need to have your concrete pavers resealed to ensure their longevity. Generally speaking, paving stones should be resealed every 3 to 5 years, but you should always check with your qualified contractor for their recommendation.
Benefits of Paving Stones
* Easy Maintenance: Paving stones are simple to install and reinstall. If there's a problem area that emerges over time, you don't have to worry about breaking up or jackhammering an entire section of a large concrete slab. You can simply remove the problem stones and repair or replace them, which greatly reduces the risk of lengthy usage interruptions.
* Versatility: In many ways, pavers are a landscape artist's dream.
They come in a virtually endless array of sizes, shapes and colors, and can replicate a wide variety of natural materials such as brick and/or stone. In addition, your paving contractor can mix and match various colors or sizes to create a customized pattern that is both visually appealing and unique.
* Exceptional Strength: Pavers are extremely dense and exceptionally strong, thanks to being manufactured under strict dimensional tolerances using a high-intensity hydraulic press. This means they can endure a remarkable amount of wear and tear without compromising their strength.
Since pavers are installed in an interlocking pattern, they can also adapt and adjust very well to the natural shifts, expansions, and contractions that can occur in the earth beneath them.
In addition, the interlocking paving stones offer supreme flexibility under heavy loads, so that weight and/or pressure is more evenly distributed among each unit. This prevents any one section of the installation from bearing too much weight and becoming subject to cracking or structural failure.
* Weather-Resistant: Concrete paving stones can be used in practically any climate and because they have a flexible, interlocking design, they are not nearly as prone to weather-related cracking as poured concrete or asphalt. Some manufacturers also offer what are known as permeable pavers, which are basically porous pavers that allow water to drain right through them. This can prevent pooling, as well as reduce pollution from water runoff.
* Lower Cost: There are several different types of pavers available on the market today ranging from granite to clay to sandstone. However, you might be surprised to learn that pavers are typically less expensive than you might think. Especially when you factor in the costs of replacement and maintenance, it's easy to see why concrete pavers are a very cost-effective pavement choice over the long haul.
Concrete Paving: Bottom Line
Now that you have a better picture of the incredible scope, versatility and cost-effectiveness that concrete paving offers, it's not surprising why so many residential and commercial customers choose both poured concrete and paving stones for their home improvement and building projects.
And when you work with one of our trusted paving contractors, you will have the same opportunity to beautify your property with a high-quality paving installation and enjoy it for many years to come.
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