Decks are popular for outdoor living spaces, but lately hardscapes are getting harder. Concrete pavers, decorative concrete, and stone or concrete decking tiles are covering more outdoor surface area, but unlike dreary gray slabs, new products bring a range of color and texture to exterior rooms.
PAVING THE WAY From driveways to patios, pavers are more than just brick walls laid flat. At Eldorado Stone, Burnaby pavers are hand-poured concrete replicas of stones used as ballast on a centuries-old ship that sailed from Scotland to British Columbia. “To find similar pavers now, you would have to import reclaimed cobblestones from Europe,” says product development manager Ramsay Hawfield. “But through our manufacturing process, homeowners can find the textural, authentic look of European cobblestones right in their neighborhood.” Currently available in two profiles and six colors, Burnaby installs like traditional pavers, with a concrete base recommended in driveway applications.
Oldcastle's Belgard brand also offers two new paver designs. The Urbana design's geometric style features modular square and rectangular stones that capture the look of slate, while the Arbel design has a more natural flagstone aesthetic. Rick Cawston, vice president of Belgard, says the pre-sized pieces come in uniform thicknesses, making them easier to work with than natural stone. Concrete pavers, he adds, offer a better lifetime value than wood decking. “When properly installed, a concrete paver patio or driveway has a 75-year life cycle, compared with a deck that might have to be replaced multiple times,” he says.
Both Cawston and Hawfield acknowledge that pavers are more expensive than other surfacing options, though aesthetics and durability add value for the homeowner.
AN ELEVATED LOOK Stone and concrete decking tiles are also gaining momentum in the market. In most applications, both products require joist framing to which the square tiles are attached with hidden bracketing systems.
McFarland Cascade product manager Gary Maulin says that the company's product, StoneDeck, appeals to homeowners because the tiles are made from natural stone with a composite backing. “A lot of people have slate inside their homes and want to carry that look outdoors,” he says. A wide range of styles and textures is available; however, at a cost of about $20 per square foot, a StoneDeck inlay in a wood or composite deck may be the most economical choice. “It can be expensive to do a whole deck, but if you have a barbecue, a seating area, or a fire pit, the tiles are a great surface,” Maulin says. “Things like barbecue sauce or other spills won't stain the stone, and they won't be damaged by sparks from a fireplace.”
Decking tiles also can bring an appealing look to new heights. “We've done elevated walkways, and decks over steep hill edges, which gives a much different look than wood, and it's something you can't do with pavers,” says Patty Muldoon, vice president of sales for Dekstone. Because 24-inch precast concrete Dekstones weigh 88 pounds each, Muldoon says there's no risk of the tiles sliding out of place, no matter the installation, particularly when the edge tiles are properly anchored and/or a skirt board or fascia trim is used.
COLORFUL UPGRADE Many homes' existing concrete surfaces could use some attention. Enter colored concrete. Quikrete's Concrete Professional Coatings include sealers in 60 colors to tint concrete, and new Etching Stain, available in three rich shades that permanently color concrete surfaces.
“There are a lot of beautiful things you can do with hardscapes, but there's a cost issue to consider before replacing a surface,” says Tim Beasley, national sales manager for Quikrete. “As long as the concrete is sound, Etching Stain and sealer can give the surface a new look for just 57 cents per square foot, compared with $8 per square foot to pour new concrete, or more to use pavers or other materials.”
When new poured concrete is in the plans, Grace Construction Products offers batch-tinted Decorative Concrete, designed to provide through-body color. “For homeowners who spend more time outdoors, decorative concrete enhances the aesthetic appeal of their patios, decks, and walkways,” says Brian Impellizeri, Grace's product manager for decorative products. “Mature markets such as California and Arizona have been doing this for a long time, but we're seeing the trend penetrate the East as well.” Impellizeri also is excited about Grace's new Topcast product. Applied on top of curing concrete, the water-based surface retarder keeps the top layer from drying completely. The next day, the layer is rinsed away leaving aggregate exposed for a textured surface. Eleven etching depths are possible for just the right look.