By Tim Carter
This brick paver sidewalk has endured severe frost heave, snow, ice and heavy traffic. It can take lots of punishment
It's time to replace our sidewalk, and I'm leaning towards brick pavers. Before I invest this money, I'd like to know the pros and cons of this building material. Should I use clay brick pavers? I'm also interested in different designs and ideas. What kind of pavers would you use and why? --Leslie W. Tacoma, Wash.
I've installed my fair share of brick paver sidewalks. I've also used brick pavers with great success on large patios and steps. At my last home, every person who saw our front sidewalk and our two patios -- all paved with brick -- commented on how gorgeous they were.
Brick pavers make a great sidewalk because they are so distinctive. The color, texture and sheen of the brick are so unlike concrete. Natural stone can also create a unique sidewalk look, but it's often the most expensive paving option.
There are two primary types of brick pavers in my opinion: clay brick and concrete brick. Decades ago, the rage was to install colored concrete brick pavers that required no mortar. They interlocked with one another and could withstand all that Mother Nature could dish out if they were made correctly.
This paving product is maturing, and the designs, colors and shapes of concrete brick continue to expand. One advantage of this material is that you can have a new sidewalk installed and completed in hours, not days. That might be a major consideration for you.
But understand that the color of concrete paving brick will change and fade over time. The color is achieved by adding pigments to the concrete mix. These pigments become part of the cement paste that coats the sand and gravel in the brick. But over time, this ultra-thin cement paste on the top surface of the brick wears off, exposing the true color of the sand and gravel. You may not like that faded color in five or 10 years.
Climate is a big factor with brick sidewalks. Brick pavers in, say, South Florida and other warm areas that never see freezing temperatures will survive longer than they will in a cold, freezing climate. If you use concrete brick, consider applying a brick paver sealer every few years to minimize water penetration into the brick.
I prefer thin brick pavers made from real clay. The color of the material is solid through the entire brick. Purchase ones that have been made for cold climates, and they may last as long as a century. The hotter the kiln and the longer the bricks are left in the kiln, the harder they get.
In many cities you can see still see paving brick in roads that are well over 100 years old. Athens, Ohio is one that comes to mind, as my oldest daughter went to college there. When I would walk across the roads there, I used to imagine the workers installing brick pavers well over a century ago. Even after being scraped with city snowplows and abused by heavy trucks, many of the bricks look like they just came from the brick manufacturer. This tells you that clay brick can last in your sidewalk.
Brick paver designs are as plentiful as cobs of corn in a farmer's field. A clever installer can install a serpentine sidewalk for you. Curves are no issue. If you prefer a more geometric design like herringbone or crosshatching you might see in a cane chair, that's also possible. Many brick manufacturers have great photography of how their brick can be used to create more patterns and designs than you can imagine.
If you want to go all out and make your sidewalk very distinctive, consider some engraved brick pavers. Companies use lasers to cut into a brick's surface and etch any words, names or designs that you might want. You could engrave several bricks with a welcome message or even some poem that sets the mood for guests as they walk up to your front door. The possibilities are endless.
As with any product, use caution when looking at wholesale brick pavers or discount brick pavers. Pay special attention to where they were made. Brick made in China or some other foreign nation may not be up to our standards. Unscrupulous businessmen may not care if your brick sidewalk crumbles. Buy brick pavers from an established business in your town. Ask about the weathering index for the brick. Not all bricks are made the same.
Cleaning brick pavers is easy. You can use an oxygen-bleach solution to remove algae, dirt and mold. Avoid chlorine bleach, as it is highly toxic to grass, landscaping and trees. Pressure washing will erode the cement paste off of concrete brick, so use those machines with great care. A pressure washer will not harm a clay brick surface if the brick has a severe-weather rating. This rating certifies the brick is very dense and very hard as a result of being fired in the kiln for a longer time.
Available at Amazon.com:
Copyright © Ask the Builder by Tim Carter. All rights reserved.