Everyone dreams of a maintenance free patio that always looks amazing, so yes, of course you used polymeric sand in between your joints to make this scenario more likely. You followed all the directions, and yet…it’s still soft! Why? People are quick to yell “bad batch” for the failure; turns out, that outcome is actually rare. The following variables are most likely one of the reasons your poly is still soft:
When you are designing or building a surface, whether it is a patio, sidewalk, driveway, or any other surface, there are a myriad of product options available. Products used for these surfaces generally fall into two categories, pavers and slabs. The basic difference between the two categories is the difference in load that they can bear. The relative strength of each option is a result of the product’s thickness and surface area. The larger the size of the product, the thicker it must be to be considered a paver and not a slab. Manufacturing process also plays a role in the relative strength of the finished product. For instance, products made using wet cast manufacturing are inherently weaker and are nearly always considered slabs.
Pavers and slabs may look similar, and most manufacturers offer lines of both pavers and slabs in Bucks County PA. There are general rules regarding the use of these products. If the surface is designed for pedestrian traffic, such as a patio, sidewalk, pool deck, etc., then either pavers or slabs are suitable. If the surface application needs to carry a heavier (vehicular or commercial pedestrian) load, then pavers must be used.
Bucks County Pavers
Pavers come in a breathtaking variety of designs, colors, and shapes. They can emulate many other surfaces, including brick, flagstone, cobblestones, and many more. They are made from a variety of materials, such as brick, concrete, and natural stone. Natural pavers are more expensive than the synthetic versions. However, in recent years concrete paver design has evolved in such a way that they can easily and convincingly emulate natural stone.
With spring on the way, rain is in the air. Rain means runoff, an environmental issue about which homeowners, business owners, and local municipalities are growing ever more concerned. A traditional paver or slab installation has a solid stone base underneath and tightly filled joints. This surface is almost completely impermeable. Because of this, it is graded to force water off the hardscaping area and onto surrounding ground or other permeable structures.
Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill to ensure that your hardscaping project turns out right. There are several methods for cutting. Read the article: Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview for more general information. This article focuses on two methods which leave a rough edge to the cut paver:
- Hammer and Chisel
- Block or Paver Splitter
1. Hammer & Chisel
Hammer & chisel is the simplest and most inexpensive method for a few cuts. Simply score the paver along a cut line using sharp but light blows. By repeatedly tapping along the same cut line, the paver will eventually snap leaving a rough cut.
Advantages: Inexpensive, rough finish, ease of use.
Disadvantages: Slow, non-precise rough cuts, possible breakage.
2. Block Splitter
A block splitter is basically a large mechanical chisel or guillotine cutter. By using the leverage of a long handle, you can easily “snap” a paver, wall block or wall cap leaving a rough finished edge. Block splitters generally can snap material up to 6” thick. This is a great tool to use for creating corner wall blocks or caps where the cut side will be visible. Most hardscaping project contractors will use splitters when building walls to help create finished corner pieces.
Advantages: Ease of use, inexpensive to rent, attractive finishing tool, can cut on project.
Disadvantages: Non-precision cutting, must cut at least 2” to get “straight” cut.
Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill. There are several methods for cutting. Read the article: Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview for more general information.
This article focuses on four methods which leave a smooth edge to the cut paver:
Circular Saw with Masonry or Diamond Blade
Table Concrete Saw
Gas Powered Cut Off Saw
Grinder with Masonry or Diamond Wheel.
1. Circular Saw
A circular saw will make cutting more than a few pavers much easier than rough cut techniques. Note you will need to equip your saw with a masonry or diamond blade. Start by making a pass with the saw at ½” depth. Make additional passes increasing the depth of the blade each time.
Advantages: Inexpensive, faster than hammer/chisel, tool readily available, more precise.
Disadvantages: Slow for large amount of cuts, only works on 2” or thinner material.
2. Table Saw
If the job requires a lot of cutting, consider renting a table top concrete saw. Concrete saws are readily available at most rental facilities for approximately $70-80 per day. Tabletop concrete saws make precise, fast cuts for most pavers and wall caps. Most saws are also equipped with water pumps which will spray the paver with water while making the cut to help control dust and prolong the life of the diamond blade. Cutting can be done without using water, but will be quite dusty if water is not used.
Advantages: Fast, easy to use, precise cutting, minimizes dust.
Disadvantages: Need to rent, usually only good for 3” thick cuts or less, can be messy, need electrical hook up.
3. Gas Powered Cut Off Saw:
A gas powered cut off saw will easily cut through any size paver, wall block or wall cap. While this powerful saw is fairly easy to use, it is somewhat heavy and takes a strong back if doing more than a few cuts. Because of the weight, holding the saw along the desired cut line can be difficult making bad cuts which require recutting common. Cut off saws can be difficult to start, so you should always have the rental company test it to ensure it works before leaving the store.
Advantages: Portable, powerful, maximum cutting depth, great for “in place” cutting.
Disadvantages: Loud and dusty, heavy, higher percentage of bad cuts, can be hard to start.
Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill. One or two cuts can be done easily with a hammer and chisel or a circular saw equipped with a masonry or diamond blade. If a large amount of cutting is required it may be easier to rent a more powerful piece of equipment such as a table top concrete saw or a gas powered cut off saw. This specialized cutting equipment can be rented by the day or week at most rental centers.
Types of Cutting Tools:
Hammer/Mallet and Chisel/Brickset
Block or Paver Splitter
Circular Saw with Masonry or Diamond Blade
Table Concrete Saw
Gas Powered Cut Off Saw
Grinder with Masonry or Diamond Wheel
When using power equipment, you should always take safety into consideration and the use of safety equipment is a must. Safety equipment includes:
Note that most cutting will leave a very clean cut line. Most pavers have a tumbled or chamfered edge and the clean cut line will be very noticeable. Using a hammer or scrap piece of paver, you can “chink” or tumble the edge to give a more finished look. Roughing up this clean edge will make a huge difference in the overall appearance of the project.
Disposal, Dust and Advice:
Cutting pavers can be a very dusty, messy experience. You may want to set up a cutting area away from the project and your house to keep dust cleanup as easy as possible. Also take notice of which way the wind is blowing and how the dust will affect your neighbors.
Disposal of the scrap concrete left after cutting can be a challenge. In Phoenixville, Cedar Hollow Recycling will take your concrete waste and recycle it for other uses for a nominal charge. If you are not in the Phoenixville area, check your local phone book for waste disposal.
If a lot of cutting is necessary for your project, make sure to order extra material (5-15% is typical). Please note that not all materials are returnable. Understand what you distributors policy is on returns before ordering material. If the material is non-returnable, you may want to under order and pick up more material when needed. Be careful…some special order colors or slow moving product may not be readily available and you may have to wait if you need more material.
- For curved cuts, consider using a border material. Most projects (especially curved walkways or patios) will look much more finished when full pieces are used as a border.
Travertine is a beautiful natural stone in the limestone family. It is formed from geothermal springs or geothermally-heated alkaline waters. Although travertine exists throughout the world, the best known sources of patio-grade travertine are southeastern Europe (e.g., Italy and Turkey), western South American (Peru), and Southeast Asia (e.g., China).
Initially, travertine found wide use as an indoor tile. Its marble-like appearance created its initial appeal. Travertine use moved outdoors to become a compelling pool deck material when it was observed that travertine remains cool even in intense heat. And, when wet, travertine grips rather than slips. From pool decks, travertine expanded into patios and sidewalks, making it the perfect stone for patios.
Another appeal of travertine is coloring. The color of travertine is tied to whatever minerals happen to be washing through the water that the limestone is filtering when travertine is formed – generally light cream, gold, beige, pale grays. Shopping for travertine requires a high degree of flexibility. You will need to select a color family and then investigate what is currently available looking for the best match between your vision and what is currently in stock. If ordering material not yet removed from a quarry, you will be looking at 8-12 weeks lead time. However, most suppliers warehouse a good supply of beautiful material if you are flexible in your color choice.
The downside to travertine is that it is very porous. The tiny holes that riddle travertine contribute to its cool characteristic but also make travertine highly susceptible to cracking. Small cracks along color veins are normal and part of the beauty of the stone for patios; but, travertine can also display serious damage if not properly screened and shipped. The higher quality travertine is carefully screened and packaged at the mining site prior to overseas shipping. It is cost of sorting and shipping high quality travertine that makes it one of the more expensive outdoor project materials. Note: Even the highest quality travertine is only suitable for foot traffic applications…no driveways!
One final observation: As beautiful as travertine is in its natural form, sealing travertine makes it even more beautiful. Sealing will explode the color veins revealing even more of the marble-like drama of the stone. Make sure you select a sealer that is not film forming. With travertine, the sealer bonds to the stone and soaks in, it does not coat the stone.
For ideas, take a look at a few pictures of travertine projects.
To seal or not to seal your paver patio is a key decision affecting both the look and the maintenance of your outdoor living space.
In terms of “look,” the range of options for sealing pavers has grown dramatically over the last two years. You can choose a “wet look,” a “color enhancing look,” an “invisible look.” Paver sealers can be water or solvent based. The look can be matte or gloss. Some sealers for pavers look great after one coat; some explicitly require a second application. There are pavers sealers that stabilize the sand in the joints of the pavers at the same time as enhancing the finish. Most dealers have displays or samples to show you what look each paver sealer will produce. There are no wrong answers here, pick what you like!
However, once you have committed to sealing your patio, sidewalk, pool deck or other outdoor paver area, you are also making a commitment to ongoing maintenance. A sealed surface can look great and require no re-sealing for several years. But the longevity of a sealed paver look can vary dramatically. How long the sealer will last depends on the use and the environment. Intense sun, salt water, heavy traffic, even damaging foliage can degrade the sealed look and force a shorter timeframe between re-sealing.
Some helpful hints (reminders) to consider when you choose to seal your pavers:
• Never seal pavers that still have visible efflorescence. This film is a natural occurrence which is part of the curing process for concrete pavers. If you seal before efflorescence has either worn off or been cleaned off, you are locking it into your pavers forever.
• Make sure you know how the sealer should be applied. There are a variety of application techniques. Some require very expensive, specialized equipment. If doing this yourself, pick something designed for DIY not something that requires a significant investment in application tools.
• Read the instructions. Check temperature requirements and check the weather forecast. Sealers do not apply correctly if it is too hot or cold or if they get wet too soon.
In eastern Pennsylvania, we are all tired of winter and snow even though February is only two weeks old. So, while dreaming of sitting on your beautiful paver patio and enjoying spring weather, what planning can you do to optimize this seasonal experience?
One wonderful advantage of a manufactured, interlocking paver patio is extremely low maintenance. Whether your patio is made by EP Henry, Techo-Bloc, CST or any other high quality manufacturer, pavers made from dense concrete are durable. Only two potential maintenance issues need to be considered each spring: cleaning and joint repair.
Cleaning. If colorful vegetation falls on your patio potentially leaving stains, or you cook out and occasionally spill offensive materials (like grease), or your children decided the patio was a great place to do a school project that resulted in “oops”, you may need to clean the surface. Most environmental debris can be cleaned off with only water, or a power washer. If the stains are a bit more intense, mild cleaners such as Techniseal™ Hardscape Cleaner will work. If truly severe, the stains may require specialized cleaners for paint, grease, etc.
If your patio was new in 2010, you might be waiting for “new paver” efflorescence to dissipate. Efflorescence is a white film which sometimes appears on concrete pavers. It is a salt-based residue left during the curing (drying) of the concrete pavers. Salt does not bind into concrete so when there is salt in a raw material used to make concrete, e.g., sand, it will be released while the concrete is setting leaving the film. Normally, this will wear off in time. But when the environment is very damp, e.g., record snowfall, the natural disappearance of efflorescence may take longer than you are willing to wait. In this case, you may want to clean off any remaining efflorescence. This is done with a professional-grade cleaner. Several manufacturers make specialized cleaning agents which are available at your local landscape supply dealer.
Joint Repair. If the joints between your patio pavers are filled with compacted sand, a hard winter will erode some of that fill. When you can see the joints again (in other words, when the snow melts), fill low spots with sand. Joints are usually filled with concrete sand; however, it your pavers have very tight joints, playsand is finer and will be easier to brush in. If your patio was finished with polymeric sand, i.e., sand mixed with chemicals that cause the compound to become permanently hard, you should not need repairs. However, if you shoveled frequently, especially a paver sidewalk or driveway, intense shoveling could remove some of the stabilized sand. You can also refill this sand mixture; however, you may need to remove more first to make sure the new material is thick enough for the chemical process to work. You can obtain technical information from the polymeric sand manufacturer’s websites, ask the contractor who installed your patio pavers, or see your local dealer.