Thinking about adding a new concrete patio to your outdoor living space? Want to make sure what you choose adds value to your property, doesn’t break the budget, and looks good? Have you considered concrete?
Concrete is also versatile enough to allow you to choose from multiple design techniques, is much less expensive than other building materials, and requires less maintenance. Therefore, unless there is a specific reason you’d prefer another material, concrete should be your first choice for a patio.
There are other materials that you could use as the foundation of your outdoor space. You could use composite wood or regular wood to build a deck. You could use pavers, slate, or natural stone. So why choose concrete?
|MATERIAL||COST to BUILD (per sqft)||LIFESPAN||MAINTENANCE|
|Concrete||$6 – $10||30 – 50+ years||minimal|
|Intricate design concrete||$15 – $20||30 – 50+ years||minimal|
|Wood||$18 – $28||10 – 15 years||annual|
|Composite Wood||$20 – $38||25 – 30 years||minimal|
|Pavers/Brick||$9 – $23||25 – 35 years||minimal|
|Flagstone||$15 – $21||35+ years||minimal|
Is Concrete Better Than Wood Decking?
Wood is cheaper in some cases than a concrete patio. But that’s only the initial cost and that’s when there isn’t a high demand driving wood prices up. Right now, in the first quarter of 2022, wood decks are running anywhere from $18 – $28 per square foot including labor. And composite wood is more – $20 – $38 per square foot.
Concrete is actually cheaper, at $6 – $10 per square foot for nothing overly fancy. If you want elaborate designs, of course, that can go up to as much as $15 – $20 per square foot (still cheaper than wood).
Wood has to be treated yearly or painted. Even when you do that, it’s going to deteriorate, warp, and rot. And metal used in the building of the deck will corrode over time. Not to mention, using wood is not an environmentally proper option as compared to using concrete.
You may think using composite wood is a better idea. Sure, it’s made to be more durable than standard wood, but it is still wood. It is not waterproof, it is water-resistant, so be aware of that. At least the maintenance is less of an issue, usually consisting of just washing it when needed. And of course, the metal parts will still be at risk for oxidation.
Unlike wood structures, concrete doesn’t have to be restrained and/or resealed every year. And wood tends to warp and can rot – causing costly repairs and higher maintenance expenses than concrete. You also will never need to worry about insect (especially termites) infestations.
Even though concrete patios can get cracks in them over time due to multiple reasons, it’s still usable. When wood decking experiences warping, rotting, or insect damage, it can be rendered dangerous for use.
Is Concrete Better Than Pavers or Natural Stone?
Concrete patios are generally less expensive to install than pavers, brick, slate, or flagstone because it’s less labor-intensive to install. Last I checked flagstone patios typically ran $15 – $21 per square foot in most places but could be more expensive depending upon the location and the type of stone you choose.
Considering concrete can be made to mimic these other materials, the cost might be mitigated through the use of concrete.
With pavers and stone of any kind, there will be joints made out of a weaker material to deal with. Grass and weeds will always be a nuisance. And with concrete, that’s not a problem. If you stamp the concrete to look like a paver or stone patio, there are no joints, really. No weakness.
Weather conditions are also pretty much ignored by concrete. As long as the area has been prepped properly, you will have no issues with your concrete patio.
Something that I want to add here – having been a property owner who has dealt with both stone pavers and concrete patios – is that pavers and flagstones can settle differently than a concrete patio. And so, those uneven spots can be a major trip hazard or ankle turning issue. Neither is fun.
What is the Lifespan of Concrete?
Unlike other materials – especially wood and wood-composite, concrete can last lifetimes. Most homes that were built in the 60s still have the same concrete drives and patios that they came with. Officially, on average, concrete patios last between 30 – 50 years.
They sometimes crack and degrade or discolor slightly due to the use of de-icer and weather and inadequate preparation in the installation, to begin with. Sometimes the mix is too wet or the preparation promotes shrinkage. If the concrete is not scored appropriately, any settling or movement beneath it can cause cracks and damage.
However, this kind of damage does not destroy your concrete. All of these things can be repaired or covered over if they bother you too much. The concrete is very much usable and even though these things can happen.
Is Concrete Easy to Maintain?
Concrete is easy to maintain and lasts for years. It’s actually an investment that will bring up the value of your home. Because it’s usually neat and easy to clean (unlike flagstones and pavers with the possibility of grass breaking through between) it often has more appeal to potential home buyers.
Even in locations that are known to have extreme winters, concrete lasts. For one thing, builders prepare for that. During installation, they use extra rebar to control potential cracking, a high-strength mix, and they apply multiple coats of sealant.
What is the Design Potential of Concrete?
Instead of spending a lot of money on pavers, brick, or flagstone, concrete can also be stamped or engraved in patterns that mimic those other popular paving materials.
Concrete can be stained to match the flooring or colors inside your home so that there is a seamless blend that flows from inside to outside. Or, it can be stained to color coordinate with the exterior colors. For those of us with a decorative eye, this can just be a magical effect.
Concrete can be easily shaped to accommodate the needs of the homeowner. Not to mention, even if you have older concrete in your backyard space, it can be resurfaced, stained, or engraved to give it a complete makeover. So concrete is much more versatile than people think.