Clay brick has been a standard building material for thousands of years, used both for building walls and as paving surfaces for roads, pathways, and courtyards. There is nothing more elegant than a driveway, walkway, or patio paved with brick. Although concrete pavers are somewhat harder and more durable than clay brick, classic brick can still easily stand up to normal driveway usage, provided they are laid over a good base and maintained regularly. And clay brick is arguably the most elegant of all paving surfaces and one that always adds value to your home.
Brick pavers are a manufactured product made of clay that is cast in forms, then heat cured, usually in the shape of a rectangle. Cobblestones, on the other hand, are a natural stone cut into paver shapes; concrete pavers are cast bricks made of Portland cement and aggregate.
In contrast to clay brick used for wall construction, paver bricks are solid, smooth-surfaced clay without holes or gaps. Most paver brick is clay-colored and rectangular. Depending on your choice, you can create a driveway, patio, or walkway that looks like it's been around for 100 years or one that fits right in with modern house and landscape designs. Should you someday wish to replace the surface, there is a good market for recycled brick pavers.
Attractive classic appearance
Adds home value
Requires periodic sealing
Susceptible to frost heaving
Limited design options
Brick Paver Cost
You should be able to buy the materials needed for a brick paver driveway for about $5 per square foot. If you do the job yourself, the labor will be free. Professional installation will probably start at about $10 to $20 per square foot, although fancier designs and pricier bricks can drive that price higher. This makes brick pavers a fairly expensive paving material when compared to poured concrete ($6 to $10 per square foot). Clay brick pavers are also slightly more expensive than concrete pavers.
Maintenance and Repair
Clay pavers will gradually weather over time under the influence of moisture and ultraviolet rays from the sun. Proper maintenance can greatly extend the life of your driveway to 25 years or more.
A brick paver driveway should be washed once or twice a year with a pressure washer. Make sure to remove weeds and dirt from between bricks. After the surface dries for a day or two, pack the joints with fresh sand if it is a loose-fit surface. If the pavers are mortared, repair any cracks with fresh mortar and let dry fully.
To ensure a long life, the bricks should be sealed after each washing. If left unsealed, clay brick can begin to flake and peel over time. A sealer can be applied with a good pump sprayer or can be rolled or brushed over the surface. Seal the sand joints as well as the surface of the brick, as this will help solidify the sand and prevent weeds and moss from appearing in the joints.
When sealing a paver driveway, use a product designed for clay brick, such as a siloxane-based sealer, which will protect without changing the appearance of the brick. Avoid gloss-finish sealers, which often result in a splotchy surface. There are, however, "wet look" sealers that look shiny without actually producing a gloss.
Brick pavers make for a very attractive classic paving surface that can work well with almost any home style. Brick paving is a far more attractive paving surface than poured concrete, but when compared to concrete pavers, the design options are more limited. Brick pavers can be arranged in different patterns, but the sizes are all rectangular, and colors are limited to browns and reds. Concrete pavers, on the other hand, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, giving you more flexibility.
Brick Paver Installation
Brick pavers can be set in a base of either paver sand or mortar. As with any driveway material, the key to a good brick paver surface is a well-prepared base—especially when paving a driveway that must support a lot of weight. Outline the area you intend to pave using layout strings, then remove the soil (or the existing paving) to a depth of at least 12 inches. Add 8 to 12 inches of gravel to the excavated area, compacting the gravel periodically as you add layers. Compacting the gravel again after each 2 to 4 inch layer is added. Then add a 1 1/2-inch layer of sand and level it. When the base is ready, start laying bricks in whatever pattern you like.
Installation usually begins with the perimeter bricks, which are sometimes set in concrete to establish a solid edging that will hold the field bricks in place. As the field bricks are installed, they are periodically flattened and "set" by pounding with a mallet. Bricks can be cut individually, but it can be much quicker to trim the edges all at once with a handheld circular saw or rented wet saw fitted with a diamond blade.
Upon completion, the brick surface is flattened and leveled with a heavy roller, then the cracks between bricks are filled with loose sand or mortar. Sand-setting is an increasingly preferred method for environmental reasons since it allows rainwater to seep through into the ground.
Brick Pavers vs. Concrete Pavers
Brick pavers are a classic building material that lends a timeless look to your landscape. But they are slightly more expensive than concrete pavers and offer fewer design options. And while the bricks themselves are very durable, the surface requires periodic sealing to prevent stains. Finally, clay bricks are more susceptible to cracking and breaking than concrete pavers.
Top Brands of Brick Pavers
Because brick pavers are a very heavy building material, they are generally molded and fired at local brickyards rather than manufactured and shipped long distances. There are no nationally-recognized brands for brick pavers, but try to buy from a well-established, reputable local source.
Are Brick Pavers Right for You?
Pavers made from clay brick can be the right choice for you if you like the elegant, classic look of clay, and have the budget or DIY skills to properly install them and maintain them on a yearly basis.