Decor: Nothing says old-world charm like tumbled brick pavers

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Updated May 7, 2019

While practical reasons for using brick or colored concrete pavers abound, Paul Yates hasn’t had to use them as selling points lately. His customers are clamoring for brick patios, driveways and walkways not because they’re easy to maintain and environmentally friendly, but because of the atmosphere they create.

“People are looking for a more European look,” says Yates, vice president and head of construction for California Pools and Spas of Coachella Valley, which also specializes in landscaping and hardscaping. “There seems to be a trend, particularly on the West Coast, for the Tuscan, Italian look or the Old English look. It’s just very popular right now.”

Developers are taking note of the preference as well. Crews built all the streets in one subdivision in Yates’ area out of brick pavers.

Both real brick and concrete pavers can be tumbled, a process that chips off the corners and makes the pavers look old. The finished patio or walkway resembles a time-worn cobblestone street. Tumbled pavers cost more than regular ones. But the difference in price per square foot is in cents, not dollars, so it’s not an issue for most homeowners, Yates says. Customers intent on achieving an authentic Old World appearance elect to use real brick pavers rather than concrete ones even though the price difference in this case is significant.

On the practical side, pavers absorb surface water, allowing it to soak into the ground, whereas asphalt and concrete require water to run off into some sort of storm drain system. Compared with decorative concrete, pavers aren’t as susceptible to cracking, discoloration or staining. And if a section of pavers does need to be replaced, removing individual pavers and placing new ones is much easier and less expensive than replacing a section of concrete, which usually has expansion joints every 10 feet. To keep the replacement from being noticeable, you would likely have to replace an entire 10-foot segment.

[sidebar] Brick retaining walls and borders
Suddenly everyone wants brick retaining walls and garden borders, says Adam Berg, owner of A Man 4 All Seasons in Detroit. Home Depots in the Detroit metro area regularly run out of this type of brick because of the increase in demand, he adds.

When combined with brick or concrete-paver patios and walkways, brick walls and borders can extend the Old World feel throughout a space. Berg says customers are also asking for brick extensions around existing driveways and patios.

Homeowners often hire landscaping firms after trying to build a brick retaining wall themselves, Berg says. “There’s more complicated math to it than people think,” he says. Homeowners don’t install the bricks levelly, and eventually the wall bows and the bricks slide out of place.

Like brick or concrete pavers, brick borders offer practical advantages as well as a distinct style. They are excellent at keeping weeds and grass out of flower beds if you use at least two layers of bricks. The second layer covers spaces between bricks in the first layer, preventing grass and weeds from growing through.

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