There are a lot of differences between clay and concrete as a building material in general, especially when it comes to pavers. We pride ourselves in being an advocate for the brick industry and want to give you some facts about the differences. We’ll look at 3 aspects and qualities of pavers that are important to consumers and architects alike and show you the differences between each one: Colorfastness, Strength and Shapes/sizes.
Both clay and concrete pavers offer multiple styles and colors that appeal to a wide range of design tastes from a more modern to historical, but there are some major differences in other aspects.
Across the multiple experts we’ve spoken to, one of the main differences between clay and concrete pavers is the colorfastness, meaning how long the product will retain the same appearance after installation.
Concrete pavers do not have the same colorfastness as clay pavers. In our experience, concrete pavers will fade in as little as 3 to 5 years. Concrete pavers are extremely susceptible to various forms of surface erosion. Over time, the surface of the paver erodes away due to rain, wind and temperature changes. Erosion wears the surface away, causing the aggregate to begin showing, giving it a speckled appearance. Because the aggregate isn’t colored, it changes the overall look dramatically. The sun also affects the color fastness of the concrete pavers. (More to come on this later)
(The left side of the image shows what the concrete pavers would like like after being installed, while the right side of the picture shows an example of the concrete pavers aggregate being exposed from wear and erosion.)
Clay pavers will never fade. The color is consistent throughout the body of the paver so even if the surface gets chipped, the color stays the same. They are made with natural clay out of the ground which does not lose color. Pavers made of clay will not erode. They are fired at high temperatures which keeps the color consistent throughout the lifetime of the paver. Also, clay pavers never need sealed to keep their color which keeps them virtually maintenance free.
When consulting experts, the other biggest differential we encountered was the strength of the units themselves, in regard to whether concrete or clay was stronger.
It is a common misunderstanding that concrete pavers are just as strong as clay. Concrete pavers in
reality only have about a third of the compressive strength of clay pavers according to Brickman Hall of Fame inductee Chip Clark, who is an expert in masonry codes and standards as well as heavily involved in the Nation Brick Research Center where compressive strength is tested. Concrete pavers are dry cured and do not require the additional step of firing like clay pavers therefore making them not as strong/durable.
Clay pavers have a range of compressive strength from 10,000 to over 25,000 PSI. Clay pavers/brick are fired at temperatures in excess of 1800 degrees F which makes them one of the strongest building materials used. One of the highest recorded PSI for a clay paver was over 34,000: that is over 34,000 Pounds per square inch of pressure!
Shapes & Sizes
While there is always the classic 4x8” rectangular or 8x8” square size of pavers, sometimes you want something unique, or smaller/larger that creates different patterns.
Concrete pavers offer an innumerable amount of possible shapes. They can create just about any shape you could desire because they are poured into molds. Because of the simple process, it’s easier to have a wide range of paver sizes and styles to please all different types of tastes.
Clay pavers have the classic sizes and shapes that most people think of in regard to paving materials. Brick manufacturers have perfected the process of creating strong brick and pavers for hundreds of years and the typical 4” x 8” rectangle shapes are the best for durable, long lasting pavers because of the kiln process. Clay pavers are also available in different finishes such as beveled or square edge or tumbled to create a variety of different styles.
Above we have listed the main differences between clay and concrete pavers. In our findings, when it comes to colorfastness, the advantage goes to clay pavers. As for strength/durability, clay is also the superior product. However if you are not looking for 4x8 or 8x8 pavers, concrete has the advantage. Concrete pavers will always offer more shape/size options than clay. We hope this information was helpful, please reach out to us if you have any questions.