Permeable Pavers

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Looking for a landscape improvement that will turn heads, while doing something to benefit the natural environment and human communities? Why not consider a permeable or pervious paver hardscape project?

Permeable pavers (also called permeable interlocking concrete pavements, or PICP) and pervious pavers are concrete paving stones designed to allow rain water to pass through the paved surface instead of shedding it as surface runoff. A permeable paver system lets the water run down through the cracks between the pavers. Pervious pavers are paving stones or blocks that actually let water though the concrete itself. Both permeable and pervious pavers are available in a wide variety of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes, and can be used in place of traditional paving bricks to create stunning and unique driveways, patios, walkways, and even parking lots.

What's So Great About Permeable Pavers?

There are many reasons permeable pavers are fast becoming a favorite with designers and homeowners alike. To start, they’re sustainable. Depending on how your permeable paver system is set up, it will either allow rain water and snow melt to soak naturally into the earth, or divert it to a storage tank or retention pond for use in landscape irrigation, car washing, or other purposes.

The environmental benefits of a permeable pavement system include:

  • Protects rivers, lakes, and streams. Runoff from roads and parking lots carries pollutants into surface water, which threatens the health of aquatic ecosystems. Permeable pavers reduce runoff significantly, helping to reduce storm water overflow during heavy rains (which can have very unpleasant and unhygienic results if it floods into sewer lines.)
  • Reduces water use. Permeable paver systems that collect water for re-use can significantly reduce water consumption. This helps protect water supplies and reduces the amount of fossil fuel used to pump and treat water.
  • Replenishes aquifers. Allowing water to filter naturally through the ground (either through the system itself or by collecting it and using it on the landscape) helps preserve groundwater supplies.
  • Heat island haven. Large areas of pavement can absorb heat and light, raising temperatures by as much as 22˚ in some urban areas. Installing light-colored concrete pavers can reduce this heat island effect significantly.
  • Non-toxic materials. Concrete is an inert substance that will not release chemical residue into the environment.
  • Less salt. Permeable pavers have been shown to perform well in cold climates. Because they don’t allow water to collect and freeze, little to no sand or deicers are needed to keep them safe—a definite plus for your border plants!

But, permeable pavers aren’t just for nature lovers. They offer many additional advantages to homeowners, including:

  • Permitting perfection. If you have a waterfront property or one subject to water use restrictions, using permeable pavers in your project might just get you the permission you need to go ahead and build. Some municipalities may also offer expedited permitting for sustainable or water wise projects.
  • Raises property values. Curb appeal is big when it comes to home value; hardscape projects that make a great first impression (such as a gorgeous permeable paver drive) can raise a home’s value by up to 20%. Homes with sustainable elements have also been shown to sell faster and for more.
  • Saves money. EPA estimates that 30% of the average American household’s water use takes place outside. Installing a permeable paver system that lets you divert rainwater for these uses can lower your water bill significantly for the life of the system.
  • Concrete pavers are designed to have a compressive strength of at least 8,000 psi – double that of a typical poured concrete driveway. You can expect a properly maintained permeable drive to last 50 years or more.
  • No more puddle jumping. Permeable pavers mean you won’t ever have to step over puddles on the patio or deal with slick icy spots on your drive.
  • Some local governments offer tax credits and other financial incentives for water-saving projects.
  • Looks amazing. In the hands of an expert landscape designer, a hardscape project made with permeable pavers can become a virtual work of art. Even better, it’s a look that will stand the test of time. If a paver ever gets dislodged or a low spot forms, it’s a quick, inexpensive repair.

With all these great benefits, you might be wondering: “what’s the catch?” Every construction material has pros and cons. Permeable pavers can be a little more expensive to purchase than standard pavers, and up to 50% more than poured concrete or asphalt. They may not be appropriate for every soil type. And, they do require periodic minimal maintenance (easily provided by your local landscape company) to ensure continued permeability of the surface. However, many homeowners feel that the beauty and value they provide and their longevity more than make up for these extra costs.

Getting Started With Permeable Pavers

Proper ground preparation and installation is critical with permeable pavers. A permeable paver project must be engineered correctly for proper drainage and to hold in place under expected traffic.

The best bet for homeowners is to look for a professional landscape contractor certified through the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute (ICPI.) Your landscape professional can also help you through the myriad decisions involved in choosing the perfect colors, patterns, and features to complement your home, lifestyle, and landscape. Once it all comes together, you can look forward to feeling great about the many benefits (not to mention compliments!) your permeable paver project is sure to provide for years to come.