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Ultimate Guide to Laying Pavers Over Concrete

October 11, 2012
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Benefits of Laying Pavers Over Concrete

Nothing makes a home look more dated than a tired-looking concrete slab. Stains, cracks, mold, and discolorations detract from curb appeal and ambiance. But the time and expense of removing a concrete slab keeps most homeowners from replacing it.

So, they try pressure-washing — which can help but can only do so much to improve the look. Or, they try expensive resurfacing only to find out too late that it will only last a couple of years before chipping or peeling. The better, more permanent solution: overlay concrete with thin pavers. The transformation is incredible, and Belgard pavers are guaranteed to last the life of your home.

Laying Pavers Over Concrete Patios and Porches

Few renovation projects will drastically improve your home’s curb appeal like converting an old stained and cracked concrete driveway to a stunning paver driveway. And nothing transforms an outdated pool like a beautiful contemporary paver pool deck. However, these types of projects typically call for the painstaking, costly and time-consuming process of ripping out that old concrete. Or do they?

For raised homes, basement patios, or concrete porches, laying pavers over concrete patios will dramatically improve the look and functionality of your space.

Keep in mind that the overlay will increase the elevation of the slab, so it is best to choose a paver with the appropriate thickness to avoid having to grind down the transitions.

For some situations, you may need to install a French drain along the transition to avoid drainage issues.

Pavers Over Concrete Walkways or Entryways

Goodbye cracks and stains when you say “hello” to beautiful pavers. Another benefit to laying pavers over concrete is that it allows for an expansion of the paved area without making the addition look like an afterthought.

Pool Deck Pavers Over Concrete

A dated pool can become somewhat of an eyesore and can even detract from the property value. Give a concrete pool deck an eye-catching facelift with a paver overlay. The results will have you and all of your friends wanting to spend every day by your pool.

Laying Overlay Pavers

Thin concrete pavers or Belgard Porcelain Pavers may be placed over an existing concrete slab or a new concrete slab (4,000 psi and 4” thickness minimum) on sand or a DriBond setting bed.

Thanks to the incredible patent-pending formula of Techniseal® DriBond™ advanced mudset, concrete removal is completely unnecessary, as long as the slab is structurally sound. A driveway, patio, walkway or pool deck can be completely transformed in less than 48 hours, and for significantly less cost than concrete removal and replacement.

DriBond installs like sand — filling the cracks and seams of a sound concrete slab — to provide a bedding surface for the installation of thin overlay pavers (including concrete pavers, porcelain pavers or natural stone.) Activated with water, DriBond sets like concrete to create a durable bond. The result is a stunning outdoor living space with lasting beauty.

Laying Pavers Over Concrete Without Sand

Many people assume you can only lay pavers using sand, and wonder if you can lay pavers without sand. The answer is “yes”. Let’s take a look at how to lay pavers without sand.

Before installation, verify that the distance from the top of the slab to the doorsill will accommodate the proposed paver and setting bed thickness. If the concrete won’t allow for the thickness of the new overlay material, many rental companies will rent small grinding equipment.

As long as you are left with a minimum of 4”, you can remove some of the existing concrete. The other option would be to cut and remove the concrete near the transition and re-pour it at a lower height.

DriBond Mudset for Concrete Overlay

Provided the concrete is in good shape, you should be able to overlay it with thin cobble-style pavers. Depending on your location (not fully tested for extreme freeze/thaw conditions), DriBond will also work to facilitate the overlay of larger shaped thin pavers. You will just need to activate it with a lot of water due to fewer joints.

You could also use outdoor-rated thin-set adhesive as well. Be sure to account for the extra height and drainage. You may need to install a french drain.

When you install an overlay with DriBond, it applies like sand but is activated with water and sets like concrete so erosion of the bedding material is not an issue.

DriBond will adhere the pavers directly to the concrete slab, similar to how thinset adhesive works for tile. Unlike thinset, it goes on as a thin dry powder (3/8” thick max). Once the pavers are installed, simply soak the pavers with water to activate the bonding agent. If just using sand, you will want to install an edging restraint as shown in the above diagram. To help with restraining the borders when using DriBond, use Borderbond to enhance the adhesion and increase stability.

DriBond is a veneering product. It mirrors the surface it is being overlaid on and isn’t intended for leveling. That being said, the minimum thickness is 1/4 inch thick — which is the recommended thickness for a standard project. However, it is possible to install up to 1/2 of an inch of DriBond, to help achieve basic leveling goals. Any thicker than that, and you inhibit the product’s ability to achieve the proper bond.

DriBond™ Advanced Dry Mudset is an excellent product to facilitate this type of overlay, as it installs like sand, filling in all of the cracks and seams. Once the pavers are laid in place, water is sprayed over the pavers to activate the DriBond, which then hardens and sets like concrete to bond the pavers to the original slab.

Tips and Tricks for Installing Pavers Over Concrete

Pavers add an upscale look to a home’s exterior, significantly boosting the curb appeal of walkways and driveways. As long as the concrete slab is still sound, it can be overlaid with pavers.

Regardless of the integrity of your slab, there are still several considerations to take into account before overlaying concrete with pavers. In this next section, we’ll walk through some of the best tips and tricks to handle everything from drainage and jointing to transitions, edging, and even how to best deal with cracked or broken concrete slabs.

Drainage

One of the greatest challenges for laying pavers over a concrete slab is drainage. Without the proper slope, water can accumulate between the pavers and concrete, causing major drainage problems.

Before laying anything, test your drainage by wetting the concrete slab to make sure no pooling occurs. If there are any drainage issues, they should be addressed immediately. It might be necessary to create a sloped edge to serve as a dedicated drain. Make sure the edge stays low and is constructed using permeable materials.

If a drainage edge isn’t possible or doesn’t fit your aesthetic, you can also install a french drain to keep water from pooling or flowing towards the home..

Joints

Expansion joints are still recommended, even if you are installing a new concrete slab to lay pavers over. You might also want to align the joints of the pavers with the expansion joints. DriBond allows some flexibility, but this would be a good preventative measure.

We recommend using a joint stabilizing sealer to stabilize the sand. Techniseal offers a fantastic Joint Stabilizing Protector in Natural Look, Wet Look Gloss Water-Based, Wet Look Gloss Solvent-Based, and Satin Look.

You may also want to bring the grade up by adding soil and/or applying a tapered mortared edge.

If you’re considering jointing with polymeric sand, you would need the drainage capability, as that product is activated with water also. Polymeric sand, if properly set, can help with drainage and eliminate pooling.

Transitions & Edging

Just like any paver surface, you’ll need to fortify edging to prevent the sand (if applicable) and pavers from shifting, sliding, or settling. We recommend different methods based on whether or not you installed using sand or DriBond.

Installing Edging For Pavers Installed Over Sand

If you laid your concrete pavers over sand, we recommended fortifying your edges using

Edge Bond. Powered by NextGEl technology, Edge Bond is a polymer-modified hardscape concrete edging formula, allowing for incredibly fast and easy installation.

Installing Edging For Pavers Installed Using DriBond

Your best bet for edging after laying pavers using DriBond is the BorderBond fortifier. BorderBond is a ready-to-use liquid fortifier built to mix with DriBond, bonding border pavers securely to a concrete base.

Every container of BorderBond is meant to mix with one bag of DriBond. We suggest mixing both products gradually, ultimately resulting in a smooth, creamy consistency. Once mixed, apply to borders and transitions as needed, and install your border pavers. Gain more explicit instructions from BorderBond’s Technical Data Sheet.

Height

Unless you specifically want to increase the elevation of your slab with an 80mm paver, the best choice for an overlay is a thin paver. Belgard offers multiple styles in thicknesses that vary from 20mm to 60mm that work very well for overlay projects.

If your site is located in a freeze-thaw zone, consider any heave movement in your height calculation. The thickness of the concrete slab should be 4”-6” with consideration given to heavier loading (RV, travel trailers, trucks, etc.) to determine the correct depth of concrete base and any internal reinforcement.

For additional or site-specific design, consult your local Belgard representative or a civil/geotechnical engineer experienced with rigid segmental pavement design.

Cracked or Broken Slabs

Techniseal DriBond works well for this type of application and would be faster to install than thinset, assuming that the concrete is sound. Cracks are ok, as long as there’s no shifting or heaving. Click here to watch an installation video.

Best Thin Pavers for Overlay Over Concrete

Several different types of thin pavers are perfect for laying pavers over concrete slabs. The differences in these pavers include material, size, color, and design aesthetic. In this next section, we will discuss which thin pavers are best for laying over concrete.

Porcelain Pavers Over Concrete

Porcelain Pavers are an excellent option for concrete overlay projects. They have the lowest profile (20mm), offer an upscale, contemporary look, and are highly resistant to stains, frost, mold, and fading. And with the concrete base, they can even be used for a driveway.

Using porcelain pavers over concrete requires different bonding compounds than using slab, concrete, or brick pavers. We recommend using Laticrete 254 Platinum for exterior applications like driveways and walkways, and MVIS Hi-Bond Veneer Mortar for all other applications. In the case of driveways or any other vehicular application, we recommend expansion joints filled with cement-based grout to provide better support.

Low-Profile Concrete Overlay Pavers

Belgard also offers a line of low-profile pavers specifically designed for overlay projects. These 30mm pavers offer a cost-effective way to bring new life to tired concrete living areas.

  • Catalina Stone™ Overlay Pavers
  • Cambridge Cobble® Overlay Paver Pool Deck

Slab Pavers

Slab pavers also make an excellent overlay option. They provide a larger format for more contemporary looks and a typical thickness of 50mm, which provides excellent stability and strength to overlay concrete and then expand the outdoor living space out further to build a fire pit or outdoor kitchen.

  • Lafitt® Grana Slab Fire Pit Patio Paver Design
  • Lafitt® Rustic Slab Outdoor Kitchen Paver Brick Design

Plank Pavers

Those looking for a contemporary plank design can also overlay a concrete surface with one of Belgard’s 60mm plank pavers.

  • Melville™ Plank Paver Patio Design Ideas
  • Moduline Series® Plank Paver Patio
  • Agilina™ Plank Paver Brick Patio Design Ideas

Sealing Pavers Over Concrete

It’s always a good idea to seal pavers, regardless of the material or application. Sealing your pavers will protect them from wear, fading, erosion and the elements.

Sealing your pavers after laying them over concrete, particularly with a joint-stabilizing sealant,  will help protect the integrity of your project, while simultaneously keeping water from seeping into the joints and potentially weakening the bond between your bonding agent and the concrete slab beneath.

There are two types of paver sealants: film-forming (semi-gloss or gloss finish) and non-film-forming (matte finish). Film-forming paver sealants create a barrier on the paver surface, providing the ultimate protection possible.

Non-film-forming paver sealants don’t create the same barrier, but they do offer excellent protection and tend to last a little longer.

Project Pictures

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you transition a concrete overlay driveway to the street, garage and other walkways?

Overlay pavers offer plenty of options to transition into other walkways. These include:

1) Grinding down the concrete on the ends to adjust for any height differences
2) Pouring concrete edging to create a softer edge between walkways
3) As a last resort, breaking up and re-pouring the concrete near the transitions
For each of these, make sure the changes you’re making don’t cause a drainage issue.

Can I install 3/4 inch porcelain tile using a standard tile setting installation?

3/4 inch porcelain pavers can be installed over sound concrete using sand or adhesive, as described in this porcelain paver installation guide. Another option would be to use Techniseal DriBond mudset, which applies like sand and hardens like concrete when activated with water. The benefits of using DriBond over another adhesive is that it applies much more quickly, and it fills in any existing cracks in the concrete.

How thick should/can the Dribond product be installed? Can I use Dribond to flatten out an uneven concrete patio? What is the range of acceptable thickness?

DriBond is a veneering product. It mirrors the surface it is being overlaid on, and thus isn’t for leveling. That being said, the minimum thickness is 1/4 inch thick — which is the recommended thickness for a standard project. Our experts are comfortable using DriBond up to 1/2 of an inch, if that helps achieve your leveling goals. Any thicker than that, and you inhibit the product’s ability to achieve the proper bond.

Can concrete paver slabs be installed over existing concrete?

As long as your concrete is in good shape, you should be able to overlay it with paver slabs. Depending on your location (not tested for extreme freeze/thaw conditions), DriBond will work to facilitate the overlay. You will just need to activate it with a lot of water due to fewer joints. Alternatively, you could also use outdoor rated thin set adhesive as well. Be sure to account for the extra height and drainage, as you may need to install a french drain.

Can you overlay cracked concrete?

As long as the overall slab is sound and there isn’t any shifting, yes. If DriBond is used, the sealer will actually fill in the cracks and harden once it’s activated. However, if the crack is significant to the point that the slab has lifted or shifted, then no. If the majority of the slab is sound, you can sometimes cut out and replace a section that isn’t, which can keep you from having to tear out the entire slab.

Can you overlay asphalt?

Depending on site conditions, asphalt can be overlaid with a different process than concrete overlay. Because it won’t adhere to the asphalt to create a bond, you’ll have to use something other than DriBond. It’s best to have a qualified contractor inspect your site and let you know whether an overlay is an option. To find a Belgard Authorized Contractor near you, visit Belgard.com/locator.

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