Everything You Need to Know About Environmentally-Friendly Permeable Pavers

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated December 9, 2021
Permeable Paver entryway to home
Photo: KCULP / Adobe Stock

Pave the way to sustainability with permeable pavers

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When it’s pouring rain outside, there are few options for making the most out of your walkways and driveway. it’s often unpleasant to walk on the muddy ground, gravel can leave natural streaks where the rain flows, and traditional pavement turns into a rollercoaster for stormwater runoff—straight to the drain rather than your plants. 

Permeable pavers, on the other hand, can enhance your curb appeal, create the perfect outdoor party space and lovely walkways for meandering through your garden, and help the environment by accommodating the natural water cycle. Here’s what you need to know about this environmentally-friendly pavement option.

What Are Permeable Pavers?

Permeable pavers are a bit like puzzle pieces, with plastic, concrete, asphalt, or clay bricks as the primary building material. Unlike interlocking puzzle pieces, however, permeable pavers have joints or materials made out of permeable materials like grass, gravel, crushed quartz, or some other aggregate between each brick, plastic connector, or other hardscape pieces. These aggregates create that infamous permeability that allows water to flow between the hardscape materials.

You can use permeable pavers on your driveway, front walkway, patio, or garden pathways. Depending on which aggregate and type of paver hardscape you choose, your design will either create an earthy, rustic, or natural aesthetic that also retains and redistributes rainwater in a way that keeps it all from streaming down the drain.

3 Environmentally-Friendly Paving Options

While researching your options for environmentally-friendly pavers, you might come across a few different names that all seem very similar: permeable interlocking concrete pavers, porous pavers, and pervious pavers. 

That’s a lot of “p” words, so let’s delve into how each of these three permeable pavers works to keep the confusion at bay.

Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavers

Permeable interlocking concrete pavers have impermeable concrete bricks as the primary building material and a porous aggregate in between the bricks to let water flow through—rather than across—the surface. This type of paver is the most popular option for residential homes, as they look aesthetically appealing with their more seamless and thicker hardscape materials.

Porous Pavers

As the name suggests, porous pavers are porous. These pavers contain a grid-like structure made of concrete, plastic, rubber, or another impermeable material, depending on the kind of traffic traveling across the surface. The permeable pores often contain grass, gravel, or sand to allow water to flow through and become absorbed by the ground underneath and around the hardscape.

Pervious Pavers

Pervious pavers are the costliest type of permeable paver. Instead of using an aggregate in the joint system, this option uses porous asphalt or concrete as the aggregate and hardscape material. The material is durable but less compact than standard asphalt and concrete, enabling the water to filter through to the ground beneath the pavement.

How Do Permeable Pavers Work?

concrete and grass sidewalk
Photo: Francesco Scatena / Adobe Stock

With all of that potential confusion aside, let’s get to the nitty-gritty on how permeable pavers work. Permeable pavers work much like your traditional concrete or asphalt pavement. Pavers are solid and durable, and they utilize the power of hardscape material to allow for vehicles and passersby to walk across safely.

At the same time, pavers don’t come with the same flooding risk and water waste as concrete, asphalt, or gravel. The hardscape mechanisms, combined with the permeable elements, allow the water to simply drain through the pavement into the ground below. This helps reduce flooding and evenly disperse water during heavy rainfall.

Benefits of Permeable Pavers

Permeable pavers are environmentally-friendly, but what else do these paver systems have to offer for you as a homeowner? Choosing a permeable paver for your home comes with many benefits: 

  • Permeable pavers help remove pollutants from water. When a paving stone or permeable surface absorbs rain or surface water, the water seeps into the aggregate base underneath before entering the soil. This base serves as a filtration system that can remove or reduce pollutants. 

  • Recycled materials play a big role in pavers’ construction. Homeowners who want to install driveway pavers and remove their existing concrete can recycle the old material and be good stewards of the environment. This recycled concrete is a key component in making new paving stones.

  • Permeable pavers help with stormwater management. By more evenly distributing rainwater across the ground, permeable pavers help prevent flooding and reduce runoff water.

  • Paving stones can have a natural, rustic appearance. Some homeowners elect to have their paving stones laid further apart so grass can grow between them. Homeowners can achieve this natural aesthetic in any space, including driveways, patios, and walkways. 

  • Permeable pavers are extremely durable and perfect for high-traffic areas. Concrete or asphalt pavers are strong enough to hold a fire truck without breaking or cracking. Many pros even recommend them for parking lots as a Low Impact Development strategy (LID). More commercial developers are installing driveway pavers instead of laying solid concrete.

  • Permeable interlocking concrete pavers don’t crack like traditional concrete pavers. This pavement option is more durable than a concrete or asphalt pavement system, as the pores allow for airspace and natural temperature changes. In other words, you won’t need to repair your pavement as frequently.

  • Installing permeable pavers may qualify you for a tax rebate. Some cities offer incentive programs and rebates for installing permeable pavements depending on where you reside.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Permeable Pavers?

close-up geometric paver pattern
Photo: Koxae / Adobe Stock

You’ve decided to upgrade your outdoor space to a permeable paver, but before you go all-in, consider the cost to install permeable pavers, according to data from HomeAdvisor. The average cost to install permeable pavers is between $10 to $30 per square foot

Material is a big cost factor, with plastic grids and grass as the aggregator falling at the low-end of the price range and permeable stone pavers coming in at the higher end of the price range. For elaborate or custom designs, expect to pay upwards of $30 for the labor and time involved in the design and installation process.

While permeable pavers are about twice as costly as standard poured concrete, pavers are less likely to crack and easier to replace if a single paver gets damaged over time, making them less expensive to maintain.

How to Install Permeable Pavers

You’ll need to follow a few comprehensive steps to get the best permeable pavers for your home’s landscape. This includes:

  • Conducting a soil test

  • Removing the current pavers (if applicable)

  • Excavating the site to the right depth

  • Correctly measuring, laying out, and filling the pavers

To do the job right, hire a local paver installation pro to perform a percolation test on your soil to see how much excavation you need, accurately excavate the site, and seamlessly install your permeable pavers.

Maintaining Permeable Pavement

To ensure the most effective drainage system, keep grass cuttings, leaves, and other debris away from your newly installed permeable pavement and surrounding areas.

Use a professional, outdoor vacuum cleaner, which you can rent at a home improvement store, to remove finer debris once or twice a year. Be sure to remove snow come winter and seasonally inspect the areas of your permeable pavement for wear and tear. 

If you notice that your pavement is not draining properly or needs replacing, contact a local pro to help you get the most out of your pavement.

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