There are many differences between stamped concrete and pavers, and most people don't really understand them, so I wanted to lay out the 5 major reasons why stamped concrete sucks and why pavers are a ton better and actually more economical when you look at the price you pay over a 5+ year time span.
Here we go:
1. Stamped concrete is a concrete slab, so it cracks, just like concrete. Why? Because it IS concrete. There's nothing over the top of it, and there's no way to fix a cracked stamped concrete patio where you can't see the crack due to the pattern that it is stamped in. It just has to remain a cracked until you take out the patio and have it re-installed.
2. Stamped concrete fades. Contractors that specialize in stamped concrete won't mention this, but your patio will look great, sometimes amazing when done by a really good company, for about 3 to 5 years (if you seal it every year). But after that it fades fast and looks really old. If you don't seal it every year, it will probably only look good for 2 or 3 years. Pavers, on the other hand, don't hardly fade at all. Most people say their pavers lasted at least 10-15 years before they noticed any fading.
3. Stamped concrete is slick when it gets wet. Really slick! Slick like people will fall down and hurt themselves slick. Not every day, but a couple times per year someone will fall, and they might sprain a wrist, break an elbow, etc. This is why you shouldn't put stamped concrete around a pool. Too many slip and falls by kids and adults as well. But it will also be slick from morning dew and anytime it rains.
4. Stamped concrete should last 10-15 years before it needs to be replaced. It will have cracks and it will have faded, but it will still be a usable patio. It won't look like the day after it was installed, but it will still be a concrete patio. If you want to know what 12 year old stamped concrete looks like, then go look at Nebraska Furniture Mart's front door area. It was installed in 2004 and it's now faded to a pink color (must have been red at some point) it's cracked, and chipping off in a lot of places Now go look at any paver sidewalk or parking lot of the same age. You'll see some minor fading if you had a new paver in your hand to compare it to, but other than that, it probably looks great...assuming it was installed correctly. There are some installers who do a poor job and the pavers don't look great, but the majority of companies around KC do a great job.
5. Stamped concrete comes in about 5 different patterns and about 5 different colors. Not much choice or design options really. Some hardscape companies will tell you that there are 20 colors and 30 patterns, but that's only if you include the reds, yellows, blues, etc, which no one uses except preschools and daycares. Every one either gets light brown, brown, dark brown, light gray, or dark gray. And most people get the choice between Ashlar Slate and Monster Slate on the patterns. That's really the choices. Those choices actually look really nice, but it's no where near the options that pavers give you.
Why Pavers Are A Better Option:
1. Pavers are easy to fix because they are individual blocks, so if one of them would happen to crack due to someone dropping something on it, you simply take that one out and reinstall a new one. No cracking due to the individual nature of them.
2. Pavers don't have to be sealed. That saves the homeowner $300 per year if they do it themselves or $500 per year if they hire it out. That's a big savings when you think about 5-15 years of ownership. Don't get me wrong, you can seal pavers. And some people do it to get the "glossy" look they like, but we've seen paver patios that are 10-15 years old and have never been sealed and they look great.
3. Pavers have anti-slip built right in so they are perfect around the pool or anywhere. No worries of them getting slick and people falling after a rain or in the morning dew.
4. A properly installed paver patios should last 25-40 years with no maintenance. Some companies actually give a lifetime warranty on their pavers. Enough said.
5. Pavers have endless design options due to the fact that there are hundreds of different paver types and hundreds of different colors, not to mention the endless patterns you can do with pavers. Stamped concrete can't compare.
If you put pavers on top of a 4 inch thick concrete base you don't have to worry about weeds, insects, or anything growing up through it. You don't have to worry about the pavers shifting, and you don't have to worry about the concrete cracking because the pavers are on top. Here in the Midwest where we get freezes and thaws, it's the best way to install pavers so that your patio area lasts for 30+ years without any issues.
Pavers do cost more than stamped concrete. Typically about $3-$5 more per sq ft. On a typical 400 sq ft patio, you're talking somewhere around $1500 more than stamped concrete, but when you factor in the sealing that you have to do, it doesn't take long for pavers to be a better choice and a more economical one over the long term of 4+ years.
For me, I would never put in stamped concrete at my house or any of my friend's or family's houses. It's just not worth it. Now, do we sell it? Yes, on occasion I get a homeowner that just really wants it or wants to match an existing stamped concrete patio they have, so we do it, but I try to talk everyone out of it. It's just not a good product for outdoors. On indoor applications I think it's great, but that's it. On an outdoor patio, walkway, or driveway, pavers are the only way to go.
The only benefit of stamped concrete is that it saves you $3-$5 per sq ft on the price when you get it installed. After that, pavers win every time, and they win on price after about 4 years.