What’s The Difference Between Permeable Pavers And Normal Pavers? 5 Reasons Permeable Pavers are the Better Choice

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Pavers are, without a doubt, a remarkable choice for enhancing your landscape. They bring both versatility and aesthetics to the forefront of your outdoor design. From creating inviting walkways to crafting stunning patios, their appeal lies in their ability to transform spaces with charm and functionality.

However, it’s important to recognize that the decision about pavers goes beyond mere style. It encompasses the fundamental aspects of function and environmental impact. Let’s explore the difference between permeable pavers and normal pavers – and why they matter.

What Do Permeable Pavers and Non-Permeable Pavers have in Common?

It’s important to understand that permeable pavers and non-permeable pavers, despite their distinct roles and advantages, share a common foundation rooted in durability, versatility, and innovation. These two paving solutions, though designed for specific purposes, are linked by several commonalities that make them integral components of modern landscaping and construction.

Whether you’re envisioning a charming garden path, a sturdy driveway, or an inviting patio, either material will serve you well. My aim is to shed light on the core principles of paving but also empower you to make informed decisions tailored to your project’s unique needs.

Durability and Longevity

Pavers are renowned for their resilience when compared to other materials. Whether subjected to the weight of vehicles in driveways or the constant foot traffic on a patio, pavers are built to withstand the test of time. Their robust construction ensures they can endure the harshest of weather conditions, making them a long-lasting choice for outdoor spaces. When properly installed and maintained, pavers can endure for decades, providing a durable and functional surface for your outdoor areas. This longevity translates to a wise investment in your landscaping and construction projects.

Attractive Design Options

Pavers don’t just serve a functional purpose; they elevate the aesthetics of any outdoor area. Pavers offer unparalleled design flexibility. Their modular nature allows for intricate patterns and designs that can be customized to suit your preferences. Whether you aim for a formal, contemporary look or a more relaxed, rustic feel, pavers can be arranged to achieve your desired aesthetic.

What Can I Use Pavers For?

Permeable and non-permeable pavers are versatile in their applications. They can be used for various outdoor projects, including walkways, driveways, patios, pool decks, courtyards, and even commercial spaces like parking lots. Their adaptability makes them suitable for both residential and commercial landscaping and construction needs.

Can Pavers Handle Freeze-Thaw Cycles?

Imagine a landscape in a region where winters bring freezing temperatures, and summers usher in thawing warmth. This cycle of freezing and thawing can wreak havoc on many construction materials, but not on well-designed pavers. Here’s why:

Freeze-thaw cycles occur when water penetrates into porous materials, such as concrete or asphalt, and then freezes. Water expands as it freezes, and this expansion exerts pressure on the surrounding material. When the ice thaws, the material contracts. Repeated cycles of expansion and contraction cause stress, leading to cracks, crumbling, and deterioration.

Permeable and non-permeable pavers are engineered with a specific focus on resisting the damaging effects of freeze-thaw cycles. They are made using materials and construction methods that allow them to expand and contract without cracking or becoming damaged.

Properly installed pavers also incorporate jointing materials like sand or polymeric sand between the paver units. These materials provide flexibility and allow for slight movement, further reducing the risk of cracks or damage during freeze-thaw cycles.

Ease of Maintenance and Ease of Repairs

One of the compelling advantages of using pavers for your outdoor spaces is their straightforward and hassle-free maintenance. This attribute applies to both permeable and non-permeable pavers, making them a practical choice for those who seek long-lasting, attractive outdoor surfaces.

The foundation of paver maintenance is regular cleaning. This involves simple tasks like sweeping away debris, leaves, and dirt from the surface. Routine cleaning prevents these materials from accumulating between paver joints, which can promote weed growth and hinder drainage. A leaf blower or a broom is usually sufficient to keep your pavers looking clean and tidy.

Over time, the jointing material between pavers, typically sand or polymeric sand, may settle or erode. Re-sanding these joints is an occasional maintenance task that ensures stability and prevents paver movement. This process involves adding fresh jointing material and compacting it between the paver joints, enhancing the structural integrity of the surface.

Pavers, whether permeable or non-permeable, are renowned for their durability. However, in rare instances, individual paver units may become damaged or stained due to various factors like heavy impacts or oil spills. The beauty of pavers lies in their modular design. This means that if a single unit becomes damaged or stained, it can be replaced without affecting the entire surface. This minimizes repair costs and ensures that your outdoor space continues to look pristine.

When damage occurs, you don’t need to overhaul the entire surface. Instead, you can focus on the specific paver or pavers that require attention. This targeted approach not only reduces material and labor costs but also minimizes disruption to your outdoor space.

In many cases, minor repairs can be undertaken as DIY projects. Replacing a damaged paver unit is a straightforward task that doesn’t require extensive expertise. This DIY-friendliness further reduces repair expenses.

The ease of maintenance and efficient repairs contribute to the long-term attractiveness and value of pavers. By promptly addressing issues, you ensure that your paver surface remains visually appealing and structurally sound, maintaining its value over time.

Why Choose Regular Pavers over Permeable Pavers?

Non-permeable pavers are a well-established and conventional choice in the world of landscaping and construction. Unlike their permeable counterparts, these pavers are tightly packed, and they do not allow water to pass through the surface. Here’s a comprehensive look at what you need to know about traditional pavers:

Surface Water Management 

One of the defining features that is a fundamental difference between permeable pavers and impermeable pavers non-permeable pavers is their ability to efficiently manage surface water, especially when compared to other materials. When rainwater or other liquids come into contact with non-permeable pavers, they shed water, preventing absorption into the paver itself. Instead, the water is directed toward designated drainage systems or allowed to flow naturally into surrounding areas.

Utilizing Drainage Systems

Non-permeable pavers are often used in conjunction with well-designed drainage systems. These systems can include catch basins, channels, and underground pipes, which efficiently collect and redirect surface water away from your property. This combination ensures that water does not accumulate on the surface, preventing potential issues such as flooding and erosion.

Why Should I Choose Permeable Pavers Over Regular Pavers? Benefits of Permeable Pavers

Permeable pavers are a revolutionary solution in landscaping and construction, engineered with a specific purpose – to allow water to infiltrate the ground rather than shed it away. Their design has differences in it that can bring forth several distinct advantages.

Deeper Gravel Base for Permeable Surfaces

Permeable pavers, designed to manage stormwater sustainably, feature a unique and environmentally conscious construction. At the core of their design lies a clean gravel base that is distinct from the permeable base used with traditional paver installation. 

This base comprises several compacted layers of clean, crushed gravel or aggregate often going as deep as 8”-12”. There are no smaller rock particles, usually referred to as “fines” that fill the voids in traditional bases. You may hear the base rock for permeable pavers referred to as ¾” Clean, 57 Stone, or various other regional names. 

The base of traditionally installed impermeable pavers is known as ¾” Minus, Crusher Run, Crush N’ Run, and other names. It has fine particles that pack in tightly through the larger rocks and has an overall sandier composition. 

Permeable Pavers Have a Wider, Permeable Joint

Another difference between permeable pavers and a traditional paver is the wider joints that permeable pavers have between them, a critical feature that underpins their efficiency in managing stormwater and promoting sustainable drainage. These wider joints serve as a conduit for water, allowing it to infiltrate through the paver surface and into the underlying gravel base. Here’s a closer look at why wider joints are essential to the performance of permeable pavers:

The primary purpose of wider joints in permeable pavers is to facilitate water infiltration. When rainfall or other forms of precipitation land on the paver surface, it doesn’t flow off like it would on an impermeable surface. Instead, it is channeled into the gaps between the paver units. These gaps, or joints, provide an open pathway for water to move downward, entering the gravel base beneath.

Wider joints help slow down the movement of water across the surface of permeable pavers. This controlled runoff is a crucial aspect of stormwater management. By reducing the speed at which water flows across the surface, permeable pavers minimize the risk of erosion and the transport of pollutants into nearby water bodies.

The material used with impermeable pavers is a small ¼” or ⅜” gravel chip that gets between these wider joints and allows more water to pass through. In a typical impermeable paver installation, an installer would fill the gaps with polymeric sand, a material that hardens like a flexible concrete and allows water to flow over it. 

Reduced Runoff

Permeable pavers act as filters. As water passes through them, they capture and trap pollutants like oil, chemicals, and sediment instead of allowing them to flow off the surface. By doing so, they significantly reduce the potential for contaminated runoff, which can harm aquatic life and degrade water quality in nearby streams and rivers. 

By minimizing surface runoff, permeable pavers mitigate the risk of localized flooding. This is particularly important in urban areas where extensive hardscapes like roads and parking lots contribute to rapid runoff during heavy rains. Permeable pavers help alleviate this issue, making them an environmentally responsible choice.

Less runoff leads to less erosion. By directing water into the ground rather than allowing it to flow across the surface, they stabilize the soil and reduce the risk of erosion, which can be particularly important on slopes and hilly terrain.

Geotextile Stabilization and Filtration

In terms of functionality, geotextile, sometimes called filter fabric, is the the biggest difference between permeable pavers and impermeable pavers. Geotextile is a synthetic or natural fabric specially engineered for use in civil engineering and construction projects. It is designed to reinforce, separate, filter, or protect various elements within the structure. When it comes to permeable pavement, geotextile serves as a vital component to fulfill several key roles.

Beneath the surface of permeable pavement, there is typically a layer of compacted soil referred to as the subbase. Geotextile is placed directly on top of this soil layer. Its primary function here is to act as a barrier, preventing the soil from migrating upwards into the gravel layer. This separation ensures that the soil remains stable and does not clog the gravel base, maintaining the permeability of the pavement.

As rainwater percolates through the pavement and enters the gravel base, the geotextile acts as a filter, preventing fine particles and sediments from migrating downward. This filtration process enhances the water quality as it moves through the pavement system, reducing the risk of pollutants reaching groundwater.

In sloped areas where erosion is a concern, geotextile plays a vital role in stabilizing the soil. By preventing soil movement and promoting water infiltration, it mitigates erosion and helps maintain the integrity of the pavement structure.

Geotextile also acts as a weed barrier. Its installation prevents weed growth from beneath the pavement, reducing the need for herbicides and minimizing maintenance requirements.

Geotextile is an essential component in the construction of permeable pavement, enhancing its sustainability and durability. By preventing soil migration, stabilizing the base layers, and promoting water filtration, geotextile plays a pivotal role in creating functional, eco-friendly, and long-lasting surfaces. As the demand for environmentally conscious construction practices continues to grow, the use of geotextile in permeable pavement is set to become even more prevalent in the landscaping and construction industry.

How Do I Choose Between Permeable Pavers and Regular Pavers?

When deciding between permeable and non-permeable pavers, consider the following: 

Are Permeable Pavers Better for Drainage?

If you have drainage issues or want to promote sustainable water management, permeable pavers are a better choice due to their wider joints, deeper base, and geotextile underlayment. The difference between permeable pavers and impermeable pavers is substantial in terms of the way they handle drainage and cannot be understated.

Which paver style should I pick to match my home?

Finding the style of paver that looks the best with your home is a case-by-case basis but Traditional, Non-permeable pavers offer a broader range of design options, allowing for intricate patterns and a classic look. They have been manufactured in larger quantities for a longer time so you don’t have any limitations in the style that fits your home.

Are permeable pavers better for the environment?

If sustainability is a priority, permeable pavers align with eco-conscious landscaping practices due to their erosion control, water filtration, and runoff prevention advantages over traditional non-permeable pavers.

Choosing between permeable and non-permeable pavers is about balancing aesthetics, function, and environmental responsibility. Consulting with a professional can help you make the right decision for your specific project.


Pavers are more than just a surface; they are a fundamental part of your landscape. Understanding the difference between permeable pavers and non-permeable pavers empowers you to make choices that align with your vision and values. Whether you prioritize sustainability, design flexibility, or both, there’s a paver solution that’s right for you. As a landscaping and construction business owner, I encourage you to explore your options carefully, keeping in mind the long-term benefits and environmental impact of your choice. Your landscape is a canvas, and the pavers you select are the brushstrokes that define its beauty and function.

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