It happens occasionally – you receive your order of pavers and are somewhat surprised to find that they don’t look how you expected them to look. Sometimes the pavers look different to the sample you were shown, or sometimes the pavers look different to each other. While this can be concerning and puzzling, there’s often no need to worry overly much. There are many reasons why pavers might look different, but most are either not a problem, or easily fixable.
How to determine if mismatching pavers are a problem
Your first step when dealing with potential mismatching pavers is to determine if it’s actually a problem.
If you’ve started to lay a batch of pavers and notice that some look different to others, turn the pavers over and see if they look the same underneath. If they do, chances are it’s not a permanent problem. Having the same colour on the underside shows that the pavers were made with the same colour concrete – possibly even the same batch – but something has happened to the surface to make it look different. In 99% of cases, this is just a temporary thing, and can be easily fixed! In many cases the fix may be as simple as letting the elements wash away the staining on the surface that’s causing a different look, or giving the pavers a light acid wash. Not just any acid though! Especially not hydrochloric acid as it can be too harsh, and there’s a good chance you’d permanently damage your pavers. Specially-formulated cleaners like Environex Anti-Eff are a much better option for cleaning pavers – but you still have to be careful when using it and follow the directions to the letter. Properly applied, this great cleaning product will remove grout smear, calcium carbonate, efflorescence or other stains that may have occurred during the construction of the pavers.
If, however, the pavers look different underneath, you may have more of a problem. Stop laying the pavers and get in contact with your paver manufacturer or supplier for advice.
Why do pavers sometimes look different from the sample or each other?
This can be due to natural variations in the way the pavers are made, to staining or discolouration, or to other problems such as incorrect storage.
Naturally occurring variations
Concrete pavers will sometimes naturally show slight variations in shades, colours and pattern distribution, and this is part of the beauty of concrete pavers, which are designed to look just like natural stone. And as with a natural stone, no two concrete pavers will look exactly alike (they are designed to look similar to each other, but not identical). The subtle variations are what make concrete pavers look natural, and add to the appeal, rather than taking away from it. One great example of this is our Bradstone Grey Green range, which shows subtle shade differences throughout the different sizes – you can check them out here: https://stoneworkspavers.com.au/paver/bradstone/
As well, slight variations in the texture of the concrete pavers can make light reflect differently and colours appear different. And sometimes, different parts of the pallet of pavers can appear to be a slightly different shade when placed next to each other. This is normal, and is not usually a problem.
Staining or discolouration
Pavers can sometimes become discoloured or stained due to natural processes or manufacturing practices.
A common issue occurs, particularly in cold or damp weather, when the wrapping is removed from the pavers and the carbon dioxide in the air reacts with the lime in the concrete. This perfectly natural reaction, exacerbated by rain, humidity or dewy mornings, causes a light haze or film to form over the top surface of the pavers, and is known as efflorescence. This reaction only tends to cause issues on the top of the paver, as the bottom surface tends to be still covered, or sitting on corflute or another paver, and not getting as much exposure to the air. But while this concrete reaction can cause the pavers to look more dull, lifeless and washed out than non-affected ones, it can be quickly and easily cleaned off without causing any lasting damage or will be naturally removed in time by the elements.
As well, pavers may sometimes be stained with mineral deposits, grout or mortar during manufacture, causing them to look a little different.
Another reason your pavers may end up looking different is if you’ve stored them incorrectly. Many DIY pavers make paver storage mistakes that can cause the pavers to become discoloured or marked, such as:
- Opening the shrink wrap covering the pavers before you actually need to use them. This can allow moisture and dirt in which can cause the pavers to sweat and discolour.
- Not keeping the pavers dry, which can cause staining. It’s best to keep your pavers undercover in a dry, protected spot, or cover them with a waterproof tarp if there’s nowhere else to store them. Even better, don’t take delivery of your pavers until the day you need to use them.
- Stacking unwrapped pavers in various locations throughout your site, as this can cause stained edges. Rather, only unwrap and install small batches of pavers at a time.
If you store your pavers correctly, they will age evenly once installed and will look much more uniform.
What can you do about common issues?
If your paver variation is caused by natural processes or discolouration, it’s an easy fix to get them looking more homogenous.
Blend your pavers as you lay
While natural variations in shape, colour and appearance are to be expected in concrete pavers, you can lay them in such a way that spreads the variations around evenly, rather than clumping them together in one patch. It’s a good idea to mix pavers from as many different pallets as possible to evenly blend through the variation. You can achieve a very natural looking blend by reviewing how your paved area looks as you’re laying it, and choosing a varied pattern, rather than laying pavers from the same pallet all together.
Give the pavers a quick clean
If your pavers have been affected by efflorescence (patches of white salt) and you don’t urgently need your newly paved area to look immaculate, just allow nature to do the work for you. The effect will weather away naturally with time and the help of the elements, with no effort required on your part!
If, however, you need the paved area to look good straight away (so that you can brag at your BBQ about the excellent DIY paving job you’ve done!), you’ll just need to give the pavers a quick clean. In most cases, even a light clean with water and very mild abrasive (a broom, scrubbing brush or light scouring pad, like the type you’d use to clean the shower) is enough to remove most or all of the film.
In cases where your pavers have been stained with other substances during the construction process, you will probably need to use a purpose-made cleaner such as Environex Anti Eff to break down the stubborn mineral deposits or grout smears. These can then be easily rinsed off.
Once the pavers have been cleaned to your satisfaction (always testing on a sample first if heavy cleaning is required) the pavers can be sealed with a quality penetrating sealer as soon as they’re 100% dry! Alternatively, some water-based sealers can be used when the pavers are still a little damp – great for getting the job protected as soon as possible!
Store your pavers correctly
Once you take delivery of your pavers, ensure they are stored still wrapped, in a dry, protected spot, and not used until they are needed.
So, don’t despair if your pavers are not looking just as you expected – chances are it’s not actually a problem! Of course, if you’ve accidentally been sent the wrong pavers or something untoward has occurred, that’s a different issue. Just check the colour before you start laying and get in contact with your paver supplier as soon as you notice the problem; they’ll be happy to help you sort it out.