Everything you Need to Know About Basalt Pavers
Attractive, versatile, and long-lasting basalt pavers are popular for many projects.
Stone pavers are traditionally valued for their strength and ability to withstand challenging weather conditions for decades without ill effects; basalt isn’t just long-lasting; it’s also visually appealing.
No two pieces of basalt are exactly alike, meaning homeowners that opt for this stone for their outdoor surfacing and decoration end up with a unique installation that’s always appealing.
Here we take an in-depth look at basalt and its uses. Read on to discover what basalt is made from and the benefits basalt pavers can bring to your exterior.
We also take a look at how to install and care for your pavers, ensuring you end up with a beautiful basalt fitting that keeps looking good for many years to come.
What are basalt pavers and how are they created?
Basalt comprises a number of different minerals, including quartz, feldspar, hornblende, biotite, olivine, and pyroxene.
The exact composition of basalt varies depending on where it’s mined, for example, basalt mined in the Capitan Mountains (Lincoln County, NM), has a different appearance from basalt mined in Wisconsin or New Jersey.
A major reason so many people invest in basalt pavers for their outdoor projects is the wide variation in colors and patterns that the stone can feature.
Basalt begins its life deep in the earth when liquid magma from the earth’s core is extruded from a volcano.
Once it reaches the earth’s surface, the magma cools quickly, creating the basalt. Depending on local cooling conditions, a significant volume of gas may be extruded, along with the magma.
If a high volume of magma is extruded, very little gas tends to be released with it.
This leads to a dense, more uniform type of basalt. Thinner, more intermittent magma flows tend to be accompanied by a higher volume of gas, which causes bubbles in the magma.
These solidify in the basalt, subsequently frequently being filled with other minerals such as calcite, quartz, or zeolites.
These minerals alter the appearance of the basalt, giving rise to a multi-colored mineral. The basalt that features these bubbles of secondary minerals is known as amygdaloidal basalt.
The rock is usually extracted using open-cast mining techniques. It’s commonly mined here in the US, but may also be imported from countries that include China, Vietnam, Norway, and Korea.
Basalt pavers are blocks of basalt stone that have been cut to a uniform size.
In contrast to slabs (which tend to have a larger top surface but a thinner depth), pavers have a relatively small top surface (typically 4″x 8″), but a comparatively larger depth (typically around 2″).
Uses for basalt pavers
As already mentioned, basalt is formed from liquid magma that cools when it reaches the earth’s surface.
This means it’s an igneous rock (similar to granite or flint). Igneous rocks are extremely durable and resistant to weathering.
This means that pavers are a great choice for exterior projects where the surface is going to be exposed to the elements. Basalt pavers can cope with consistently heavy traffic for decades with no ill effects.
It’s also extremely strong if hardstanding for a heavy vehicle is needed, for example, basalt pavers can take the strain without buckling or cracking (provided they’re correctly installed on a suitable substrate).
The exceptional strength and weather resistance that basalt displays mean it’s a great choice for both commercial and domestic installations. The other key benefit of using basalt rather than a more utilitarian mineral is its beauty.
Basalt is a stunning rock to look at, which means it’s frequently deployed in locations where an attractive, yet functional, installation is needed.
Once installed, basalt is also immune to UV deterioration. This makes it the perfect option for exposed locations, all-weather surfaces, or a surface picked for minimum maintenance throughout the year.
Some of the commonest projects where basalt pavers are utilized include:
- Parking lot (typically where aesthetic appeal is also a priority)
- Garden features
The benefits of using basalt pavers
Given the many advantages of using basalt pavers for a wide range of projects, it’s little surprise they’re always in demand.
Some of the key benefits that using basalt pavers for your next installation can bring are detailed below.
Easy to install
More information on how best to install pavers is given below. Provided the correct substrate is used, laying pavers is a straightforward task that can be completed by most DIY enthusiasts.
Basalt pavers will usually last a lifetime, providing decades of valuable service.
The wide range of colors and textures enables basalt pavers to work well with almost any exterior design and palette.
Easy to replace
Occasionally, a paver may become damaged or stained. In these circumstances, it can be easily replaced by a fresh paver.
Repairs can be completed quickly, cheaply, and with minimal disruption. This ensures a surface comprising pavers can be kept looking fresh as the years go by.
Easy to clean
In most cases, pavers just need regular brushing to stay in top condition. If you intend to use the pavers to create a driveway, hardstanding, or parking lot, it may be worth considering a coating over the top surface of the pavers.
A suitable coating will prevent permanent staining, helping to prolong the life of the surface.
Aside from periodic recoating (if a coating is used) and removal of any weeds that may start to grow between the pavers, no other maintenance is usually required.
Resistant to weather deterioration
Basalt is immune to changes in temperature and, in particular, it can withstand UV light without deteriorating.
It also stands up well to high humidity, rapid changes in temperature, heavy rainfall, hail, snow, and even salt water!
The drawbacks of using basalt pavers
Basalt pavers are generally regarded as a high-quality choice that adds value to a property, as well as offers an attractive, practical choice.
That said, like any other surfacing material, there are occasions when basalt pavers aren’t necessarily the best solution for a project. Some of the drawbacks of basalt pavers are:
Can be vulnerable to staining
Like any other rock, basalt has a degree of porosity and small holes that allow water to penetrate.
Over time, repeated water evaporation can lead to residue build-up, eventually resulting in discoloration.
In addition, in the cooler months, there is a risk of accelerated weathering due to the effects of freeze/thaw action on the paver.
Basalt is one of the least porous stone options that are readily available and is likely to last a good while even without added protection.
If you want to preserve your pavers in top condition, or are using pavers in an environment where stains are likely, we recommend applying a suitable protective coating.
Limited color coating options
Due to basalt’s porosity, a colored coating doesn’t end up evenly applied. This causes variations in color, preventing a uniform appearance.
Whilst this isn’t necessarily a problem, if you’ve got a particular shade in mind, basalt may not take the color as you would wish.
Furthermore, some textured finishes applied to basalt pavers mean that significantly more maintenance is needed to keep the surface looking good and working well.
Basalt pavers are a long-lasting, beautiful addition to your property, but they’re not the cheapest option.
If you’re looking for a short-term surfacing solution, or are prepared to sacrifice the look of the surface to save some bucks, options such as slab concrete or asphalt may be a better choice.
How to install basalt pavers?
There are a number of different methods that can be used to install basalt pavers successfully. Detailed below is the usual installation method, including budget options that will still give a good result, but for less outlay.
Lay a base layer, around 4″ deep. This may be a road base, or, for excellent results, lay a concrete slab. If using concrete, we recommend coating it with a waterproof coating.
If using concrete and want to secure the basalt pavers as securely as possible, we recommend gluing each one into place. The glue needs to be applied to each paver individually.
If the pavers have a textured surface, we recommend applying a protective coating before gluing them in place. Coating pavers individually ensures better coverage.
Using a proprietary grout that’s weatherproof provides the finishing touch. Remember that it’s possible to buy colored grouts that added visual interest to your pavers.
Finally, apply a top coat to preserve the appearance of the pavers and protect them from the weather. This is the most expensive option, but it’s also felt by experts in the paving industry to give the best results.
An alternative to glue is to use mortar on top of the roadbase layer. Apply a 1.5″/2″ layer, then sink the pavers into the mortar, filling the gaps between the pavers with grout.
The pavers can be coated prior to installation in the same way as those used with a concrete slab. After installation, a top coat can be applied for optimal results.
If budget is a consideration, it’s possible to use paving sand rather than a mortar/grout combination – installers will need to lay down paving sand to a depth of about 1″/1.5″.
The pavers can then be laid directly on top of the sand, with the gaps in between the pavers being filled with sand.
This is the most cost-effective option, but the least durable it’s likely that sand will be blown away during high winds or heavy storms.
In addition, because sand rather than grout is used to plug the gaps between pavers, it’s easier for weeds to grow.
The overall result is still durable, so if you don’t mind additional maintenance and want to save on your installation, using sand to bed and grout the basalt pavers can work really well.
How do basalt pavers compare to other pavers?
The best paver for a particular installation depends on a range of factors, such as:
- Level of maintenance
- Complexity of installation
- Whether the paver is slippery when wet
- Resistance to challenging weather conditions
- Location and purpose of the paver
For decision-makers, personal preference tends to play a large part in deciding whether to pick a basalt paver in preference to one made from brick, concrete, travertine, marble, porcelain, granite, or plastic.
Basalt is an igneous rock (like granite), which means that in general, it’s less porous, stronger, and more durable than pavers made from sedimentary rock (such as travertine or sandstone).
That said, basalt pavers can be trickier to install and require more maintenance to keep them looking good, in comparison to pavers made from sedimentary rocks.
Basalt pavers are flecked with multi-colored grains of other minerals, but their base color is grey.
If you want a grey surface, basalt pavers are ideal if you want a brown surface, or prefer an artificial color, travertine or colored concrete respectively may be better choices.
Unlike porcelain, basalt isn’t slippery underfoot, which means it’s a great choice for steps and walkways that are likely to be exposed to rain or other sources of moisture.
In terms of cost, basalt pavers are in the mid-to-high price range. Although they’re an excellent investment, there are more cost-effective options out there that will still deliver some great results.
Tips on how to take care of basalt pavers
Well-maintained and installed correctly, basalt pavers will provide decades of excellent performance.
To help keep pavers in top condition, we’ve detailed our top basalt paver care tips.
Protect them from staining
Using a protective coating is a great way to keep your basalt pavers free from stains or discoloration caused by water deposits over time.
Take care with their installation
Poorly installed basalt pavers are subject to unnecessary stresses, which can shorten their lifespan.
If you’re not confident in your DIY capabilities or feel tempted to skimp on the installation procedure, we recommend using professional installers.
In particular, it’s important that the substrate beneath the pavers provides a firm, level surface.
Regularly inspect and maintain grouting
Especially if sand has been used to fill the gaps between the pavers, there’s a good chance that weeds will take root.
Regular inspection and remedial treatment (such as weed removal) if required is a wise precaution to prolong the life of your basalt pavers.
Basalt pavers benefit from regular cleaning to remove unwanted detritus that not only looks unsightly but which may also damage the paver. Warm water is usually the best cleaning agent.
Applying the water under pressure (pressure washing) is a safe way of removing detritus without damaging the basalt. Avoid the use of harsh chemical cleaners, as they can damage the stone.
Applying a fresh topcoat to your basalt pavers every few years is one of the most important things you can do to keep the surface in good condition.
With so many benefits, it’s little surprise that basalt pavers are a popular choice for homes and businesses across the country.