Before we get into the details of how to maintain your block paving, we will start with a brief description of what it is, and where and why it is used.
What is Block Paving?
Block paving, also referred to as brick paving is a commonly used way of creating a decorative, and hardwearing pavement or hard standing.
One of the core benefits of bricks over other materials is that individual bricks can be lifted up and replaced individually. This means that maintenance work can be undertaken under the surface of the paved area without leaving a lasting mark once the paving bricks have been replaced.
Additionally, paving blocks are considerably thicker than paving slabs and are therefore far better suited to withstand the weights of vehicles.
Block paving is typically used in areas such as driveways, pavement, town centers, patios, pedestrian precincts and more commonly in road surfacing. The paving bricks are typically made of concrete or clay, although not exclusively and sometimes other composite materials can be used.
These bricks are manufactured by various means and this needs to be taken onto account when assessing maintenance. Clay bricks require a kiln firing to bake the brick hard whereas a concrete brick needs to be given time to set solid. Concrete paving bricks are constructed using a combination of small stone hardcore, dyes, cement and sand and other materials in various amounts.
A recent and welcome innovation is the use of recycled materials such as crushed glass and recycled rubble from old buildings.
Whichever paving blocks are selected these are then laid on a prepared surface usually consisting of a subbase and a smoother laying course.
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Block Paving Maintenance Guide
Ok, so one day you look out and realize that your amazing looking block paved driveway or patio is starting to look a little tired and needs some TLC and attention. Or you may have recently had block paving installed and you want to know how you can protect your newly acquired home improvement. Our block paving maintenance guide should tell you all you need to know about rejuvenating your block paving and restoring it to its previous splendor.
If it has been neglected, then even the most perfectly installed driveway will eventually begin to show the signs of ageing. Keeping your block paving in optimum condition requires a little effort and these relatively simple techniques can keep your new paving looking good or give old, neglected paving a new lease of life.
The Early Days
New block paving installations do not need any major cleaning or maintenance in the initial stages. In the first few months the block paving will still be settling in addition to the jointing sand consolidating and levelling out, therefore this could easily be removed through overzealous cleaning. Because of this do not use any power tools such as pressure washers or vacuums as these could easily upset and remove the jointing material, which is key to the performance of your block paving.
A quick sweep over with a soft broom followed by brushing jointing sand across the blocks to fill any gaps caused by the initial settling. Always ensure that the blocks are cleaned before this stage to prevent brushing any foreign objects into the joints, this could create the perfect environment for weeds or moss in the future.
General care and cleaning
Unfortunately, no matter how well your block paving has been installed if it is left to its own devices then detritus will inevitably accumulate, and a myriad of unsightly organic growths will establish themselves. The most common of these being weeds, moss, lichen, and algae. A regular routine cleaning regime can help to prevent this, or at least minimize growth as much as possible. By following the steps in this block paving maintenance guide your block paving will look nearly as good as the day it was installed.
This is best performed when the paving is dry.
Start by using a yard broom / stiff bristled brush to remove any dirt and build up from the surface
Pull out any weeds and scrape off any large accumulations of moss
Scrub the paving surfaces with a stiff bristled brush and soapy water (a non-acid based detergent or even basic washing-up liquid will suffice), hose down with clean water. Acid based chemical cleaners are available, but they should only be used where absolutely necessary and certainly not for routine cleaning.
Unless there is heavy soiling or staining then a pressure washer will not be needed at this stage
Once the block paving has dried out then brush in some new jointing sand to replace any that may have been removed during the cleaning
Resolving common specific issues
All block paving installations are susceptible to weed growth if they are not routinely cleaned. Some paving installations are claimed to be ‘weed-free’ however this is not strictly true. A weed proof membrane may reduce the number of weeds but the majority of weeds find their homes between the paving blocks rather than through the sub base or the slabs themselves. This excludes the more extreme species such as Japanese Knotweed.
Regular cleaning and care as detailed above should prevent weeds establishing themselves in the joints however if they do begin to appear then these should be pulled out by holding the weeds near the base, taking care to replace any jointing sand that is removed with the roots. If this manual intervention and regular brushing fails to control the weeds then selective use of a commercially available weed killer can be very effective. This should not damage the individual blocks but be sure to use sparingly and as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Algae is generally found in damp and shaded areas but the good news is that this can be dealt with relatively easily.
Create a weak bleach solution consisting of 50 percent thin household bleach and 50 percent water and apply this to the affected areas. Leave this solution for a few minutes to soak and then rinse thoroughly with clean water. You may need to repeat this process several times before an effect is noticed. Repeating this treatment every few months should deter further growth.
Moss tends to sit on top of any debris or dirt that has accumulated above the paving joints and is easily removed by scraping, brushing and scrubbing. Moss does not penetrate the block paving surfaces. Moss killing chemicals are available however if they contain ferrous sulphate, they can discolor your paving. If you decide to use these then test on an inconspicuous area first.
As mentioned above moss does not penetrate the paving block surfaces however lichen does and is subsequently more difficult to remove than moss and algae. Lichen tends to present as whitish grey circular spots but can occasionally be darker. Regular routine cleaning as detailed in this block paving maintenance guide should deter lichen growth but if it does take hold then take the following actions:
Use either a 50:50 bleach and water mix or a commercially available / proprietary fungicidal solution to treat the affected area.
Leave to soak for a few minutes
Scrub affected area with a stiff brush
Rinse with clean water and monitor the area, repeating as necessary until the lichen is no longer visible
Grease and Oil Stains
Oil and grease can penetrate the paving blocks so prompt remedial action is required. Mop up as much surplus surface oil or grease using cloths or kitchen towels before scrubbing the area with hot soapy water, rinse and repeat as many times as necessary. If this fails then you may need to use a proprietary degreaser but ensure that this does not adversely affect the pigmentation of the paving blocks. Use with caution and test on a small area beforehand.
Efflorescence causes a white crystalline or hazy deposit on the surface of some concrete products. This is caused by the leaching of natural salts from the paving blocks, jointing materials and the sub-base. Please note that although unsightly this is completely harmless and will fade and disappear eventually. However, if you wish to remove this then brushing away with a stiff brush followed by a rinse with clean water should achieve the desired effect. These accumulations will continue until all of the salts have left the materials.
At this point it should also be mentioned that sealants are available which are either sprayed or brushed onto the block paving to seal the surfaces which may reduce the necessity for some of the above steps but this is an entire subject in itself and deserves its own explanation.
Although this block paving maintenance guide is not exhaustive it covers most of the common issues you will encounter and should hopefully mean that you block paving looks as good as the day it was laid.