Thin brick over concrete in a California driveway apron?
January 6, 2017 9:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering putting brick down in my driveway apron. It currently is covered by concrete. I live in Southern California. Is there any reason I shouldn't (professionally) install bricks over the concrete? Bonus question: what about installing thin bricks (1.5" thick)? We will be driving over the surface.

I realize that in an area where freezing and rain are common this could be a bad idea, but it does neither where we live.
posted by arnicae to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
I thinks it's a bad idea no matter what, and a very bad idea with 1.5" brick.

Even without freeze/thaw, you certainly still have fluctuation in temperature and moisture, and you will be applying large forces regularly.

Brick intended for paving are minimum 2.25" thick, sometimes more. Good brick driveways have a foundation made of multiple grades and layers of gravel, and are laid dry. This allows the bond pattern to flex without applying too much force to any single piece.

If you mortar them in, they will crack, if you don't, I think it will be hard to keep them from sliding around too much.

TLDR: I think there's good reasons you've never heard of paving by putting a thin brick veneer over concrete, and good reasons to be very skeptical of success over a few year period.

That said, I am not a professional bricklayer or mason, it couldn't get to call a contractor and see what they say.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:59 PM on January 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Put another way: picture trying to crack a walnut between your hand and the ground. Then picture trying to crack a walnut between your hand and concrete.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:08 PM on January 6, 2017

I second SaltySaltcid that this is a bad idea. The durability of brick pavers for walkways and driveways start with digging down several inches, laying the foundation with gravel and sand, then tightly "packing" the bricks into the opening with masonry sand holding it in place, so the bricks don't have any place to shift to.

You're essentially describing adding a brick veneer over your driveway. It can't be mortared in place over the driveway because the lateral forces of your driving (or even walking) will eventually break the bond between the brick and cement (unless you're also considering building up the sides of the driveway apron several inches with concrete, then layering with gravel and brick.)

You'd need to break up the concrete for a proper install of actual brick, but as an alternative, if you simply like the look you can also consider calling someone who specializes in concrete tinting and stamping (see for example), who can use concrete to give you the brick look.
posted by Karaage at 10:48 PM on January 6, 2017 [9 favorites]

It'll crack in an earthquake. Most house slabs are cracked in CA and they are pretty durable.
posted by fshgrl at 11:53 PM on January 6, 2017

You can definitely install brick pavers over concrete, it's a typical way to do it even in the NE, but I'm hesitant about doing it with thin pavers. I would talk directly to the the paver manufacturer about both what their products can handle and recommended installation details.
posted by sepviva at 7:16 AM on January 7, 2017

You can do it, but it'll be thick, and probably not perfect. Needs a layer of limestone screening and thicker than you like standard paving stones, with a custom concrete slope in the front & some kind of support on the sides. You could make something that looks okay, but the part where the car tires go on will probably deform over time.
posted by ovvl at 4:56 PM on January 7, 2017

"...thin brick pavers are usually one inch thick and would not be suitable for driveways or heavy foot traffic areas..."
"The other important aspect to them is they shouldn't be used on existing concrete driveways as they cannot withstand the load bearing capacity as can thick brick pavers."

posted by misterbrandt at 4:58 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

What about adding a layer of stamped concrete or stenciled concrete made to look like brick (obviously you'd need to get a professional to do this)? I have seen a number of houses with stamped/stenciled concrete driveways made to look like stone, and they are attractive. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for instance, for some images.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:01 AM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

One more thing: this is an instructive picture of the process of making stamped concrete. I believe they lay it like normal concrete (except colored), and then literally stamp it with a brick pattern (or whatever).
posted by ClaireBear at 7:35 AM on January 9, 2017

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