Not All Hardscape Pavers are Permeable Pavers – Learn The Difference


If you’re planning a hardscaping project for your California Bay area home concrete pavers are an excellent choice. They’re beautiful, durable, flexible and cost-effective. When planning your project, you’ll have a wide range of styles, colors, textures, and sizes to choose from. You’ll also need to choose between impermeable or permeable pavers.

When deciding which type to use, there are several factors to consider including the material costs, installation demands, and their environmental impact. The main difference between these two types of pavers is the way they handle water and storm runoff.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of impermeable versus permeable pavers and what you should consider before making your final selection.


Permeable surfaces, also known as porous or pervious surfaces allow water to pass through and percolate into the soil underneath them. The soil filters out pollutants and recharges the water table. Because the water is absorbed into the soil, permeable pavers reduce runoff and help protect watersheds. Permeable pavers are installed in an “open-graded” manner. Open-graded refers to the base material which consists of larger gravel leaving voids allowing water to pass through quickly.

View Our Gallery Of Paver Projects For California Bay Area Homeowners

Impermeable pavers are solid surfaces that do not allow water to pass through forcing it to run off into storm drains impacting the environment in several negative ways. In urban and suburban areas there are many impermeable surfaces like asphalt roadways and concrete walkways that can cause several problems, including:

• Pollution of Surface Water – When stormwater runs off of impermeable surfaces it picks up pollutants and debris as it runs into storm drains. This contaminated water then travels into lakes, rivers, and wetlands negatively impacting the environment and potentially public health.

• Flooding and Erosion – During periods of heavy rain large areas of impermeable surfaces generate large amounts of runoff. This sudden influx of water can cause flash flooding and the erosion of stream and river banks.

• Aquifer Replenishment – Impermeable pavers direct water into storm drains rather than allowing it to return to aquifers. As a result, especially in drought-stricken areas like California groundwater may be used faster than it is replenished.

The negative effects of impermeable pavers can be reduced using several water management methods. Again these methods center around their installation. Creating a “rain garden” or bio-retention area consists of creating shallow depressions in the landscape that captures stormwater an allows it to percolate into the soil gradually. When planted with moisture-loving plants, these garden areas can reduce stormwater runoff. Another option is to install a French drainage system on the downslope side of the surface. This can move runoff to an area where it can infiltrate the soil.


While permeable pavers are the environmentally sound choice, there is a case for using impermeable pavers in the right application. If your landscape is sloped or terraced, impermeable pavers can help to direct water around your property. If for example, you’re creating a paver walkway over a sloped area, strategically planting landscaping can direct the water to the benefit of your plantings. This can help to save water you’d need to nourish your garden. For driveways or patios, installing a French drain can also help to control runoff.

Impermeable pavers are also slightly less expensive to install, and the installation process is less intensive. The proper use of polymeric sand also makes maintenance easier requiring little replacement of the joint material.

Permeable pavers are more effective at removing water and are more environmentally friendly. In California, many municipalities require the use of permeable pavers for any new installations because of this. Permeable pavers are also a flexible option. For example, patios can be built that include perimeter walls thanks to the fact that water can drain through the joints, preventing damming.

Permeable pavers are also the perfect choice for driveways that slant towards your home. Using a sloped sub-base allows the paver surface to be installed perfectly level while controlling runoff, keeping your garage perfectly dry. The one drawback to permeable pavers is that you may need to occasionally replace joint material which can sometimes dislodge from between the joints.

Both options are durable, come in a variety of colors, styles, textures, and sizes, and when professionally installed can last a lifetime. Ultimately your choice comes down to your needs, location, municipal building codes, and your budget.

If you’re planning a hardscaping project for your Sonoma County home, give the experts at Bayside Pavers a call at 1-(866) 287-2837. We can help you design the perfect hardscape to meet your family’s unique needs. Our knowledgeable team members are ready to help you create the outdoor living space you’ve been dreaming about!

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, our location in Concord, CA at 2455 Bates Ave, Ste K, services East Bay and South Bay homeowners. Our Santa Rosa, CA location at 1619 4th Street Ste 12 can help you with your North Bay hardscaping projects.

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