When the 13-year-old asphalt parking lot at the Spinnaker Condominiums in Vero Beach, FL, needed replacement, the homeowners association considered three options: repave with asphalt, go with poured concrete or install interlocking concrete pavers.
The decision was unanimous: concrete pavers.
The deciding factors? Life cycle, cost and appearance, says Steve Smith, president of the homeowners association and a full-time resident at the 59-unit Spinnaker, located about 140 miles up the coast from Miami.
The asphalt would likely require replacement in another 13 years, compared to the pavers’ average 30-year life cycle; poured concrete was beyond their budget; and the pavers are aesthetically appealing, Smith says. “All eight board members also agreed on the color and pattern of the pavers, and we never agree on anything,” he says.
A fortunate discovery and challenges
Smith and his board hired Gulfstream Hardscapes and Garages, LLC—an ICPI member company with an ICPI Certified Installer on staff, also headquartered in Vero Beach—to complete the project. The work to resurface the 45,000-sf (4,180-m2) lot started in late June 2013 and lasted through August, when average temperatures soared above 90 degrees with uncomfortably high humidity.
But the heat wasn’t the biggest challenge, says Paul Engel, Gulfstream’s founder. Working in such a confined space, an oddly-shaped 150-car lot, made maneuvering difficult. “Only 20 percent of the residents were living there during the project because most ‘snow birds’ travel north for the summer,” Engel says. “But we still had to constantly move cars around, and go in and out of the same tight entrance. Even delivery folks had to park outside the entrance and bring materials in by hand.”
Fortunately, laying the groundwork for installation was easier than expected. When Engel’s crew began tearing up the asphalt, they discovered that the existing base material was not only suitable, it was thicker than required. “When they built the original project back in 1979, the contractor installed well over 8 to 12 in. (200 to 300 mm) of really good base rock,” Engel says. “So at the time of our asphalt demolition, we barely scratched the old base.” Because of this solid base, Engel and his team opted for interlocking concrete pavers.
Proper drainage is critical when it comes to installing pavers in beach areas because of the high water table, the level below which the ground is completely saturated with water. Without proper drainage, soil becomes marshy and unable to support pavers. The proper soil conditions, according to Engel, are either sandy or compactable fill.
As long as the pavers rest on a well-compacted base and have proper edge restraints to prevent pavers from shifting over time, they are perfectly suited for beach communities. In fact, 75 percent of the work Gulfstream did last year came from installing pavers in and near Vero Beach, an island community through which a significant portion of the Intracoastal Waterway runs.
In total, Gulfstream installed more than 250,000 individual pavers. A white cement colored the base, in addition to light grey, tan, coral and light blue 6 x 6 in. (150 x 150 mm) and 6 x 9 in. (150 x 220 mm) pillow-top pavers placed in a T-pattern.
The decision to install the job manually was largely due to the tight workspace. The site could not accommodate a machine to lay the pavers. In addition, the homeowners wanted all of the parking stripes demarcated with different color pavers, so this made hand installation the better choice.
While the construction industry in the region has suffered over much of the last decade, it has recently seen some improvement with new subdivisions and larger commercial and residential projects. Fortunately for Gulfstream, many of those jobs include interlocking concrete pavements and hardscapes, Engel says. Pavers are common in the region because they are less expensive in south Florida due to lower labor costs and competitive pricing from several nearby manufacturers.
Another reason for the popularity of concrete pavers is that the base conditions are unique to the region. “Once you dig down in most areas we hit the subgrade known as coquina, which is the same product mined out of the ground for base rock and screeding sand, as well as sand used in concrete,” Engel says. “It’s not as hard as a granite, but it compacts well and is very stable.” Pavers provide a natural look that complements the earthy tones of a beach landscape as well as local architecture, which is another reason for their popularity.
Spinnaker residents all agree that the new parking lot is clean, complements the building and its surroundings, and has increased property values.
“Everyone is thrilled with the final product,” Smith says. “It’s just beautiful.”