Updated on January 3, 2022
There are many alternatives to concrete, but you need to know the purpose of your concrete alternative before picking out the alternative type. For example, there are sustainable, driveway, patio, fence post, and foundation concrete alternatives.
Once you know the purpose of your concrete alternative, you can pick out the alternative concrete. Let’s look at the 20 best alternatives to concrete.
Alternatives to Concrete
If you need alternatives to concrete, here are 20 great options depending on sustainability and location:
Alternatives for Driveways and Walkways
Gravel is a great concrete alternative for driveways and walkways. Gravel is extremely common and can be made from a variety of rocks like marble and clay.
You may want gravel instead of concrete because it is budget-friendly. Gravel is one of the cheapest concrete alternatives to buy and install. The cost of gravel depends on the weight, and you will have to pay installation charges as well.
Another benefit of gravel is that it is easy to maintain and easy to install. During snowy or rainy weather, you may need to add a bit more gravel, but it does not require any other maintenance. If you are graveling a small area, you can install it yourself.
There are some negatives about gravel too. Most notably, gravel can be washed away by environmental factors. When this happens, the road or driveway will patch up, and you will eventually have to add more gravel.
Anther negative about gravel is that it can cause a lot of dirt and debris to fly into the air when it’s driven over. This will make the vehicle dirty.
A paver driveway has a multi-colored tiled look that has risen in demand for its aesthetic appeals.
This driveway option is a good alternative to concrete pacing because it has no curing period and requires very little maintenance. Unlike cement or asphalt, pavers are good to use as soon as they have been installed. Once installed, they require little maintenance outside of trimming weeds.
Another great feature of a paver is that it has a long lifespan. Most pavers can last for up to 50 years, which ensures you get your money’s worth.
One negative aspect of a paver is that it can easily crack due to the weather or environment. Weeds and trees, for example, can crack the paver by pushing up on it.
3. Timber Sleepers
This alternative to concrete is made from timber sleepers. These sleepers are put in the ground, and dirt is placed over the top.
One reason you may want a timber sleeper is that it is very budget-friendly. You can get the sleepers either new or used, but the used sleepers will be the most cost-efficient.
Another reason to get timber sleepers is that they appear much more natural. This look is great for rural environments.
There are a few reasons that you would not want a timber sleeper driveway. Most notably, timber sleepers are more susceptible to damage. They can be damaged by weather, insects, and fire. In fact, timber sleepers only last around 12 years.
Asphalt is similar to concrete, but it uses tar instead of cement. It is often used for paving roads, driveways, and walkways.
You may want to use asphalt instead of cement if you are on a tight budget. Asphalt only costs around $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot.
Another reason asphalt makes a good alternative to concrete is that it is easy to repair and remains intact for 20+ years. This fact ensures that the paved area lasts over the years.
One reason you might not want asphalt is that it is less durable than cement. It cracks and softens in high heat and needs resealing every 3 to 5 years. This issue means that you will have to pay for all retouches in order to maintain the asphalt.
Resin is a composite plastic that is molded, durable, and pliable. Driveways made from resin are constructed with a mixture of resin and stones.
Resin is a great alternative to concrete because it is very flexible and permeable. The flexibility of the resin prevents it from cracking, which makes maintenance almost unnecessary.
One downside of resin is that you must be cautious when mixing it. If you are not careful, you can come in contact with polyurethanes, which contains respiratory toxins.
Another downside of resin driveways is that they are very expensive. It can cost anywhere from $4 to $9 a square foot, which can be double the cost of asphalt.
Another alternative to concrete is sand. Sand is one of the more eco-friendly alternatives. When using sand as a substitute for concrete, you want to get a sand mix that is easy to use and lasting.
One benefit of sand is that it is easy to install. You will not need to hire a professional to install sand. Instead, get a sand kit, read the directions, and you are good to do it yourself. This will save you from paying for manual labor.
Using sand as an alternative to concrete comes with some downsides. Most notably, you will need a sublevel to keep the sand in place. This sublevel can be made of gravel or tarps.
Additionally, sand is difficult to keep clean and maintain. It will react poorly to rain, snow, wind, and any other extreme weather condition.
Sand is also not the best option for driveways and vertical structures. Instead, sand is best for walkways or pathways.
See Also: 7 Alternatives to Sandbags (Keep Water Out)
Alternatives for Patios
Although gravel is not a commonly thought of material for patios, you can easily use gravel for your patio instead of concrete. Not all gravel is suitable for the patio, but several textures and colors would look very nice on a patio. Granite and lava rocks are favorites.
You can keep the gravel within a wooden frame. This will help to contain the gravel to the patio area. Or, you can use the gravel alone.
Before pouring the gravel, you will want to dig out 4 inches of dirt where you want the gravel to be. Then, add a 2 inch base of large gravel to the bottom. This layer will help with drainage. After that, you can add the attractive, top-layer gravel.
Mulch is another great alternative for patio concrete. Wood mulch is a material that is very easy to work with and costs very little. There is a wide range of colors and mulch sizing to choose from.
Once you select your mulch, begin the process by constructing a frame to control the mulch. This frame will serve as the border for your patio. Fill the first inch within the frame with large gravel or sand. This will promote drainage. After that, pour in your preferred mulch.
Over time, the mulch will compact, which will create a sturdy foundation for patio furniture. You may need to add more mulch occasionally.
See Also: 7 Best Alternatives to Mulch (in the Garden)
Alternatives for Fence Posts
Gravel is a great option for fence posts. The first step to securing the post is to dig a hole for the fence post. Make sure that the hole is deep enough to hold the post.
Once the hole is dug, add some gravel at the base of the hole. This gravel will give the post a base to sit on, which will keep it from moving or sinking. Place the post in the hole and use the pole to compact the gravel.
With the post still in the hole, add more gravel to the hole. As you add gravel and soil, compact it as you go. You may need to add water to the gravel and dirt to help with the compaction. This will ensure that the post is secure in the ground.
Once you have filled up the hole, compact the top of the earth further. You can do this by standing on the ground and lightly stomping into it.
10. Key the Posts
Keying posts involve securing the post with underground perpendicular boards. Begin by digging a hole for the post. Make sure that the hole is deep enough to secure the post. Place the post into the hole.
Place a treated 2×6 (the “key”) against the pole and position it so that it is perpendicular to the gate leaning direction. Use the 2×6 to create an indention into the ground above the hole. This indention will let you know where to dig.
Take the pole out of the hole and use the line to dig out a place for the 2×6. This hole is called the keyhole. You will want it to be tight, so do not dig away too much dirt.
Place the post back into the hole and add some dirt and gravel. Compact the dirt and gravel using a rod. Once the hole is filled up to the bottom of the keyhole, place the key into the hole. You may need to use a hammer to get the key in the keyhole.
After that, continue adding dirt and gravel until the hole is completely filled. Make sure it is compacted well.
11. Securing Foam
You can also use securing foam instead of concrete to secure a post. Begin by digging a hole to an appropriate depth and place the pole inside the hole. Make sure that the post is secure and level before moving to the next step.
Now, grab the securing foam. You will want to follow the instruction on how to apply the securing foam. You will probably need to create the mixture. Pour the mixture into the hole and wait. After the mixture has secured the post, cover the top up with dirt.
Alternatives for Foundations
12. Wood Foundation
Wood is a great alternative for a concrete foundation. They are mostly found in light wooden houses. This option is cheaper than concrete and can last a while if the wood is treated properly beforehand.
One reason you may choose a wood foundation is that it is easy to put up. The directions are very straightforward, which means that wood foundations will not take as long to install.
Additionally, wood foundations are more budget-friendly than other foundation alternatives. The reason for this is that processing lumber is more cost-efficient as a whole.
A negative of wood foundations, though, is that wood is susceptible to rotting and insect infestation. To help prevent this from happening, you need to pressure treat the lumber and treat it with chemicals.
A crawlspace foundation is when a house is raised a few feet. The footing is then poured, and blocks are laid. The blocks form the foundation of the house.
One benefit of a crawlspace foundation is that you will have access to the piping, ductwork, and wiring. This feature will make repairs much easier.
Crawlspace foundations also make first level floors much warmer. The reason for this is that the crawlspace is conditioned, and heat rises.
Crawlspace foundations come with drawbacks too. For example, crawlspace foundations can be overrun by fungi and mold. Even if steps are taken to prevent fungi and mold, there is still a chance that they will occur.
14. Granite Foundation
Granite foundation is a durable and historically-reliable alternative to concrete. It is extremely durable.
Additionally, granite foundation often looks good. Although the durability of a foundation is more important than its looks, a visually appealing foundation is always a plus.
One reason why you may want to choose a different alternative over granite is that it is very expensive. On average, granite foundations cost $3 to $5 per square foot.
More so, granite foundations need to be laid by professionals. This is not a foundation you can pour yourself. This will further increase the cost.
15. Brick Foundation
Bricks can be used as an alternative for concrete foundations. The brick blocks are laid above ground. This is what forms the foundation.
The benefit of a brick foundation is that it is easy to install, and bricks have high availability. This fact will make constructing the home much easier and cheaper.
A negative of a brick foundation is that they are not as strong as other foundation options.
Greencrete, or Geo-Green Crete, is a newer option for concrete alternatives. It is eco-friendly, but its results are comparable to concrete. It uses waste to become a low-carbon alternative to concrete.
Greencrete can also refer to a way to pour your garage. Greencrete pouring is done in a way so that grass can push through the patterns, making the garage better for the environment around your home.
The main reason you may want to use Greencrete over regular concrete is that it is eco-friendly. It creates a wonderful concrete-like finish, but it is created with low-carbon emissions. The low-carbon emissions even allow it to qualify for international carbon credits.
The downside of Greencrete is that it is very expensive. It is more expensive than both concrete and other concrete alternatives because of its low availability. In fact, Greencrete can cost more than $2,000 for a driveway and will cost even more if you go with the Greencrete pouring pattern.
Aircrete is a more sustainable and budget-friendly version of concrete. It has become more popular over the last 5 years and can be used for a number of purposes like walls, driveways, floors, and sub-levels.
You may want to use Aircrete over regular concrete because it is one of the least expensive concrete alternatives you can buy. In fact, it is about 8% cheaper than a timber frame.
Additionally, Aircrete is fire resistant, moisture resistant, and frost resistant. These features will help ensure that your concrete alternative is protected in extreme situations.
Importantly, Aircrete is more sustainable than many other concrete alternatives. It is more environmentally friendly because it is easily crushed down during the recycling process.
Aircrete comes with some downfalls, too. Most notably, Aircrete has a weaker structure than regular concrete. As a result, the structure can crack. It is recommended for walls instead of a driveway.
Mycelium is a biomass material used in green buildings. It has recently become popular by architects and engineers alike since it produces more sustainable structures and buildings.
Mycelium is produced from a fungi root. You can either buy it or make it yourself. The fungi create a living material that can be used in walkways, playgrounds, and parking structures.
One reason that Mycelium stands out as an alternative to concrete is that it is capable of self-healing. This self-healing property can remove some of the extra work and money that comes with concrete maintenance.
More so, Mycelium is a great option purely for its sustainability. Since the fungi can be grown naturally, the Mycelium is a sustainable material to use.
A downside of Mycelium is that it is newer to the market. Because it is a new product, it may be harder to find someone that sells it as concrete.
Another downside of Mycelium is that it might take a while to grow in. In other words, concrete will dry faster and not take as long to settle as Mycelium.
Another sustainable alternative to concrete is Hempcrete. Hempcrete is made from industrial hemp, shives, and lime.
One reason that Hempcrete stands out is its sustainability. It does not use any petrochemicals and is carbon-negative. The sustainability of Hempcrete makes it a great alternative to concrete.
More so, Hempcrete offers your home fire resistance, pest resistance, and waterproof insulation. It is also earthquake tested. These features promise to keep you and your home safe in the case of an emergency.
One downside to Hempcrete is that it is not as strong as regular concrete. As a result, it will not offer the same durability or last as long.
Another downside of Hempcrete is its cost. Hempcrete costs more than regular concrete. It is purchased by bags or pellets. The cost can range from about $16 to $20.
Ferrock is a newer material that uses recycled materials, such as steel dust, to create a material stronger than concrete. During the hardening process, Ferrock absorbs and traps carbon dioxide, which makes it carbon neutral.
One reason you may want Ferrock over traditional concrete is that it is more eco-friendly. Being carbon-neutral, Ferrok does not increase carbon emissions.
Ferrock also sets very quickly. In fact, it sets faster than standard concrete, which allows you to work faster and save money.
One downside to Ferrock is that few installers know how to install Ferrock. It is a newer material, meaning that only a few professionals have worked with the product. This results in more expensive installation.
There are many alternatives to concrete, but what alternative you get depends on the purpose of the concrete or concrete alternative. There are sustainable, driveway, patio, fence post, and foundation concrete alternatives.
We looked at 20 alternatives to concrete. These alternatives cover a wide range of purposes, materials, and pricing, so you are sure to find a concrete alternative for you!