Though a driveway serves a few, universal purposes, there are many factors to consider when selecting a driveway’s surface materials. You can focus on the looks, the practical use and even the environmental factors, but you always have to consider maintenance and upkeep, too. It is also a wise idea to consider “prep” needed for a particular type of surface as that too has a lot of impact on costs and look.
The good news is that there are few very popular options (and you can even combine and juxtapose materials), and each will have various advantages and disadvantages, including how they affect the look of your home as well as your overall budget.
Of course, it is important to properly prepare the ground for any surface chosen. If you fail in this one aspect, the outcome will be unattractive and difficult to maintain. If you begin the project on the right footing, though, you can use the tips below to make the best choices.
Questions to pose
To select the ideal materials, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my budget? How can I remain in the budget but get the looks I want?
- What about maintenance? How much time can I, realistically, dedicate to the driveway’s upkeep?
- Will the local weather play a part in the decision? Which options are best for the typical seasonal conditions?
- What does it have to look like? Do I want it to match the architectural design or can I go a bit different?
Economy option – gravel
You will hear from most experts that a gravel drive is the most affordable, but the flip side is that it is also the highest maintenance. It has to be added to and compacted frequently, and if you want it to be attractive, it will need around ½ -inch (50 mm) of decorative gravel, too.
Of course, if you live in an area with snow accumulation, the annual plowing is going to move the gravel from the drive to areas like the lawn. This can be a real hassle in the spring. You can opt for natural stones, pebbles, slate or limestone that is costlier than gravel, but which tends to be less easily shifted and less likely to be moved around by plowing.
Commonly chosen – asphalt
Easily one of the most frequently selected surfaces, it does require very careful ground prep if you want years of low maintenance and high performance. Asphalt is not a care free solution, though, because you will need to reseal it each year or so to ensure it stands up to the weather. You can also find some companies that will imprint patterns to make it look like more costly pavers.
Popular upgrade – concrete paving blocks
If you have room in the budget to go up a level or two, then concrete pavers may be a good choice. This is particularly true if your drive is to host heavier vehicles, withstand years of heavy freezing and thawing cycles, and not demand a lot of upkeep.
With a 30‑year life expectancy, and the option for different colors and shapes, it is an increasingly popular choice. It is as picky as asphalt in terms of ground prep and it will need a regular resealing to ensure the best results. If this is not in the budget, standard concrete is also an option, but it won’t have that more formal finish.
A classier finish – unistone
This is an increasingly popular option that uses 2 ½” thick (60 mm) blocks that fit together and are then bonded with aggregate and cement. This option also requires annual sealant to ensure the best results. A really beneficial factor with this option is that individual bricks damaged by weather or other issues can be lifted and replaced without any harm to the surrounding pavers.
Earthy and unique – reinforced grass
With so many eco friendly homes appearing, it makes sense that reinforced grass drives would start to increase too. They look just like a lawn, but the ground beneath is actually reinforced by a durable honeycomb-styled plastic foundation. Filled with soil and then seeded with grass, it can also be topped with sod to get established quickly. This is not, however, an option for those who will be driving heavy vehicles or who use the driveway on a constant basis.
Alternatives include concrete blocks designed to offer a similar look, and these can be filled with grass or left alone to create a unique look.
If you can’t seem to identify a single solution that’s just right for your driveway surface, why not consider a combination of materials? You might use gravel where your vehicles are actually parked, border or surround the gravel with pavers, and even add reinforced grass around key decorative elements like fountains or flower beds. There’s really no end to how you can mix things up, so there is no obvious choice, why not think about mixing two or more materials? For the areas where the vehicle actually touches the surface, there can be strips of concrete pavers, for instance, surrounded by gravel, grass or another ground covering. The choices are almost endless, so you can certainly get just the look you want for your home.
Finish it with the right garage doors
As the ideal finishing touch to a new or improved drive, consider a coordinating garage door. You can find out about your many options by contacting us at 860-666-9315. We’ll be glad to forward a quotation by email. Because we have so many years in garage door design, we are happy to review your needs and look at the different styles that would be an ideal solution. You can also head to our online Design Centre or look through our image gallery for inspiration.