Home driveways are a weird animal, they’re often overlooked unless sparkling brand new or old, chipped, and run down. In actuality driveways perform a great surface marking a clearer route to our homes and garages and present a place for storage and function without tearing up a yard. Whether you’re thinking about laying a driveway that currently isn’t there or aiming to replace a pathway that is well past it’s prime, here are some things to take into consideration when deciding between the different driveway surfaces.
Gravel is a very common material used for long driveways on country roads. It’ a more unique choice for a driveway inside city limits but still very much in abundance. Perhaps the biggest benefit of a gravel driveway is that it’s cost effective. Granted gravel is still going to cost in the neighborhood of $200 per load but for long driveways it really is the only feasible option at that price. Another benefit is that gravel needs little to no maintenance. On the other hand, gravel can give you issues year round as it dirties up cars and potentially chips them – plus you better have a snowplow driver you can trust in the winter or he or she will scoop your gravel away with the white stuff.
Anybody who’s ever laid asphalt in a driveway will tell you its number one con – it soaks up seemingly every ounce of sun in a 3-mile radius. Granted asphalt does get pretty hot but that’s actually a by-product of what makes it such an enticing driveway material, the fact that the petroleum base in it flexes instead of cracking. Most homeowners in the market for an asphalt driveway are usually narrowing down their decision between it and concrete. If price is the major decision swayer than asphalt usually wins out since its costs are about half as much as concrete. The upkeep is a little more on asphalt as it needs to be resealed every 3-5 years and the lifespan as a whole is only about 12 years. Still in cold weather climates, asphalt wins out because it won’t crack like concrete – and if it does it’s much easier to fix.
Those who like a concrete driveway do so mostly because they can set it and forget it. The average lifespan of a concrete driveway is 30-40 years, upwards of 3 times that of asphalt. Concrete is basically maintenance free besides the occasional sweeping and pressure washing for surface’s sake. Where concrete does become a liability is when it’s towards the end of its life cycle or in extreme weather conditions. Cracks will start to form from the cold and they can be both costly and unsightly to repair. Plus the light color of concrete means every gas stain or oil spill is noticeable for life, whereas in a black asphalt driveway they’re virtually undetectable.
If budget is not an issue, it’s hard to argue against cement pavers as the material of choice for a driveway. There are not many products that can emulate the old-world feel of a paved driveway with a surprisingly modern touch. Besides looks cement pavers have functionality too. They are virtually maintenance free, can last up to 50 years, and can be DIY installed with a little time and effort. Unfortunately that price hurdle is often too big of a one to jump over as the pavers themselves can cost between $3 and $10 each. That amounts to about $40 per square foot to lay a driveway when in comparison asphalt can be done for $5 – most people just don’t have those kinds of resources to invest in a driveway.
It’s definitely an unconventional choice but there could be some credence to the fact that grass driveways are the wave of the future. To be clear, grass driveways are an intended design and involve much more than driving a Camaro on the lawn and letting it sit there for 4 years. Grass driveways are constructed of high-tech plastic pavers who snap together and create a load bearing surface so the vehicle doesn’t soak into the wet ground. Green driveways are more environmentally friendly and porous but they can be hard to maintain in harsh winter climates and oil spills actually do more harm than if they were on concrete.
Brick is another interesting driveway choice that definitely boosts curb appeal. A brick driveway is reminiscent of yesteryear when the sound of horse drawn carriages could be heard clogging down the streets. Unfortunately there are some drawbacks to brick that can’t even offset it’s highly unique look, the first of which being price. Although much less expensive than using concrete pavers, a brick driveway is still well out of the price range of asphalt or traditional driveways. The brick is much less durable too, breaking away in inclement weather if not sealed a couple times a year. Brick pavers are permeable to let water through which is nice, but they’re also very attractive to weeds which will grow through and need constant tending.
Some other driveway surfaces include shells, recycled materials, and different types of concrete. Out of all of them which one the consumer decides depends on a lot of things – budget, upkeep, home style, city ordinances. Either way, it’s nice to have choices and the looks of a driveway is a bigger one than most think.
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Photo by julianmeade
Photo by julianmeade
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