8 Popular Driveway Options: Which One Is Right for You?
When most people think about enhancing curb appeal, their thoughts probably turn to the usual suspects—landscaping, front door and front porch, window boxes, etc. When it comes to “fun and exciting” home improvement projects, driveways aren’t typically top of mind…but why shouldn’t they be? After all, it’s the last thing you see as you leave every morning, and the first thing to meet you when you return home in the evening. It’s your transition between the hectic outside world and the inner sanctuary of your private space.
This month, atHome takes a look at some of the many options available for paving the pathway to your garage.
The Model T of driveways—reliable, popular, and available in most any color you want…as long as it’s black (you can, however, have it stamped with a pattern—although this raises the cost substantially).
Pros: Relatively inexpensive. Popular in norther climates, as the material is pliable and weathers freeze-thaw cycles well. Also, the black color of asphalt retains heat and helps melt snow relatively quickly.
Cons: Requires regular maintenance, including sealing or recoating every few years.
Great for: Northern homes. Homes with long driveways, as it is relatively inexpensive.
Clay bricks have been a paving material for centuries. Set into a sand or mortar base, they are rich in color, texture, and character, and can be laid in different color combinations and patterns.
Pros: Attractive and customizable; can be laid in different patterns such as basket weave, running bond, or herringbone, to achieve different visual effects. Eco-friendly and all-natural. Can be salvaged, cleaned, and reused/repurposed/recycled. Relatively low maintenance, provided the bricks have a good base.
Cons: Moderately to very expensive, depending on patterns and installation methods. Can be fragile and prone to shifting, settling, and cracking. May need weeding.
Great for: Historical and upscale areas. Homeowners who want a dramatic look with low-maintenance requirements.
A popular option for suburban homes, concrete is long-lasting, durable, and requires little maintenance.
Pros: Solid and not prone to major cracking. Long lifespan if properly maintained (power washing to keep clean, periodic resealing to protect damage from stains and deicing). Can be customized in a wide variety of ways, including stamped, colored, shaped, etc. (although these finishes raise the cost substantially).
Cons: Out of the most popular options (gravel, asphalt, and concrete) concrete is typically the most expensive. It is also prone to staining (from oil, tire marks, etc.) and susceptible from damage from certain types of road salt and/or de-icing chemicals.
Great for: shorter driveways, people who don’t mind periodic cleaning with a power washer.
Concrete (Stamped and/or Colored)
Poured concrete can be stamped to resemble pavers, bricks, stones or other building materials, as well as stamped in numerous patterns. It can also be colored.
Pros: Offers a customizable, designer look. Colors and patterns can hide stains or marks easier than the standard silver color.
Cons: Expensive relative to plain concrete—up to double the cost, depending on the design options. Not as easy to repair as plain concrete. Susceptible to damage from de-icers.
Great for: shorter driveways (b/c of cost), people who want to match or create a certain aesthetic look.
One of the most popular driveway choices, especially in rural areas and in southern climates. Very economical to purchase with inexpensive installation. Can come in a number of colors.
Pros: Very inexpensive. Quick to install. With maintenance, can last a lifetime.
Cons: Maintenance is high—areas prone to rainfall can have issues with washouts, and in northern areas snow removal can be difficult (and potentially needs to be done by a professional). The gravel needs to be replaced/refreshed often (sometimes as often as yearly), and plan on keeping it raked and weeded. Gravel can also be dusty and rocks can migrate all over—the yard, the landscaping, etc. Stabilizers and/or border materials can be added to help keep things in place, but this does increase the cost.
Great for: Rural properties, properties with long driveways.
The ultimate in environmentally friendly driveway choices, green driveways comes in two main varieties: a full grass surface over a plastic base (the base makes the grass safe to drive on and helps hold the driveway shape); and a grid, typically made from concrete, that allows grass to grow between the spaces (pictured here).
Pros: Eco-friendly. Unique aesthetic. Relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain.
Cons: You DO have to maintain it—just like the rest of the lawn. Mowing, watering if need be, etc.
Great for: Places where grass is standard-issue landscaping (so, not ideal for desert climates or very hot climates).
A paver driveway is a great curb appeal enhancer, as they are available in a variety of colors and shapes, and are made from a variety of materials. Interlocking pavers are frequently made of cast concrete, and are typically one of the lower-cost of paver options. Cobblestone (or Belgian block) pavers are usually made from granite—and are priced accordingly. But granite is extremely hard, and a well maintained cobblestone driveway can last for more than a century.
Pros: Durable, low maintenance, and easier to repair. You can often just remove the damaged block and replace with a new one, instead of tearing up/resurfacing the whole drive. Lots of options: concrete pavers come in many shapes, from more unusual ones like trefoil and anvil, to common ones bow tie, keyhole, and hexagon. Eco-friendly, as permeable/pervious pavers allow the ground to absorb and clean rainwater.
Cons: Cost is the primary disadvantage. Concrete pavers are expensive; cobblestones even more so. Pavers must be installed by hand, making them labor-intensive (and adding to the cost).
Great for: An Old World/high-end look and feel. Matching a specific design aesthetic. Homeowners who want lower maintenance products.
Similar to gravel, natural crushed-shell driveways can be both aesthetically pleasing and quite cost-effective. Typically, it comes in three main varieties—clam, oyster, and scallop, and can range in color from off-white to gray to brown to pinkish.
Pros: Excellent drainage. Cost-effective. As the shells are walked on or driven over, they break into smaller pieces that disperse evenly, so it is less prone to the ruts and holes found in gravel drives. Light colors mean cooler surfaces in hot, sunny climates. Only needs periodic replenishing (every few years).
Cons: Subject to washout. Can get messy (like gravel) and end up everywhere. Not ideal for steep drives. Not readily available in some areas. Snow removal is difficult.
Great for: Southern climates. Long driveways. Eco-conscious/environmentally friendly homeowners.