Remodeling Your Driveway: Choosing the Right Materials for Your Home
Basic asphalt blacktops are just the starting point for driveways. Concrete can be plain, stained or stamped; pavers can create a custom look and there’s even a green driveway that absorbs water. Here are your options.
A pervious concrete driveway absorbs water instead of shedding it. If a municipality has tight environmental regulations for residential construction, this type of driveway may be required. Photo courtesy of Gordon Kenna, Georgia Concrete and Products Association.
Most homeowners think of driveways as little more than a necessity. When it comes time to select one, usually the main consideration is installation and maintenance cost. But today, homeowners have a host of choices to dress up their driveway. Here are a few of the most common.
Asphalt Asphalt, also known as blacktop, has traditionally been the material of choice for most homeowners because it’s the least expensive option, it doesn’t show stains and, if properly maintained with sealing, it should last for 15 to 20 years. It’s also a good choice for colder climates because it’s petroleum-based and it expands and contracts with freezing and thawing temperatures, which reduces cracking. For those in hotter climates, asphalt is less desirable.
“It’s a softer material,” says Rich Napier, president of Richmond, Va.-based Napier Signature Homes. “You need to compact it really well, and you can run in to problems with sinking areas. We run into that with pavers, too. They get little ruts in them from the cars’ wheels.”
Another asphalt option is macadam, also called tar and chip. It’s a combination of hot, liquid asphalt and crushed stone, topped with a very thin layer of colored stone to fill in any voids. One of the benefits of these driveways is they take on whatever color of stone or gravel you mix in with the asphalt. They also offer traction in icy conditions, and they don’t show stains. It’s less expensive than an asphalt driveway, but has a shorter lifespan—expect to resurface every six to 10 years.
A concrete driveway edged with pavers is an elegant and durable entry for a home. Photo courtesy of Napier Signature Homes.
Concrete Concrete is a more expensive, but more permanent, driveway surface. A mixture of Portland cement, water, crushed stone and sand, concrete driveways can last for 30 years or more, according to the Skokie, Ill.-based Portland Cement Association. Properly cured and sealed to protect against stains and repeated thawing and freezing, they’re virtually maintenance-free except for a good cleaning and sealing once every four to five years. The options are extensive, including colored, engraved and stamped concrete, which can resemble stone, brick, cobblestones or even wood planks. The big drawbacks are the cost and cracking, which are nearly inevitable. Napier says that many of his customers like to “mix and match” driveway materials, such as stamped concrete, pavers, cobblestones or pea gravel.
“A trend now for green building is, instead of doing an entire driveway out of concrete, we may border the driveway in stamped concrete with a paver pattern down the middle with grass or gravel in between so water soaks in instead of running down,” he says.