Featured Article: Fine Homebuilding Summer 08 No.195

What's the Difference: Driveway surfacing materials

There's more than just choosing a solid or loose surface
Ben Pequeno is a driveway expert in Lincoln, Ri.

As the welcome mat for your property, a driveway has the ability to make a significant impression on guests and passersby. Selecting a driveway material is no easy task, though, as aesthetics, durability, and maintenance issues differ. Costs can vary by region and by installer.

Solids

Concrete
With the help of additives and pigments, concrete can be used to create surfaces in almost any color. When combined with certain aggregates and stamping techniques, concrete can also be finished with a variety of textures. Unlike other types of driveways, concrete surfaces demand expansion joints. Without them, cracking becomes an issue.

Maintenance: Semiannual washing and sealing                   Above Stamped Asphalt Image
Average service life: 30 to 50 years
Permeability: Very low. Water sheds from the surface rather than drains through it.
Cost (installed): $4 to $15 per sq. ft.

Asphalt
Asphalt conceals dirt and stains better than most other driveway materials. However, it gets extremely hot under a summer sun. Asphalt is more resistant to cracking than poured concrete because it contains oil, which gives it elasticity. Like concrete, asphalt can be stamped and colored to replicate other types of driveway materials.

Maintenance: Semiannual washing; seal-coating every 2 to 4 years. Colored asphalt needs a new coat of color every 2 to 6 years to stay looking new.
Average service life: 10 to 30 years
Permeability: Very low. Water sheds from the surface rather than drains through it.
Cost (installed): $2 to $6 per sq. ft.

Pavers

Cobblestone
Cobblestones, which are typically chunks of solid granite or basalt, create an extremely durable surface that outlasts most other driveway materials. Cobblestones can be used as a primary surface but are also very popular for use as driveway aprons and borders.

Maintenance: Semiannual washing; regular weed control.
Average service life: 90+ years
Permeability: High when set in sand; low when set in mortar.
Cost (installed): $15 to $50 per sq. ft.

Concrete
Concrete pavers are manufactured in a highly controlled facility where quality-control measures are paramount. The result is a product that is more uniform and stronger than poured concrete. Pavers come in a variety of shapes and colors for nearly unlimited design options.

Maintenance: Semiannual washing and sealing; regular weed control.
Average service life: 50 years
Permeability: High when set in sand; low when set in mortar.
Cost (installed): $10 to $40 per sq. ft.

Brick
Clay bricks, which are cured by heat, are generally more porous than concrete pavers and are not as strong. They tend to attract moss more than other materials and should be set in mortar for strength when used as a primary surface.

Maintenance: Semiannual washing and sealing
Average service life: 30 years
Permeability: High when set in sand; low when set in mortar.
Cost (installed): $10 to $30 per sq. ft.

Loose Material

 
The look of loose stone, the maintenance of asphalt. Stone spread over liquid asphalt stays where its placed, creating a crisply edged, maintenance-free driveway. Photo by: Courtesy of John K. Grosvenor

Loose stone
Small stones can be purchased in a variety of sizes and colors. Loose stone should be applied over a solid gravel base and should never exceed 2 in. to 4 in. in depth. A driveway border of cobblestone or brick can help to keep loose stone from spreading to the landscaping.

Maintenance: Seasonal regrading and regular containment; regular weed control.
Average service life: 90+ years
Permeability: Very high
Cost (installed): $1 to $4 per sq. ft.

Macadam, or tar and chip
Macadam is the process by which hot, liquid asphalt is sprayed over a solid gravel base and covered with colored stone. The tar-and-chip method is very similar, except the liquid asphalt and the gravel are applied to an existing asphalt or concrete driveway.

Maintenance: Containment is only an initial issue. Repair as needed due to snowplow damage.
Average service life: 6 to 10 years
Permeability: Moderate (macadam); low (tar and chip)
Cost (installed): $2 to $5 per sq. ft.

Gravel
Gravel is a combination of stone, sand, and clay, and it compacts to a much more stable base than loose stone. Processed gravel makes a more durable driveway than natural gravel because the ratio of sand to stone to clay is more refined.

Maintenance: Seasonal re-grading and regular containment; regular weed control.
Average service life: 90+ years
Permeability: Very high
Cost (installed): 50 to $3 per sq. ft.

NOTE: Replacing a driveway always requires removal of the old surface before installation of new material.
From Fine Homebuilding 195 (Houses), pp. 24-28
April 16, 2008

 

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