The material you select to pave your driveway will have a major impact on the overall project, both in terms of price and final appearance. Options range from inexpensive loose stone, which requires constant maintenance, to high-tech porous surfaces that are meant to reduce run-off and be better for the environment. Each material has its own group of devotees, but because driveways tend to cover large areas, the final decision is usually determined by cost.
Loose stone is usually the most inexpensive option for a driveway surface, and it is popular in rural areas where driveways tend to be long. The stones can be ordered in a variety of colors and sizes. Because there is nothing holding the stones in place, however, they tend to shift constantly and will require occasional regrading and thorough weed control.
Tar and Chip
Tar and chip driveways, also called macadam driveways, are composed of a combination of asphalt and stone over a gravel base. This option is popular because it is fairly inexpensive--about half the cost of asphalt alone--and the stone is available in several colors and sizes that can contribute to the overall landscape design. The rough surface does not get slippery, but it can be difficult to shovel when it snows.
Simple concrete driveways are almost ubiquitous in many of America's suburbs due to their durability and affordability. Concrete can also be dyed to be more aesthetically pleasing or stamped and colored to mimic the appearance of stone or brick. The downside is that concrete will crack over time, especially in cold, Northern climates.
Because it is made of oil, asphalt is more resistant to cracking than concrete and requires less maintenance. The black color, however, absorbs heat from the sun in the summer, so asphalt driveways can get very hot. A company called Street Print has patented a method to stamp and color asphalt, making it look like brick without the associated weeds. The stamps tend to fade over several years, however, and require regular maintenance.
Cobblestone, Pavers and Bricks
Among the most expensive of driveway materials, cobblestone, pavers and bricks can also be the most aesthetically pleasing. They are available in a variety of colors, textures and sizes to match any design. But because each piece has to be hand-set, the cost adds up quickly. The cracks in between the individual stones or bricks are also vulnerable to weeds, so these driveways require more maintenance than those that consist of a single slab.
Pervious driveways are made of porous materials that basically suck in moisture and distribute it to the soil below, where naturally occurring organic particles can break down pollutants, rather than letting dirty water wash off into the public water supply. These driveways can be made of special mixtures of concrete or asphalt that is mixed without sand, meaning water cannot pass through it, or concrete paving stones in a special honeycomb pattern that filters runoff down into the soil rather than off onto the street. These materials are still relatively expensive, however, and require monthly cleaning with a vacuum or pressure washer to clear away dirt that can clog the pores.
- Photo Credit pavers image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com
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