Best Surface For Steep Driveways (and Top Options Guide)

You have to be very careful when planning a driveway because the incline of your drive will determine the best material for use on its surface. Many homes feature a sloped driveway and for the most part, this offers something of a grand aesthetic. If you have a sloped driveway, it can feel like a regal lead up to your home, but then, on the flip side, these driveways are often fraught with problems. 

Such is life; as with anything, there are pros and cons to steep driveways and while something of an incline is good in terms of drainage, it isn’t a good idea to have something overly steep. There are various ‘maximum incline’ recommendations depending on where you live in the world. Some would say that anything that exceeds 12% should be avoided whereas other sources cite that the maximum is 25%. A good rule of thumb is that a driveway with more than a 15% incline, is considered to be especially steep.

Installing a driveway without such a steep incline is going to be much safer but this is largely impossible if the home is already in an elevated position and really only something that can be considered when planning a new build. However, if you are resurfacing your sloped driveway, there are some materials that will prove far more beneficial. 

Why Do Homes Have Sloped Driveways?

We have touched on the fact that a sloped driveway can have incredible aesthetic appeal. This is great but a driveway isn’t only something that allows you to keep up with the Joneses. Your driveway should, first and foremost, serve a practical purpose. It is a place to park for you and your guests and yet, when most of these driveways were built, it wasn’t common to own a car. 

If you look at houses with steep driveways, you will notice that most of them are older, period properties. Back then, it was absolutely about those pesky Joneses and the more grand your driveway, and your home, looked, the more ‘important’ you were. On the other hand, smaller properties, that would have been built for the working class, may still feature a sloped driveway but this would typically be a lot smaller and might not even have enough room to park a car. 

In some cases, these period properties will have no driveway at all and simply feature a very steep, sloped front garden. A lot of modern homeowners consider converting these grassed areas into driveways but are instantly faced with the various issues associated with this type of drive. 

What Are The Problems Associated With A Steep Driveway?

Having a sloped driveway certainly has some disadvantages and one of the first steps in creating a steep driveway is understanding these. If you can get to grips with the issues, then you will much more easily be able to plan around them. 

Drainage

Typically, you would only install a driveway that had something of a slope as this improves drainage. However, there are regulations in place in the UK that means your driveway must be SUDS compliant which means that you must only use permeable materials on your driveway. If you intend on using anything else, you will be required to apply for planning permission. Now of course, if your driveway is steep, this is going to totally remove the problem of drainage on the driveway itself. 

But…and there is a big but, this means that any rain water that runs off the driveway will simply gather at the bottom. Moreover, the water will run off into the road, creating puddles and potentially making the road more unsafe than it otherwise would be. So, even in this instance, you would still need to have used a permeable material to avoid this problem, lest you apply for planning permission. 

Pedestrian Safety

Have you ever attempted to walk down an icy path or even a steep street when it has been raining? Most of you reading this will understand exactly what we are talking about; it isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t safe. With a sloped driveway, there is a very real risk of pedestrians slipping and sustaining serious injuries. This is a result of the traction being far more limited on a sloped surface.

Reversing your Car

In a similar way to pedestrians experiencing problems on a sloped driveway, your vehicle will be just as much at risk. The tyres will not have such a good grip on the surface and this can make moving over the driveway a challenge. When trying to reverse, this becomes even more difficult particularly when the ground is frozen or icy. While it is possible to reverse up and down a steep driveway when done with extreme care and caution, there is still the added pressure on the car’s brakes which will cause them to wear far more quickly. 

The Sub-Base Is Unstable

When your driveway is laid, one of the most important factors is laying a sub-base. However, once the driveway is down, you probably won’t think about this again; until it rears its ugly head and begins to cause problems. You see, the soil at the sub-base will move over the course of time which can result in the foundation becoming seriously flawed.Moreover, as rain penetrates through, this will cause the surface to crack. Not only does this affect the integrity of the driveway but it also costs an arm and a leg to put right. 

Trying To Sell Your Home

WIth all of the problems that are associated with having a sloped driveway, it will come as no surprise that this can devalue your home. The reason for this is that homebuyers will be very aware of the issues they will face and will not be as likely to want to pay over the odds for this type of inconvenience. 

What Do I Need To Consider When Choosing The Right Material For My Sloped Driveway?

Choosing the right driveway material can be a little daunting especially when you consider that you will be spending a considerable amount of money resurfacing the driveway. For this reason, it is essential that you take everything into consideration and take your time to make the right decision. 

Safety Is Key

Above all else, it is vital that your new driveway surface is going to offer ultimate safety. It can be tempting to go for aesthetics over practicality but it simply isn’t worth someone sustaining a potentially serious injury by falling on your driveway or losing control of their vehicle. 

When choosing the material for your driveway, you will need to think about how steep the incline is. For very sloped driveways, you will need to find something with maximum traction. If the driveway is a little less sloped, you won’t need quite as much in the way of grip.

Another great option is to install a parking spot near the top or bottom of the drive where the surface can be flattened out just enough to leave the car. 

Drainage

We cannot stress enough that a sloped driveway needs to be compliant in terms of drainage. You will need to think about whether you want to apply for planning permission. If the material you’re going to use is non-permeable then it isn’t SUDS compliant and you will need to apply. The problem is that there is a risk your request won’t be approved if it is likely that water will pool at the bottom of the driveway or on the road.

But if you are going to use a non-porous material, you will need to make sure that the rainfall has somewhere to run if you want your driveway to remain safe and protected. Generally speaking, it is better for the water to run to the side and then off into a drain at the bottom. Not tackling this will mean that water will remain on the driveway and freeze when the weather gets bad, leaving slippery and icy patches. 

Visual Appeal

Now, while it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the surface of your driveway is well drained and safe, you aren’t going to want to install a driveway that doesn’t look good. But don’t worry, some of the best materials for a sloped driveway offer the best of both worlds with practicality meeting style effortlessly. 

It is important to think about the overall style of your home’s exterior and decide whether you want the driveway to be in keeping with this or if you would prefer to make a statement and have something a little more out there!

You may also wish to consider that some materials will deteriorate more quickly than others which means that your driveway will start to look bad. While it is possible to perform repairs and maintenance, this comes at a cost and since there are so many driveway surfaces out there that will stand the test of time without the need for constant maintenance, it is something worth thinking about. 

What Materials Can Be Used For Sloping Driveways?

It can feel pretty disheartening to hear about the many issues owners of sloped driveways face. And OK, it isn’t possible to alter the incline but by being savvy about the type of materials you use, you can indeed make the surface safer to use while retaining that beautiful aesthetic appeal.

You might also be forgiven for thinking that the options for sloped driveway surfaces are limited but the good news is that there are plenty of options. However, the downside is that many of them have disadvantages that outweigh the advantages. 

Tarmac

Tarmac is a type of asphalt concrete and is commonly used for driveways but when it comes to working with a sloped driveway, this is not the best option. As we discussed earlier, having a sloped driveway means that the structural integrity of the foundation is nowhere near as good and this will deteriorate over time meaning more maintenance. 

But when you use tarmac, this is a naturally high-maintenance material without the addition of a steep incline. For this reason, while tarmac may look great, we wouldn’t recommend using it on a sloped driveway. Not only this but it can be a lot more difficult to lay on a slope which will likely end up costing more for the installation.

Gravel

One of the reasons that people are so drawn to gravel driveways is that unmistakable crunch as you drive or walk over the surface. This is great for flat surfaces but when installed on an incline, it doesn’t take much for the gravel to become displaced meaning that everything becomes incredibly uneven. 

Gravel does offer excellent visual appeal because there are some very stylish and interesting colours and designs to choose from. But this is not worth the exchange when you consider that you will need to use stabilisers and continually top up the gravel as it moves around. 

Now you will want to think about how steeply your driveway slopes because for a more minor slope, you may still be able to get away with it. That said, even slight slopes will see more displacement than an almost perfectly level surface. 

Concrete

Concrete is one of the most popular driveway materials and this is for a very good reason; it is incredibly stable and comes in a range of styles to suit your preferences. However, because of its very nature, concrete can become very slippery making it dangerous, especially when it is walked over. During winter, concrete will have particular problems with freezing and thawing which decreases traction significantly.

What’s The Best Material For Sloping Driveways?

Resin is an excellent option for a sloped driveway and one of the main reasons for this is that this material is totally SUDS compliant. Earlier we discussed the importance of using permeable materials if you want to avoid having to apply for planning permission. Resin is permeable but this is far from the only advantage of this material. 

Resin is one of the newer driveway surface options and yet, it is one of the most popular. Aside from soaking water up and preventing puddles from forming, it also has the benefit of being massively durable. Where some materials will quickly fall to ruin, a well maintained resin driveway could last up to 25 years!

This type of driveway is often offered with an anti-slip finish which makes it much safer even in adverse weather. For sloped driveways, this is an absolute necessity. But just because it serves a practical purpose, that isn’t to say that it doesn’t boast excellent visual appeal and resin comes in a huge range of styles and colours that allow you to express your personality through your property.

You might think that this will make you the king or queen of your own castle and this is true, but when it comes to selling your property, it will also be an advantage. Not having to use a boring or unattractive material will mean that the curb appeal of your home is instantly improved and you’ll be much more likely to sell it, despite the steep driveway. 

Conclusion

If your home is built on a hill then your driveway is going to be much steeper than normal. The average incline for a driveway is anywhere between 12% and 25% but in any case, it is imperative to consider the material as this will improve the safety and functionality of the driveway. 
While there are several materials that you could use when resurfacing a sloped driveway, there is one that stands out from the crowd. Resin is a permeable material that complies with SUDS standards as well as being incredibly durable and low maintenance. But in addition to this, it provides a stunning aesthetic and will vastly improve the curb appeal of your home; what’s not to love?