What’s all this about plans and drawing then? Surely putting a driveway down is just a case of pouring concrete down where you want it? Well, yes, but if you want it to look good and last longer, or maybe you want to use a material that will look a bit better than concrete, a few plans might not go amiss.
Your driveway plans should cover such things as: The size of the area you intend to pave. How much material will be required for each layer. i.e.- How many blocks? What size? etc.
If you’ve got a short driveway that’s on a level site then yes, we’d concede that even if you wanted a fancy brick pattern you would probably get away without drawing up plans. You would be well advised to draw out part of the pattern you’re going to follow if you are using blocks or bricks, just so that you’ve got something to to refer to if you get muddled up. But unless it’s very complex, with different sized blocks, or the blocks themselves are very expensive, you only need to draw out the whole pattern to scale if you have to make sure you end up with the right blocks towards the end. And even doing that doesn’t need a fine arts degree, just a pencil and paper.
Where you really do need to make a proper plan is when the drive is a bit longer, perhaps on a site that is full of different gradients and has curves, maybe a turning space. Apart from anything else, planning this properly will help you to order the right amount of materials and avoid running out, or ending up with materials left over?
Drawing to scale
A scale drawing might sound a bit complex but all you are doing is reducing the measurements so that you can fit them on paper. If you’re not used to this, pick a simple scale like one centimetre on paper representing a metre in real life, or one inch equals one foot on the ground.
Actually, the second option, the inch to the foot scale, although it uses old-fashioned imperial measurements, is more likely to give you a reasonably useable scale on paper. One centimetre to a metre might give you a drawing that’s too small to be useful when planning small blocks. Ten centimetres to a metre would be better but could be confusing if you’re not used to working to scale.
Metric or imperial?
Having said that, the tricky bit about using a scale based on imperial units will be working out quantities to order, since nearly all building materials are now sold by metric measurements. If NASA can lose a spacecraft because of confusion between metric and imperial units (as it did with the $125million Mars orbiter in 1999, after a ten-month journey) then no one would be surprised if the odd driveway plan gets confused.
The cost of building materials is so high that it’s more important than ever to get quantities measured out correctly, especially if you are paying for the materials. But don’t give up hope on using imperial units. For example, garage blocks can be ordered by the square foot (imperial) and even patio slabs sold in small quantities are usually given in square feet, so you can mix the two systems if you want.
Angles and corners
Anyway, once you’ve got your scale fixed, simply measure the driveway site and transfer those measurements to your paper. It’s worth marking the points you are measuring from with pegs so that you can go back and re-measure if you get mixed up. You could also raid the kids’ schoolbags for a protractor. If you assume your drive is rectangular and it turns out not to be, you’ll have to work out the angles at the corners so that you can represent them accurately on the paper.
Using the diagonals for angles
If that all sounds like too much hard work you can check by measuring the diagonals as well as the edges of the site. The diagonals should be the same in real life as on the plan, once you’ve adjusted for scale. If they aren’t then you’ve got a non-right-angle somewhere and you need to find out where and what it is.
Adjusting the edges until the diagonal reaches the right measurement is one way of doing this, but beware. If you adjust the wrong edge, you can get the diagonal to read correctly but the angles will be wrong. The protractor is the best bet but if you use the diagonal method, just look very carefully at the driveway site, from an upstairs bedroom if possible, to make sure you know which edges are true and which aren’t.
Of course, this is all made horribly complex if you have significant gradients on the drive as well. Fortunately, we have two articles on this site that can help, one which helps you to find levels and another about the gadgets you can use to make the job easier.
And if you still prefer to plan your drive with a piece of paper and something like a pencil (or a crayon), just remember that it’s best to work out the gradients, exact shape and location of corners before you start digging.
Take your time
This might all sound a bit daunting but take it slowly, use graph paper if it helps you keep things straight, and don’t worry if you have to re-draw the plans a number of times. A few sheets of graph paper and a couple of hours learning will be a lot cheaper than laying a driveway which you have to redo later.
But if you do have to redo it, or you want to make changes at a later date, you’ll find that graph paper makes the process easier.