There are literally thousands of driveway styles to choose from, particularly if you take all the different shades, colours and materials into account. So how can you make sense of the confusion?
Grab a pen and paper and go through the key points in this article, and you’ll have a much better idea of the best type of driveway for you.
1. What’s the Budget?
For most people cost will be a big factor. How much do you want to spend? Concrete is probably the cheapest material, although on larger drives tarmac comes close. Then there are the various Concrete, Stone and Clay Paving Blocks, where the price variation is massive. Gravel probably comes somewhere between those two main categories, with the big advantage being that you can lay it yourself, which brings us to Question Two.
2. DIY or Get the Professionals in?
Some materials, such as tarmac, are probably best left to the professionals, but concrete and block laying are within reach of many DIY-ers. Ask yourself how long it will take you to do the job and price it up using your own hourly rate. You might have an easier life paying someone else to do it if you can spend the time earning money at a higher rate.
3. Restricted Area, or Anything Goes?
If you live in an area where changes to property are restricted, like an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Natural Park or a conservation area, you may be not be allowed certain materials. If you are unsure, ask the planning department at your local or regional council.
4. Dealing with Gradients
Some materials, like gravel, won’t work well on gradients. Others, like tarmac or concrete, are difficult to lay. If your driveway is steep, you’ll need something that will deal with the gradient, like small blocks or paving slabs.
5. The Importance of Drainage
If you are paving over a front garden in a suburban area, you will need a permeable surface so that rainwater soaks through it, instead of running off into drains and sewers. The law in England was changed in 2008 to catch up with Scotland and Northern Ireland, who already enforced permeable driveways on front gardens.
6. Choosing the Colour
Apart from the general grey of concrete and black of tarmac, there are different colours of blocks and slabs, tinted solid surfaces, all the colours of the rainbow. Look at the colours in your property and the driveways of your neighbours before deciding. It’s fine to be different but look to complement rather than clash.
7. What Type of Paving?
If you’ve decided to go for paving, there’s concrete, stone, clay and bricks to choose from, complicated by the fact that many materials imitate each other. The best bet is to get down to a supplier and browse through what’s available.
8. What Size of Block Paving?
Continuing with that theme, should you go for larger blocks or smaller ones? The basic rule of thumb is that larger paving slabs are cheaper per square metre because of the economies of scale they offer. But smaller ones are better at coping with uneven ground so they might be cheaper in the long run, if large slabs will lift or crack after a few years.
9. What’s Your Weather Like?
We know that you can get four seasons in one day here in the UK, but there are general weather trends in most areas. A lot of driveways will work fine anywhere. But if you have a lot of rain and wind you might want to avoid gravel and other loose driveway materials, as you could lose a significant amount of it each winter.
10. How Important is Sustainability?
Sustainability can be a real minefield. A lot of cheap stone is imported from India or China so there’s the transportation to consider, as well as the likelihood that workers could be exploited and work in unsafe conditions. But the manufacture of concrete is a process that damages the environment, too.
Perhaps the most sustainable choice is Bark Chippings, but they aren’t very resilient and you have to top them up almost annually. The best advice we can give is to make your preferred choice of style, then research the sustainability options of the various materials and suppliers.
Do the Footwork
Now that you have a better idea of what might suit your needs, search the web for suppliers to narrow your options down further.