A Complete Guide To Driveway Materials

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The options for choosing materials for a driveway surface are plentiful, but do require research for the most optimal driveway surface for your particular home and property. Driveways are usually solid or smooth, seamless and even surfaces, or aggregate, which include gravel or crushed stones. Depending upon the surface that appeals to you and works best for your driveway, a professional may be required for proper installation.

Types Of Driveway Materials

  • The most popular driveway materials are asphalt and concrete.
  • Driveway pavers are individual bricks, pavers or other rock materials placed together, sometimes in a pattern, and can be seamless surfaces if installed properly.
  • In addition, there is also tar-and-chip, which is much like asphalt but not as smooth as surface.
  • Driveway pavers can range in size, from large design patterns to small bricks or cobblestones.
  • Concrete and asphalt surfaces can be created to appear as driveway pavers.
  • In addition, concrete driveways include options with renewable and environmentally friendly natural materials.
  • Driveway pavers are long lasting and durable with cobblestone driveway pavers often lasting many years before needing to make replacements.
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Maintenance Of Different Types Of Driveway Materials

  • An advantage to an aggregate driveway is the ability for the surface to survive harsh weather conditions. A gravel driveway is easy to keep tidy and clean, and the edges can be raised to keep gravel from traveling too far into gardens and lawns.
  • Driveways using pavers, asphalt and concrete can be power washed to keep clean.
  • A gravel driveway will have easier repairs than other types of driveways. You can simply lay new rock once or twice a year to fill potholes and uneven areas.
  • With other driveways created from concrete or stone pavers, occasionally broken areas will need to be dug out and filled.
  • If a driveway is made up of individual stones, replacements are easy and more appealing than filling with a different material.
  • Asphalt driveways will crack and will also be susceptible to potholes if not properly maintained. Crack fillers and asphalt cold patches can be used to fix a driveway, which are available at home improvement stores. If an asphalt driveway is in very bad shape, homeowners should consider resurfacing it.
  • A concrete drive will also crack if not maintained properly, and water freezing in cracks can cause even more breaking. Using concrete sealer will help, but if the problem continues and expands, a professional may be required.

When considering driveway materials living in a four season climate, snow removal, rain water run off and other weather conditions will be important factors in choosing a durable material. Snow removal including snow blowers or plows may have to use extreme caution not to damage a driveway, especially with aggregate surfaces. It’s also important to understand the types of sealers used on smooth surfaces driveways, which may buckle, freeze and crack in harsh winter conditions or consistent rainy weather. Drains and gullies will help with water run off for snow melting and heavy rains.

Driveway Lighting And Other Outdoor Needs

  • Outdoor lighting is important, especially for long driveways where night driving can be hazardous.
  • Also, lighting at the beginning of driveway is sometimes necessary for streets that do not have streetlights.
  • When creating a new driveway surface, keep in mind the need for outdoor lighting and the type of lighting that will work for your property. Outdoor lights can be either hardwired at a low voltage or solar-powered. Solar-powered outdoor lights can draw electricity from a remote solar panel or from small solar cells mounted to the tops of the light fixtures.
  • If a driveway has a gate, keep in mind the height of a gate from the ground when selecting the material used for the driveway surface so the gate is not impaired.

DIY Or Professionally Installed Driveways: Professional Scams Vs. DIY Mistakes

It is typically necessary to hire a professional for smooth surfaces and paver type driveways. Sealing, levels and other driveway considerations can be difficult to achieve on your own. In addition, professionals have plans to maintain driveways if you don’t have the time or knowledge. However, beware of driveway companies and the potential for paving scams.

  • Be suspicious of a solicitor at your door offering driveway repairs. This is considered one of the oldest scams around when a con artist comes to your door and claims to have leftover asphalt from a nearby job. He then asks for payment in advance, then does little or no work.
  • There have also been instances of workers painting a driveway black after being paid and disappearing.
  • Always ask for references and resources, as well as contracts upon work.
  • It’s also a good idea to check your homeowner’s insurance policy for driveway damage and poor installment that may cause other problems on your property.
  • Have a professional estimate before hiring and be sure to compare prices.
  • If you plan to install your driveway yourself, check what your homeowner’s insurance will cover, should the driveway crack or cause other property damage.
  • Do your research before beginning a DIY driveway installation.
Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Sabina Dana Plasse Sabina Dana Plasse holds a bachelor's degree in history from Bucknell University, a master's in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University and a master's in film and video from American University. She is an award-winning writer and editor living in Sun Valley, Idaho. Besides writing on fine arts, lifestyle, home and garden, entertainment, philanthropy and business, she enjoys teaching film and writing screenplays. Sabina has served as the arts and events editor and living writer for the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, a twice weekly national award-winning newspaper serving Idaho's Wood River Valley. Sabina adores mountain town living where she is an active snowboarding, skier, mountain biker, hiker, supporter of the arts and an avid seeker of practical living ideas.  

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