Types of Driveways for Your Home – Materials & Costs
If you live in a detached single-family home, there’s a good chance you have your own driveway. Which means that you’re responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. Lucky you!
Though nothing is guaranteed in the world of real estate, upgrading or resurfacing your driveway is one of many home improvement projects that can reduce your homeownership costs. A well-done driveway upgrade may even increase the resale value of your home.
Driveways come in several different flavors. This guide covers four: aggregate (gravel), paving stone, asphalt, and concrete. In the sections that follow, we’ll discuss the cost, durability, maintenance requirements, DIY potential, and overall suitability of each.
First, some key factors to consider before you choose a driveway type and begin your project.
Is curb appeal important to you? If so, you need a driveway that stands out. Consider:
Budget considerations can of course make or break any home improvement project. Your driveway installation or resurfacing costs will turn on a variety of factors:
Of the four paving materials described in this guide, aggregate (gravel) is the least expensive, followed by asphalt, concrete, and paving stones. If you’re installing your driveway on a shoestring budget, gravel is your best choice. If you have more wiggle room, you’ll have more choice.
Paying for Your Driveway Project
Once you’ve set a budget for your driveway project, think about how you’ll pay for it. Consider these options:
If you’re starting your driveway from scratch, you’ll need to plan its shape and course.
Most urban driveways are straightforward: rectangular or squarish pads alongside, streetside, or behind their houses. Mine is a 45-foot rectangle abutting the side of the house, with just enough width to the property line for a standard passenger car.
In suburban and rural areas, you’ll have more freedom. Determine, and then mark off, your driveway’s exact route and boundaries before beginning your project. Make sure it’s wide enough for a standard passenger car, with room to spare. Factor any unorthodox shapes, like a turnaround or outdoor parking area, into your dimension calculations.
Before you sink any money into your new driveway, make sure it’s permitted by the powers that be. Exclusive municipalities often regulate property improvements with heavy hands. Homeowners’ associations can be even less forgiving, banning certain materials or colors altogether.
Are you looking for a project that you’re capable of managing and executing on your own from start to finish, or do you prefer to leave it to the professionals?
Your temporal and financial reserves will factor into this consideration. So will your choice of material. DIY aggregate driveway installation is well within most homeowners’ capabilities. Asphalt, concrete, and paving stones are all much trickier to do on one’s own.
How much time, money, and effort are you willing to invest in driveway maintenance?
Recommended upkeep varies widely by material – gravel is easy and cheap to maintain, while asphalt requires sustained attention every few years. Geography and climate play in as well – asphalt doesn’t hold up particularly well to repeated freezes and thaws, while gravel is prone to erosion in heavy rain and isn’t especially easy to keep clear during the winter.
Aggregate, or gravel, is the cheapest and most durable of these four common driveway materials. My wife and I chose gravel for our driveway, and we couldn’t have been happier with the result: It cost us less than $300, took a single morning to install, and will last for the remainder of our tenure as homeowners with proper care.
Aggregate varies by geography – check out the map on page 10 of this handy USGS guide to U.S. aggregates. In most parts of the U.S., Class 5 limestone is the go-to choice. Expect to pay $15 to $30 per ton. You’ll need approximately one ton per 50 square feet, or 10 tons per 50′ by 10′ section.
Since gravel is prone to erosion, some sort of drainage system is recommended on moderate to steep slopes. A basic French drain, basically a gravel-lined trench with a porous PVC pipe that redirects running water from the driveway’s center to its edges, is relatively straightforward to install. Check out this HGTV guide for details.
Stone is the most expensive of the four driveway materials in this guide. It’s also arguably the most attractive. Stone blends well with other landscaping and design elements, such as fountains, driveway islands, stone walkways, and xeriscapes.
The downside is limited DIY potential: As this guide from This Old House shows, you’ll need professional equipment to prepare, grade, and pave the driveway – within reach for extremely capable homeowners with prior advanced DIY home improvement experience, but probably not realistic for the typical weekend warrior. To reduce storm runoff, consider permeable pavers, which can absorb 10 inches of water per hour (handling all but the most apocalyptic downpours).
Asphalt is a common, highly functional driveway material that’s cheaper than stone and concrete, its two main solid-surface competitors. The construction process is involved, though, and isn’t recommended for DIYers without prior experience operating paving equipment.
Asphalt is also relatively high-maintenance, especially in harsh climates. Experts recommend sealing asphalt driveways within a year of installation, then resealing every three to five years. Reseals are not cheap: The average cost is around $400, lower for shorter driveways and higher for longer ones. Periodic patching may be required as well, depending on use patterns and the quality and stability of the substrate. (Patching is within DIYers’ capabilities.)
Asphalt’s useful lifespan is the shortest of any material on this list. In colder climates, expect to resurface every 10 to 15 years. In milder regions, asphalt can last longer than 20 years – but other surfaces last comparatively longer as well.
At a glance, concrete and asphalt have similar properties, but concrete is comparatively durable. Depending on climate and use, you can expect your concrete driveway to last 50% to 100% longer than asphalt. Concrete is also slightly more DIY-friendly, though professional installation is still ideal for most homeowners.
Concrete requires less year-to-year maintenance. Sealing is recommended shortly after installation, but other than that, upkeep involves little more than washing. Heavy use can lead to more serious problems, like cracking and breaking, especially where freezing and thawing is common. Replacing broken or damaged sections is an involved process that requires either power tools or lots of elbow grease.
While rough concrete isn’t particularly attractive, more upscale options abound if you’re willing to pay for them. Ask your installer about color options, brushing, and other fancy add-ons that can boost your driveway’s curb appeal.
Even if you’re perfectly content in your current home, your plans could always change. It never hurts to keep one eye on the future.
An attractive driveway won’t single-handedly bring buyers to your door, but it could raise your home’s selling price. It’s certainly not one of these ill-advised home improvement projects that actually decrease resale value. Keep it on your to-do list for a future time when your budget and appetite for hands-on housework allow.
Is a new driveway in your future? Which of these materials are you leaning towards?
Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.
Types of Driveways for Your Home – Materials & Costs
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