Choose Your Driveway Surface Wisely!

You have choices for what you want your
driveway surface to be.
It is an
important aspect of the landscape design, so put
some time and effort into this decision. Here are
some things to consider when making this decision:

  • Think about the color and how it goes with your house.
  • Is it a formal or informal design?
  • Are there drainage issues?
  • Do you want solid paving or one that allows rain water to penetrate into the ground?
  • How much routine maintenance do you want to do?

  • What’s your budget?
  • No matter what driveway surface is right for
    you, the base that holds the surface is of utmost
    If it’s not strong, your surface
    falls apart.

    Proper Drainage is always an important issue
    to address when installing a driveway, but especially
    with a driveway surface that is impervious.

    Water that can no longer percolate into the soil has
    to go somewhere. Know where this water is going to be
    redirected and make accommodations for it with the appropriate
    drainage system.

    These are the most popular driveway

    Gravel Driveway with Parking Pad
    Gravel, as seen in the above photo, provides a loose stone
    surface that is installed over a good solid base.
    It comes in many different sizes and colors. It allows
    water to reach the roots of surrounding plants. This
    is the least expensive surface, so it is used to save
    or on long drives that other materials would be too
    expensive. Extreme runoff can erode this surface and
    traffic tends to move it around. Plan on touching up
    occasionally in natural as well as urban situations.
    Parking pads (large landings at the front door
    to accommodate a car) out of a solid type of paving
    material, like stamped concrete or concrete pavers, is
    a nice accent in a gravel drive.

    Tar and Gravel Driveway Surface
    Tar & Gravel, also called surface treatment
    or double shot, has a similar appearance to a gravel
    driveway with a layer of tar under the gravel.

    The tar helps to better hold the gravel in place. This
    eliminates having to touch up the grade from time to time.
    Over time the gravel is pushed into the tar making the
    driveway the tar color more than the decorative gravel
    color. This surface may need new gravel every 7 – 10 years
    depending on the amount of traffic and how fast folks drive on

    Asphalt Driveway Surface
    Asphalt provides a dark black surface that
    is smooth. It is the least expensive solid surface
    Keeping the asphalt sealed is
    important. The sealer keeps the water from getting
    into the crevices of the asphalt and freezing. The
    freezing water expands and breaks the asphalt. Asphalt
    creates a great surface for children to play on and
    to easily move around on. There is no stray gravel
    following you into the house with this surface!
    Asphalt is a dark surface, so consider how this will
    look in your landscape design.

    Exposed Agregate Concrete Driveway
    Concrete as a driveway surface has a number of
    different color and design choices to offer.

    The least expensive concrete is the common gray type
    that has been around for many years. It is installed
    as a slab with expansion joints to minimize cracking.
    One way of dressing up this all purpose material is to
    introduce a contrasting material, such as brick,
    as the expansion joint. You can add color to the entire
    driveway surface to give it an updated appearance without a lot
    of extra cost. Exposed aggregate concrete,
    as seen in this picture, is a little more expensive.

    It has decorative gravel in the surface. It is a beautiful
    surface, but rough to the touch because the exposed gravel
    sits above the concrete. Decorative concrete
    has color added to it and patterns stamped into it.

    There are many different color and pattern combinations
    to do. Needless to say, this is the most expensive of
    concrete choices. The concrete is soft, smooth and easy
    to walk on. This is because the sand in the concrete mix
    must be fine in order for the pattern to be stamped
    into it. More than one color can be blended together
    to give a range of color that looks more interesting than a

    Concrete  Paver Driveway
    Concrete Pavers provide a solid, beautiful surface with a few advantages.
    The cost of this material is similar to stamped
    decorative concrete. There are many styles and colors
    of pavers. Shapes range from brick size, squares to
    patterns that replicate natural stone. This surface
    is completely dry laid. The base material consists
    of layers of thoroughly compacted aggregates. The pavers
    have no mortar joint between them, but are laid tightly
    against one another. Polymer sand is then swept in between
    the pavers to create a tight joint. This type of
    construction is helpful, if settling occurs. The pavers
    can be picked up, the base repaired and easily installed again.

    Cobblestone paving at Entrance Gate

    Natural stone paving is not often seen
    as a driveway material because of being so expensive.
    I did want to mention it because it is such an exquisite,
    really incredible looking driveway.
    that are constructed out of cobblestone and slate paving
    neighborhoods. One section of our city, Shockoe Slip,
    has kept the cobblestone streets and some alleys.
    To try to incorporate some of this look, I have designed
    aprons (a pad that is at the entrance of the drive)
    out of cobblestone, brick or concrete pavers. Adding
    aprons to a gravel driveway adds a nice design element,
    as well as keeps the gravel from being pushed into
    the street. I have also used a band of cobblestone
    paving at an entrance gate into a property (as seen
    This adds another dimension of detail to the
    entrance of a fine home.

    The driveway surface is a strong color element
    in your landscape design.
    It can make a
    wonderful impression if made to compliment and blend
    with its surroundings.

    Driveway dilemma? I'd like to help! Ask a question and you will get a quick response.
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    Please contact me for futher information or to talk to me about my design services.

    Nancy Dransfield

    Landesign of Virginia, Inc.
    P.O. Box 15582
    Richmond, Virginia 23227
    Office: 804-261-6773
    Fax: 804-264-7253

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    Related Pages: Driveways, Circular Driveways, and U-Shaped Driveways

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