We are not all ‘blessed’ to live in manor houses with and impressive, vast sweeping driveways right up to the front door. However large or small your driveway happens to be, should the opportunity arise where you can improve, re-lay or create a driveway be bestowed upon you, consider the options carefully.
Options for Driveways – Surely Not That Many?
You would think so but actually there are many factors that need considering and various pitfalls to avoid.
The first pitfall to avoid at all costs is do NOT lay the driveway yourself, unless you really do know what you are doing.
Doing-it-yourself is a great way to save money and there is nothing quite like the moment when you sit back, admire your handiwork and say, with a certain sense of smugness, “I did that”.
Driveways, however, are a little more complicated with the foundations and all the other bits you will never see again, need to be perfect before the prettifying top layer goes on. If they are laid wrong, driveways buckle, dip and subside and before you know it, parking the car on the drive becomes akin to a roller coaster ride.
Top Tip number 1
Hence, top tip number 1 is this – get the professionals in to lay driveways.
Top Tip number 2
Which bring us nicely top tip number 2, make sure you research driveway contractors in your area. The best way forward with this is to ask around; driveway contractors usually display their advertising boards at the end of gardens to market themselves for future projects. Or, if you see a newly laid drive, why not ask the homeowner who did it and an idea of cost? Personal recommendation is a good way of selecting contractors.
Materials For Driveways
However, you will need to have an idea of what you want your driveway to be made of. There is a bewildering array of materials available and they all have good points and not-so-good points.
Choosing material for driveways comes to down to several things – your budget and your preference.
Here a whistle-through of some driveway materials available:
Great for ‘fitting in’ with older style properties but you may find this option quiet expensive.
Paving or flag stones
These slabs now comes in a variety of colours that can be mixed and match, no longer being just ‘pavement grey’. They can also be textured and can be laid in some interesting patterns. They are fairly easy to lay BUT, as pointed out at the start, you need to make sure that a) the foundation is correctly constructed and b) the correct materials are used – otherwise, you’ll have the edges of the flag lifting, uneven one will be broken and the list could go on.
A mass produced material and probably the cheapest material for use as driveways. However, there is an unpopular tag with traditional contract and that is the use of cement, meaning that concrete is not an eco-friendly product. For some people, this is not acceptable. There is an environmentally-friendly version called Ashcrete that uses fly ash and other ingredients; if you can source any of these new modern concrete mixes than this may rest easier with your eco conscious.
The stuff they use on roads and, like concrete, it is an economical choice. It is an oil-based material meaning it has a certain degree of flexibility so that it can mould itself.
Tar & chip
Not a material often seen but gives an overall ‘rough’ surface, with loose stones. If you feel you need extra-grip on your driveway surface, then this is the material for you.
Look fabulous and rather decadent but you will need maintenance (weeding in between the stone paving …)
Now, gravel driveways do give a satisfying crunch under footfall and car wheels. Again, correctly laid they can last a very long time and, a ‘hidden’ benefit is this can also be well within budget. Utilising a professional company to lay the correct ‘foundations’ you can top coat the driveway at the point with cheap gravel. You can then simply add the gravel you really want when your budget allows you!
This material is the new kid on the block! However, be warned – it is the material used for cycle lanes and such things. But, if you can see past these commercial uses, you could have creative fun with this material with all designs catered for, and a wide range of colours. But, the more flamboyant your design, the more flamboyant the final bill…
Top tip 3 is research
Driveways are not just a place to park the car; they make a statement and can complete the aesthetic appearance of your home. It is a wise move to research and invest in your driveway but do not just rely on web research alone; get out and about – have a look and see what’s out there!