6 Alternatives to Asphalt Driveways
Asphalt is by far the most common surface used for driveways.
While its durability and little need of maintenance is a huge plus, we think it’s safe to say that asphalt wouldn’t be your first choice when it comes to appearance.
In addition to the lack of visual appeal, there are other good reasons speaking in favour of exchanging your asphalt driveway for a (prettier) alternative.
One of the biggest factors speaking against using asphalt for your driveway is its impermeability. In other words, asphalt doesn’t allow water to seep through it into the ground, but rather funnels the wetness away to more permeable environments.
While this might look like something you want it to do at first glance, exactly this creates an enormous environmental problem when we take a closer look. Particularly during heavy storms with a lot of rain falling in a very short time, asphalt driveways cause large amounts of water to rapidly runoff into the sewage system or the next open body of water.
This, again, doesn’t seem like a big problem, but once you realise that this water surge takes pollutants that would normally diffuse directly into the (fresh) water system.
To put it simply, an excessive use of asphalt in urban areas allows oil spills, road salts, chemicals, and other substances found on streets and driveways funnels them directly into our water systems, lakes and rivers, thus endangering water quality and aquatic life.
Another factor speaking against more asphalt usage than strictly necessary, is the simple fact that any asphalt surface adds to the heat permeating a street during the warm seasons. Asphalt reflects light and absorbs solar energy, and reflects it back into the air as heat. If you have ever seen the air above a street or driveway shimmer on a hot summer’s day, you know what we’re speaking of.
It might be a little step, but exchanging your asphalt driveway for something less heat-reflective does help to keep temperatures in your living area lower.
The simple fact that asphalt as an impermeable material oftentimes limits the amount of space the roots of a tree can take up, is also cause for concern.
While most of us obviously do not want nature to encroach on our driveway, there is a good reason to give trees in particular enough space to spread out their roots. A tree with a deep and/or widely spread root-system will always be able to withstand storms and high winds a lot better than those with limited growth. In many cases, trees toppling over and damaging houses or cars, or injuring people on their way down, could have been easily prevented by giving the tree more space to take root.
Now that we have covered a few of the reasons why it might be a good idea to re-think the use of asphalt on your driveway, what are your alternatives?
There is a wealth of options for alternative driveway surfaces, differing in material, eco-friendliness, colour, ease of maintenance, textures, etc.
Among the vast array of choices, a few of the most popular alternatives include interlocking pavers, loose material and more permeable pavers.
Below we have collected the most popular and aesthetically pleasing alternatives to asphalt driveways, and give you a quick overview of their merits.
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Interlocking pavers are a tried and tested option of driveway surfaces.
One of the main advantages of using interlocking pavers on your driveway is the wealth of options to chose from. They come in an incredible variety of sizes, shapes, textures and colours, and can be laid in a pattern of your choosing.
While interlocking pavers might need to be re-sealed from time to time (if you opt for a sealed version), and individual sunken pieces may have to be lifted and refit when necessary, this type of driveway is built to last. When set correctly, you can look at 30 to 40 years of heavy-duty use on average without risk of cracking or chipping when using concrete pavers.
Unsealed interlocking pavers also allow for rainwater to seep down into their sand or gravel base.
Should you feel inclined to work a little DIY magic, interlocking pavers also allow for self-setting, making it a great project for the homeworkers among us.
A brick driveway adds a lot of charm and personality to your home!
One of the best arguments for this kind of driveway is the wealth of options you have to chose from. There are many kinds, sizes and colours of brick available, allowing you to chose a style that suits your needs and preferences best.
As in the picture above, brick driveways can lend a rural appeal to your property, but there are also uni-coloured, regular bricks available that go into a much more refined, classy direction.
Depending on the type of setting you choose, a brick driveway can be very little work or might need regular attention. If you go for a more irregular look, for example, you may have to weed the space between individual bricks regularly to keep nature from taking over (or you could simply decide that a few tufts of grass or flowers actually enhance the look you’re aiming for!). If the bricks are tightly set, there won’t be much additional work needed.
On average, you can expect a well-set brick driveway to last two or more decades without the need for bigger repairs.
Permeable pavings come in a variety of different options to chose from.
Broadly speaking, there are two main groups: pavers filled with lose material like gravel, or pavers filled with grass. Both options have their ups and downs, and in the end you’ll have to chose by what fits your property best.
Gravel, sand or stone filled permeable pavers can look very interesting when the filler material is in a different colour or shade than the pavers themselves. You can create wonderful, aesthetically pleasing geometric patterns by settling for this type of filler material. You should, however, be aware that lose stones, sand or gravel tends to pop out of its intended place and be dragged over the stones by usage. This might lead to you needing to sweep your driveway regularly if you want to keep it neat and tidy at all times.
Grass filled pavers do fit in very well in a suburban or countryside environment. The very simple fact that just a pattern of thin stone or bricks break up what appears to be an extension of your lawn, gives a very airy, light and natural appearance to this kind of driveway. While there is less danger of spreading filler material all over the stonework with grass filled pavers, it bears to consider that this type of filler material may get soggy and muddy after a period of rain.
The biggest argument speaking for settling for this kind of driveway is its eco-friendliness. By allowing rain or meltwater to naturally seep into the earth below, permeable paving helps to greatly reduce the water pollution caused by excessive use of asphalt in urban areas. In addition to that, a permeable surface also prevents water from permanently gathering in lower parts of a driveway, thus preventing big puddles to appear right where you usually park your car.
Block paving is in most aspects similar to a brick driveway.
The main difference to bricks is that a block paving is traditionally laid in a herringbone pattern, creating a more sophisticated look that particularly suits older buildings.
A cobblestone paving is a traditional European way of paving.
Each cobblestone is individually hand-split out of the hardest stone on the planet: granite. Due to this, each stone looks slightly different than its neighbour, creating an overall coherent, but yet individual look.
True cobblestone paving is set in a semi-circular pattern that is instantly recognisable and gives your property that special charm only a cobblestoned driveway can achieve.
Due to the fact that cobblestones are made out of granite, they are incredible durable and can easily withstand heavy duty use. Just consider that in many European cities cobblestones have been used as road surface in the past and are still standing strong after decades of being used by both horse-driven carriages for the really old examples and cars and trucks in more contemporary times.
Loose materials are a very popular choice for driveways.
The materials used differ vastly and range from classic gravel to crushed stone or even shells and vary in size, colour and texture. This allows you to chose a material that fits not only your needs but also the surrounding the driveway is set in.
One of the most noticeable advantages of using loose material for your driveway is that it is both fairly inexpensive in contrast to other options and doesn’t come in a set shape. By using loose material you can easily create curving or meandering driveways that seamlessly integrate with the individual landscape of your property.
As with permeable pavers, loose materials allow rain and meltwater to gradually seep into the ground and help keep the environment healthy and clean. Another advantage of loose materials is that they usually don’t allow for ice to accumulate, thus making them a perfect solution for places that see hard, frosty winters.
In terms of maintenance, loose material driveways do not need a lot of attention. Depending on which material you settle for, you might need to rake your driveway every now and again in order to spread the gravel or stone chips evenly, but this is about it.
Since some communities do not allow for lose materials to be used in driveways, please make sure to check your local laws before you settle for this option!