Create a Distinctive Driveway

Give this usually overlooked part of your home a facelift, because if you aren't ordinary, why should your driveway be?

Photo: stonecoatusa.com

Your driveway is your welcome mat, the pathway to your home. It may be a broad expanse, or curved and winding and disappearing among the shrubbery, or a straight shot to a waiting garage. Whatever the profile, your driveway presents landscaping opportunities to enhance your home and its character. While you must consider the drainage you will need, the stability of your soil, and the freeze and thaw cycles in your region, there are many materials and techniques available to help you create a driveway that goes a step beyond asphalt to accent.

Bricks
Bricks may be among the simplest of all paving and patio materials to work with. They come in standard sizes and regular forms, they are manufactured in a variety of colors, and they present a non-slip surface for cars and people. Bricks, like flagstones, cobblestones, or pavers, should be laid in a stable bed of stone topped with bedding sand. Creative homeowners can devise geometric patterns that repeat along the length of the driveway. For older and historic homes, try copying a pattern from photos of historic places. For local interest, look to area foundries for the bricks they produce. Some demolition companies also sell old bricks that are perfect for quaint older structures. There are distinct advantages to using bricks, as they can be replaced when damaged. For a more permanent set, the bricks can be laid in a concrete /sand bed and allowed to set up from below, as well as between the bricks.

Concrete
Concrete is far more versatile and aesthetic than people give it credit for. It can be colored, shaped, given surface contours and textures, or even embedded with stone or aggregates to give it a composite look. Quikcrete sells shape grids that allow you to create a decorative pattern on your walk or drive as simply as pouring concrete. They also feature color mix that you can add directly to the concrete. Some homeowners may opt to create pre-formed concrete pavers using molds. These can be lined with a layer of crushed stone, shell, or aggregate prior to the pour. Once the mold is removed, your pavers will have a pebbled surface. Concrete drives can also be stamped or imprinted with a pattern to look like stone, cobble, or brick. How you brush or finish the concrete once poured determines how slippery and uniform the surface of your driveway will be. Take into account the activities that go on before deciding upon the surface of your driveway. Basketball is easier on a smooth surface, while walking to the mailbox or bringing your car up an incline is easier on a less slick surface.

Stone
Stone driveways are very handsome and easy to maintain. Depending on the look you desire, you can create a driveway with any color stone, from white to dark grey and black. Visit a stone shop, quarry, or landscape yard to see the available colors and sizes of stone. Ask which are local and which can be mixed and matched to give a varied, more colorful look. Beware of round stones, as they tend to roll away from high spots. Good driveway stones should be angular so that they will stay put. Smaller stones may work their way through larger ones and into the bedding soil below. Whatever stone you choose, be prepared to restone every year or so to maintain the surface. Stone gives excellent drainage and a beautiful look for the home. Think twice before building a white gravel drive, however, because a stone driveway is virtually impossible to clean.

Pavers
Interlocking pavers are smart and elegant. They are manufactured to withstand weight and weather. They are laid in bedding sand just as flagstone, cobblestone, and brick, but they interlock to provide a perfect, stable fit. They come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, textures, and designs. With pavers homeowners can create a rustic or period look quite easily. Pavers are wonderful for intricate designs and difficult applications. They are easy to maintain and, like other applications that give onto a bedding layer, provide excellent drainage for your driveway.

Compressed Earth
The truly lyrical driveway in our mind’s eye is still the dirt drive with grass between the tracks. This type of driveway is especially well suited to a rustic or country home. The key to this look is to maintain the grass between the tracks and along the sides of the drive. Provide good drainage to the sides of the tracks as well, since compressed earth may encourage pooling. Another option for the two-track drive is to lay strips of concrete where the tire tracks lay, while maintaining the grass and plantings between and to the sides of the tracks.

Mix and Match
Have fun with your driveway and allow it to develop a style of its own. Mixing stones together, stones and concrete, or concrete and pavers are great ways to achieve the look you want. Entryways might require concrete. A basketball area could be surfaced in smooth concrete while the rest of the drive is done in decorative pavers or brick. Whatever your choice, before deciding to lay down a driveway, look at the possibilities. Your driveway is, after all, the first glimpse of your personality that visitors will see.