Ditch the Concrete: 6 Innovative Options for Driveways
Changing Our Thinking on Driveways
As developed societies become more affluent and the ability to generate new products evolves, being good stewards of the world we live in is essential. We have the resources to do an excellent job of taking care of the earth we live on and driveway alternatives are a place where every home owner can improve their stewardship.
The quote about how small changes can make a big difference is true where driveways are concerned. Initially, changes may need to be uncomplicated ones such as repairing or replacing a driveway apron but if a new home is being considered taking time to explore driveway options can provide some beneficial surprises.
A remodel is also a great opportunity to incorporate one of the newly developed options. Expanding outdoor living spaces, turning them into multi-use areas, recreating places that both children and grownups enjoy can all include the need to remake a driveway.
Driveways Past and Present
For the most part, from the very beginning of their production concrete driveways have been just plain ugly. If they were beautiful, individuals and companies would not have such good success with inventing ways to alter the look of the raw slabs.
From paint to stamps to stains to edgings to planters and more, attempts to make concrete driveways more appealing are a grand effort. Costs for those applications vary greatly depending on how much DIY homeowners are willing to put into the project or if they decide to pay for labor to have it done professionally.
When it’s time to replace failed concrete or when a new home is being built, though, other choices are available. There are now products that change not only the face but also the usefulness of the places we drive on to get from roads to our carports and garages.
Those areas should be as attractive and as earth friendly as possible. Happily, the following ideas are not just doable, they are affordable (some remarkably so), whether applied to new construction or to a remodel.
My husband and I have looked at the options for a remodel that includes replacing a 50 year old asphalt and concrete driveway. It is a long bunch of surfacing that we do not want replaced entirely with new concrete. We plan to incorporate new green spaces in the design.
You can imagine what it looks like with previous homeowners having tried to use the stinky, sticky black stuff to repair the hard white/greyish stuff! Pleasantly surprised at the number of products with high rain absorption rates, we think we’ve worked our way through them all and made our decision.
While a new option may be on the horizon, meaning the decision could change by the time we get to that phase, we are able to move forward now. Confident that our chosen option is going to make a huge difference in every aspect of our property's usefulness and appearance, we are ready to get the needed permit.
6 Options for Friendly Driveways
1) In Santa Monica an example of breaking up a concrete driveway into what looks like slate rock tiles shows a quick and easy fix for an existing slab that keeps water from soaking into the ground. Compared to some other options this is a fast solution. The grassy areas are obviously penetrable spaces for water to soak in rather than run off. If I chose this method I would definitely use a stain treatment to make the tiles look more like slate.
2) A split driveway, often referred to as a ribbon driveway, is not a new idea. That these runners can lead to a nice landing for foot traffic makes them very appealing, and again porous lawn areas prevent water from flowing into drainage systems. The strips, runners, or ribbons (whatever you choose to call them) can be created from a current driveway, much like the slate/tile-like example above. This option can also be incorporated into a renovation or new construction. PermaTurf is a product worth looking at before installing a split driveway. Using porous asphalt could also be a possibility for a split driveway (see number 4 below).
3) A gravel bed made of pea gravel or crushed stone, crush and run being commonly used, is a tried and true option but the old method is not without its drawbacks. Today there are functional and pretty ways to use gravel. Combining it with modern stone look pavers that are actually new methods of allowing water to percolate into the ground (see below) and prevent gravel from shifting is a must consider update. New products like EcoGrid also offer homeowners a more stable option for gravel driveways than they’ve had in the past.
4) Pervious asphalt, originally from the 70s era, is now greatly improved, with research and development continuing. As with some other permeable surfaces for driveways, communities may offer incentives in the form of grants, tax benefits, and additional help to promote the use of filtration pavements. Though current asphalt products would not be suitable for our upcoming project, the reading I’ve done causes me to look forward to what may yet be developed to make this a real contender among homeowners.
5) Permeable pavers are available from several sources. Loved because they permit water to filter down into the earth instead of making muddy messes, causing erosion, and moving various chemicals into natural water sources, this paver replacement is a great run off solution. Widely used industrially and by homeowners, the range of quality should be well researched before making a decision on which to use. Significantly lowering the impact on newly developed areas, porous pavers' popularity is rising. (Say that 5 times fast!)
6) My favorite solution so far allows grass to grow and thrive in the driveway areas. Drivable Grass is a DIY option that I have fallen so much in love with that I have cast my vote for this choice in our new project. Softening hardscape spaces by using a system that solves problems and gives me the green stuff has to be at the top of the list. Even though we are also incorporating some ribbons and permeable pavers, grass that works as a driveway is my top choice.
Other options in this category include TrueGrid’s green permeable paving solution that is tough enough for fire engine lanes and Home Depot’s concrete grass mat for savvy DIY types who want a plantable driveway. Grasscrete’s self-venting paving system bears up to 40 tonnes of gross vehicle weight and Canadians have access to Core Grass for low-impact parking. Grass paving systems are evolving and sometimes, simpler is better--don’t miss this turf protection mesh from the UK.
Though it is exciting to consider what will be available as technology develops new products, all of the great choices presented here have positive applications that homeowners can benefit from and enjoy on a long term basis. Keeping an eye on developments in the making will help you plan for the day that the concrete you now have must be replaced. That's a happy thought now that we have great alternatives!
If you were choosing a new driveway for your property, which would be your first choice?
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