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How to Build a Green Driveway!

Updated on July 30, 2012

Go Green! Building an Environmental Driveway

When I think of old gravel driveways, I used to think of potholes, ruts and mud, but now there's an easy Green solution for driveways! Before EcoGrid was invented if you parked your car on grass it meant you would soon have a muddy mess. Now there's a simple way to fix up mud issues and park your car on a green lawn - without damaging the look.

Imagine a place where those big black parking lots were gone - and you park on grass. Green parking lots, green driveways! EcoGrid is a fantastic new product that allows grass to grow - and lets you park on it! Because it supports and spreads out the weight of your car - there are no more ruts and the water flows into the ground. This virtually eliminates mud... and it can be used with gravel too. There are many examples of this permeable paving grid that create green parking lots, gravel driveways, and even horse paddocks!

There are many new products available that can directly impact the environment - in a good way - and products like EcoGrid by TerraFirm Enterprises is one such an invention. In the world where parking lots and driveways are a standard feature - there are a lot of new innovations like the EcoGrid called permeable paving. Yes, there is an asphalt alternative! Cement will crack and heave....so why not look a some green, driveable product that will last for decades?

I'm an expert on green driveways - with gravel or grass - and have helped people build parking areas and green driveways around Toronto. I spend part of my day with architects and homeowners - figuring out ways to "Build Green"! Last year there were even some driveways built in Ottawa, Toronto and across the USA using Ecogrid with thyme, seedums and of course grass.

green grass driveway!
green grass driveway!

5 Great Reasons to build a Green Driveway!

Does it really help the Environment?

Permeable paving is the term frequently used for systems like ecogrid - which allow water to drain or permeate into your base. In the past, asphalt was the top choice for driveways because it was simple and cheap to install. Putting in a plastic grid system is slighlty more expensive but here are some of the benefits:

1. Recycled Plastic turns into an environmentally neutral product. EcoGrid is 100% recycled plastic - and will outlast any asphalt driveway. It won't crack and rarely needs repairs even after decades of use. The plastic used in ecogrid is environmentally neutral - so it won't deteriorate and leech into your soil. Its UV resistant, frost neutral and can withstand the heat.

2. Storm Water Control - when it rains or pours the water carries the pollutants from a car straight into most drains. These drains often feed directly into the lakes and streams. When water can flow into the soil it will become naturally filtered.

3. Mud Control! - when water is kept draining (thanks gravity!) it will seep into the sub-base and help control mud. Gravel driveways used to form muddy spots and potholes - but by using a grid system the water flows away from the surface. No more mud!

4. Cost Savings Grid systems originally cost more than asphalt and less than concrete or stone pavers. In the long term the savings are huge - not just for the environment but for the pocket book. Grid will keep the gravel from disappearing - and slow down the migration of gravel. They prevent washouts and stop pot holes. Grid systems installed across Europe typically last over 20-30 years, with little to no maintenance or repairs.

5. Creating Green Space These ecogrid systems are so easy to install that they frequently get used for extra parking. If you ever need an extra parking place - don't park on your lawn - install an area for your bikes, cars or trailers - in just a day. They can be used to help control mud and erosion, and give your family a space that is green instead of a slab of concrete!

ecogrid planted with grass
ecogrid planted with grass

Building a Green Grass Driveway

grass driveways, parking spots, reinforcing grass

There's 2 common options when using grid - planting grass and using gravel. This section is about using grass - which is what I've used around my father's house. Dad has a yard area that really has some wet drainage issues so we wanted to stop the mud from forming and keep the grass. Using grid was a fantastic option!

This EcoGrid has been used all over Europe for over 20 years, and it's a heavy industrial plastic that's been engineered to withstand huge loads - cars, motorhomes, trucks and even firetrucks! The concept behind it is brilliant - and so simple that it's amazing that it is only just starting to catch on in North America.

These squares of recycled plastic (100% recycled too!) - are from 1.5 inches to 2 inches thick. The e40 - which is what I personally have used around my father's house - is TerraFirm's midweight product for residential driveways. At 1.5 inches deep it really doesn't sound like much until you realize how simple and easy it works. The plastic won't shift, split or crack even when cars park on it. It really does work like a snowshoe - spreading out the weight of car tires - and distributing the load. Because it has so much empty space - the grass grows and the grid doesn't show any more.

Grass can be planted or seeded and the roots get protected by the grid. After rain, the ecogrids allow water to gradually absorb into the soil below. To me, this is really the perfect solution for someone who needs an extra parking space but doesn't want to put down more tar or cement. It's great for visitor parking too... and if we had a camper van or a motorhome - this would be perfect. My father has a home in Florida and will be using the Ecogrid to make a parking pad for golf carts!

For the grass area we had to do some excavation - basically to get rid of the old grass in the yard. TerraFirm Enterprises suggested a huge amount of sand get mixed in with the soil. The sand keeps the water draining away from the surface - and into the sub-base. What was interesting was the sub-base only needed to be about 4 inches deep - made of the sand and soil. We topped it off, and threw down a bit of seed, and waited for it to grow. Alas - it still has to be cut!

The Link List - Information is the best weapon

Articles on green driveways, important links on where to find Ecogrid, options with permeable paving.

Eco Grid driveway with gravel
Eco Grid driveway with gravel

Permeable Paving a Gravel Driveway

green driveways in gravel!

If you don't use a grid system when you use gravel - you end up with a gravel driveway that will compact. That means the water won't drain properly - and a lot of towns and communties won't allow them unless you use EcoGrid. The grid basically keeps the driveway looking neat and clean - and importantly (especially for the environment) - it keeps it permeable!

When I think of gravel driveways - I think of how messy my grandmother's got. Every 2 years we would get a load of gravel in and then some how - after two winters - the gravel vanished. It got a lot of pot holes, mud and ruts.

The ecogrid works so well - it spreads out the weight of the tires - and stops the gravel from compacting. This means the gravel stays in place - and it eliminates the potholes too. Although gravel isn't really a "renewable" resource - it is great for winter conditions. It gives you a lot of traction, so you won't slip.

SNOW SNOW SNOW!

The biggest concern in the north has to do with snowplowing. Well, the grid (like the e40 or e50) is fantastic - because it keeps the gravel level. And that makes it easier to snow-blow. For commercial plows - there are little rollers that lift up the blade - and stop the gravel from getting scraped off. Unlike asphalt - you don't have to worry if there is just an inch or two of snow. Most people with gravel driveways don't bother at all. The reason you have to shovel so much snow off asphalt is because it gets slippery. Plus, you don't need to put down as much salt - the surface keeps the traction.

Would you consider building a grass or gravel driveway?

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      Miranda 19 months ago

      I live in Australia and I'm sure I've seen this around various places but never took that much notice:/ I wish I had as I would LOVE to have it installed in our home.

      Brilliant idea, and yes, I'd opt for the grass version as Australia can look awfully dry at times ( depending on where you live), and I love the cool look grass has as opposed to gravel.

      Many people tend to avoid gravel here as it gets displaced and full of weeds etc plus children just can't resist picking up bits and throwing it!

      I have personal experience of the latter as my neighbour has black gravel outside on his verge and our neighbours children are forever throwing it into everyone's front lawns! Grr!

      Thanks for reminding me of this product:) I'm going to do a little research on it for where I live now thanks to your excellent article!

    • profile image

      Judith 2 years ago

      I"m looking for a contractor who can do this in Ottawa Ontario. Please forward names to me if you know of a contact. Thanks!

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      GreenME 2 years ago

      We are buying a house with a very steep driveway my concern is what about in the winter with the snow and ice. How do I remedy that situation?

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I spend a good bit of time every summer trying to remove grass that grows in the seams of my concrete driveway and patching cracks in my concrete driveway. I wonder if I just quit fighting if my concrete driveway wouldn't become a "green" grass-covered drive all by itself with no help from me. . .

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      BoosterBob 4 years ago

      This would be great because my home association would enforce that I have grass on the side of my driveway, yet we have so many cars that one of them has to be parked on the grass on the side of the driveway.

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 4 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      This looks fantastic! I love the idea, and will look into it. I have a long driveway - it used to be gravel, but now mostly dirt and rocks. Strange place, but it needs driveway help. I've never heard of a driveway you could grow grass on before! Cool!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have looked at a lot of different options for paving in Toronto for my driveway, but this is the first I've heard about a "green" driveway. I'm still trying to take in how the grass driveway works. How long would that last with the load of cars on it? Thanks for providing me with so many different options to look at.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, I couldn't agree more. There is nothing like a green products. I would love to make my home more green with ottawa paving. http://www.camporapaving.ca/en/complete_paving.htm...

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 5 years ago from Texas

      I've always thought this was a great idea. Nice to find more information on it

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      klaird 5 years ago

      I had never heard of these before. Looks interesting.

    • knit1tat2 profile image

      knit1tat2 5 years ago

      this looks like a great way to do it!

    • OHG LM profile image

      OHG LM 5 years ago

      brilliant! yes!

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 5 years ago from Washington KS

      We have a gravel driveway, but had never heard of the eco grid.

      We love our gravel driveway.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I wish I had known about this when we had our driveway paved 10 years ago. This is such a good idea. Maybe next time? Meanwhile, I can tell my friends...

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 5 years ago

      I live on an island where the building department is careful not to allow too much square footage of impermeable structures per 'lot'. We often have to install permeable driveways to balance what is and what isn't. I think they look great and help our island with runoff water problems.

    • TrialError profile image

      TrialError 5 years ago

      great ideas. thanks

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      DebMartin 5 years ago

      I have a gravel driveway and love it. I do not have the ecogrid plastic down but everything works just fine. My problem with grass (I've let my lawn go natural--back to the woods that surrounds it) is that there is the temptation to use fertilizer. So I would not recommend grass to anyone who just can't let it be.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      I would definitely consider a gravel driveway, but not a grass one. I love the idea and I love the look, but I'm trying to be more green. Using water to keep the grass alive in a driveway would go against the changes I've been trying to make to use resources more wisely.

    • Image Girl profile image
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      Image Girl 5 years ago

      @greenspirit: Hi Greenspirit... I think i have a bit of a green spirit in me too. A lot of schools and public places are now insisting these Ecogrids get used for Fire Access lanes. They really help with drainage, and storm water run off. But I guess you know that :) thank you for commenting!

    • Image Girl profile image
      Author

      Image Girl 5 years ago

      @kimberlynapper: Sorry for the belated reply! Thank you so much for the comment and your blessing! I used to love playing in the load of fresh gravel we got each year at my Grandmother's house. Then in the potholes! lol. Honestly the ecogrid is such a clever bit of engineering... I'd love to see more green parking lots. heh.. yes.. guess I am passionate about it! :D

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      I'm a garden designer and consultant and I press for these to be installed every time

    • kimberlynapper profile image

      Kimberly Napper 5 years ago from U.S.

      This sounds amazing. I know what you mean, all too well, about those gravel roads. Grew up at the end of one. It seems like they were always working on it, and it was always dreadful. Being able to drive on grass or have the gravel stay put - wow.

      Blessed for being a quality lens on a topic you obviously have a passion for and expertise in.

    • Image Girl profile image
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      Image Girl 5 years ago

      @LiteraryMind: oh that sounds really nice, LiteraryMind! Thanks for commenting. That is exactly the kind of thing the company recommends. Alas, if you just put gravel down, in some places there are terrible washouts. Basically the grid stops that and keeps it from ending up in the ditches! :D

    • Image Girl profile image
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      Image Girl 5 years ago

      @SteveKaye: Thank you for the comment Steve. I come from a family of Birders. One of the biggest uses around here is using the grid to replace damaged lawn since some people just park on the grass. The grid stops that from happening and basically becomes invisible. There is a 6000 sq/ft lawn in Toronto with grid buried inside. They park on it! :D

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      We have crushed blue stone and I love it. The water drains right through. I am amazed at the number of people complaining about be flooded when they never were before. They don't see the connection between asphalting over everything, blocking drainage and flooding. Great lens.

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      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Yes! I wish I could in our neighborhood without causing an uproar by the neighbors. However, I am exploring replacing most of our lawn with native plants. These will require less water, less maintenance, and attract more birds.

    • e-xplorations profile image

      e-xplorations 5 years ago

      Kudos! Brilliant lens. The information and ideas you provided in this article should not be that hard to realize or apply. Before, it may cost big bucks for these "green building materials" because of the limit of its production but now, more and more manufacturers were able to provide the environment/energy conscious population thus, the mass production of this green, sustainable and energy-efficient building materials.

    • I-sparkle profile image

      I-sparkle 6 years ago

      Excellent lens. This is definitely another facet of eco-living that people need to know about. I am lensrolling you to my living green lens.

    • stephenteacher profile image

      Stephen Carr 6 years ago from Corona, CA

      Gravel is a good choice for many things in your yard. From landscape to weather control.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      interesting article ... i heard that this terrafirm grid can be shipped to Ottawa? I am curious if there is a minimum amount. I think i'd go with the gravel because it makes sense with the amount of snow we get. saying that though - we have a small 100 sq/ft where my son parks when he visits where the grass driveway would work.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I might look at building using gravel. I don't like how my gravel driveway is looking and its only been 2 years since we put it down. I like gravel but I wish I'd known about this before.

    A couple of fellows building a gravel driveway using ecogrid
    A couple of fellows building a gravel driveway using ecogrid

    DYI - Building a Green Driveway

    its literally a snap!

    It boggled my mind when I heard of people building their own driveways.... but to be honest using an ecogrid system is a snap. The best grids have a thick tab which will interlock with the next section. The stronger the tabs the better the grids will be when they lock together. It's a critical design element since it will prevent the grid from shifting under the car tires.

    Products like EcoGrid are designed to snap together. This grid comes in little tiles and they are assembled into sheets. The grid tabs together - so really its only slightly more unweildy than Lego! The ecogrid e40 is fairly light weight - so its not so difficult to lay down. It can be cut, and it can be shaped around trees if needed. I've cut sections that I needed to shape - once with a handsaw and then later I borrowed a sawsall.

    The biggest consideration for me is the sub-base. The sub-base will hold the water after the rain and let it drain into the soil. Because these grids are so very strong - you end up needing a lot less of a sub-base, which is a good cost savings.

    For bigger jobs it's a good idea to get some help. You can either wheelbarrow in the fill that you use - gravel or a sandy soil - or if you know someone who can use a backhoe or some machinery then this can save hours of labor. You can hire anyone who can run the equipment. My favorite trick it to advertise on Craigs List for someone who does landscaping - or someone who works on gravel driveways.

    The companies can usually provide you with a simple install guide. They give you an idea of what kinds of stones to use - usually an angular gravel is a good choice because it allows water to flow! Its always a good idea to consult with a soil expert if you aren't sure of what would work.

    Build yourself a Green Library!

    Parking Poll - Park your opinion and let me know....

    Gravel / Grass / Paving Stone or... that black goop....

    See results

    Got a question or is there some information you would like to see? Let me know and I'll try to help.

    Reader Feedback - questions! comments! ideas!

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        johnmark123 4 years ago

        What a fine example of environmental hope. So detailed and informative. Thanks so much.

        Sewer Repair

      • Frischy profile image

        Frischy 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA

        This is pretty interesting! I never knew anything like this existed.

      • Scarlettohairy profile image

        Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

        Good information. I have never seen this sort of paving for driveways. Make a lot of sense and it looks great!

      • bossypants profile image

        bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

        This is very cool and you provided plenty of information about this unique and versatile driveway and landscaping product!

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        baseballchris46 4 years ago

        Wow this was all new to me. I have never heard of this before but, someday when I build my own house I know exactly what kind of driveway I want. Thank you so much :)

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        anonymous 4 years ago

        Environmentally friendly driveways are definitely the future. We have done a few ourslelves. Have a look at our work. www.jetcleandrives.co.uk

      • knit1tat2 profile image

        knit1tat2 5 years ago

        will have to look into this when and if I ever build a driveway here!

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        Lawrence Hebb 5 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        Brilliant idea. I wish i'd known about this stuff when we put our driveway in! It would have been both practical and unique!

      • bechand profile image

        bechand 5 years ago

        never seen such a thing - it is great

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        JoshK47 5 years ago

        Very interesting! Never seen anything quite like this before!

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        poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

        Love it!

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        SteveKaye 5 years ago

        What a great idea! There is a facility in Chino Hills, operated by a water company, that has build a water friendly parking lot. It's designed to allow rainwater to flow into planting beds instead of into sewers.

        I'd like to see more organizations adopt this idea.

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        anonymous 7 years ago

        can this be done by just anybody or do you have to have some special knowledge to use this grid?? it sounds pretty easy but I'm not really sure because i'm not really very handy.

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        anonymous 7 years ago

        interesting article. I had read about this stuff in the Globe and Mail recently and a friend told me there was this article on this site. I was going to put down more gravel - but this could be a solution.

        My wife sayss that we should do a bit of extra green - put it beside the side of the house - make it like an extra parking spot. thanks for that article.