Driveway Options

on_greenthumbJune 19, 2012

My husband and I are in the process of re-doing the house/yards. I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts around driveway options.

My story: I live in a suburban type neighbourhood next to a lake (I'm about 15 houses away). My single-width driveway runs up the side of my house on the North-east size. It's long enough to park 4, maybe 5 cars, end to end. It's 2-3 feet away from my next door neighbour's driveway (we have a strip of grass separating the driveways). Most of the driveways are either asphalt or gravel in the neighbourhood. Our is asphalt, but in terrible condition with no edging. Over the freeze/thaw cycles, we get significant amount of heaving (I'm guessing because of the high water table - if you dig down 2 feet, usually you start to get pooling). Ours is only different from the other neighbours with asphalt because ours is likely older (but don't know how old). Currently we store a camping trailer and a utility trailer on the driveway, but have found another place for the utility trailer. The camper will likely stay. The driveway ends at the back fence with an oversized gate (to get the utility trailer through and stored away). I'll get a pic taken today after work.

My issues: Freeze/Thaw cycles are significant in my area. No edging means grass grows up and over the driveway by up to 8 inches (we edge it once a year back to the beginning), home is a fairly cottagey style since this area used to be cottage country. It's a fairly large driveway, so I'd like to keep costs down. Also, because of all the cracks, we've got greenery coming up and through in rivers...LOL

Options we've looked at: Gravel, Interlocking, Grass Pavers, Asphalt....We've even thought of gravel with a small planting strip between the tire areas for low ground cover.

I think we're leaning towards gravel because of the cost, the ease of maintenance with the heaving.....Are there things I can do to stop the grass overgrowth? Is there anything I haven't considered - it's likely going to be a considerable effort to handle this and I don't necessarily want to re-do it in 5 years.

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Oh - one more thing - the camping trailer is quite heavy and we only noticed last year that if we store it too long, that it leaves very heavy depressions in the driveway (to give an idea of how "soft" the asphalt is). We've mitigated that by supporting the weight over a larger area - raised it up on patio stones, and supported it in 8 places to distribute the weight better.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 12:49PM
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And one thing I should call out is that the lower 5 feet of the driveway is actually owned by the city (the part that attaches to the street) for maintenance and they just re-did it last year (they do it every 10 years or so) it has to stay.....You can see on the front view that I grabbed from Google that their portion goes up to where the grass starts on the left, but that the actual driveway goes as far down as the grass on the right. No curb/sideway to deal with.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 6:07PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Are there things I can do to stop the grass overgrowth?
- There are options to curtail the overgrowth such as installing a stable wide border , which still requires some maintenance.
I suppose you could also use herbicides but that is not a particular option I would personally persue, especially with such a high water table.

Regular edgings with a weed eater is probably the most easiest. A driveway the size of yours would take a homeowner less than 20 minutes to edge .

Is there anything I haven't considered - it's likely going to be a considerable effort to handle this and I don't necessarily want to re-do it in 5 years.

Gravel is certainly not mainteance free - far from it.
It is also a pain in the bum to manage during the winter and the slurpy spring time.
If budget cutting is your prime concern then know that gravel comes with a modestly high amount of maintenance requirements and it is just plain dangerous to mow and edge around if you don't have a wide containment border.

Interlocking pavers are a pretty good choice to consider due to your climate conditions. If you have an upheavel you can fairly easily pull up the paver, relevel the sub base and re set the pavers.
No problem with snow plowing or summer time mowing / edging.

You already know the limits and advantages of asphalt.

Concrete ranges in price greatly from place to place and how deep it needs to be with a properly prepared sub base in order to side step the heaving process.

I think you would be wise to estimate your maintenance time involved with the initial cost in order to understand which option is more financially beneficial.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 7:59PM
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My experience with gravel is that it is a PITA to live with. It's sloppy when wet. Even when dry some of it's grit sticks to the soles of some shoes and gets tracked into the house. Portions of it wash and dislocate in heavy rains. It's a pain! But it works well as a TEMPORARY surface. Especially if one is coming in later and adding interlocking pavers or brick over it. (And for that one must plan ahead.) While pavers are more expensive than concrete, it can be a DIY project if one is so inclined and has those skills, making it cost equivalent to concrete... but far better looking.

Greenthumb, if you see other concrete drives in your area, that would indicate it's do-able for you, too. It's generally one of the most cost-effective and durable materials relative to the alternatives. There are inexpensive ways to "doll it up" such as by adding a border created merely by scoring off a 12" edge band.

Like most things, the better, more durable products cost more. Sometimes it's better to break a project into phases (if possible) and budget it over time in order to get the better result.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:41AM
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Fori is not pleased

Do you have to shovel snow off that? Eek! I used to shovel snow. I know there are tough people out there who shovel gravel, but that would be a huge heck no from me.

Could you do asphalt with a decent edging material to keep a straight edge (I don't know what--maybe there's something standard used to make asphalt tidy) and a harder surface up by the house where you park, like pavers?

I think I'd put some boards under the tires and tongue jack on the popup instead of lifting it in places. Those frames are delicate. :P

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:14PM
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I'm going to have to be the dissenting voice here and say that a properly laid gravel driveway in semi-rural Canada is a thing of beauty, durable, "green" and not that difficult to maintain at all, no matter the season. Pulling a few superficial weeds in summer was never a problem for me and, in the winter, you just pack down the first couple of snowfalls on the drive before you plow - no snowblowers!

The trick is to have a thick enough compacted base of angular rock, two more compacted layers on top of that and proper sloping put in by a reputable, professional company. Often, they can also contract to return annually to re-grade and freshen up the finishing layer. A wide edging strip of poured and stamped concrete on either side is nice but not necessary. I also put down a concrete apron in front of my garages to maintain the areas most vulnerable to rutting but there are now grid systems available which would do much the same thing.

Below are photos from my last cabin -

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:31PM
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Grass pavers/turfstone would look lovely here, but they're not good to walk on if you wear high heels! Still, they're do-able if you install a solid paver walking strip on one or both sides of the grass pavers.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 2:31PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

much appreciated adriennemb's point of perspective + experience with gravel as an option.

I haven't lived in a snowy climate for quite a few years so my perspective is based on memory in regards to snow blowers + snow plows.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Typically we just plow the area that the car sits in and even then only really when it's going to interfere or is over the top of my boots....LOL usually it's hardpack. My neighbours just raise their blade on their blowers so that they aren't scraping ground. Well some do - my next door neighbour obviously doesn't since I have his gravel all over my lawn....LOL

Yardvaark - you make a good point about the mess of gravel - its' one of the reasons I'm hesitant....we just installed HW floors and the neighbours said the same thing about the dust on the bottom of your shoes.

We were really looking into the pavers and still might do it as a DIY. We have to pull up our back patio first I think to see if it's something he wants to tackle (it's all heaved - don't think it was installed properly since the edges aren't secured). He really liked the idea of being able to pop them back into place - but I'll be honest, only one person in the entire neighbourhood has it (so I don't know if it would stand out too much - it would also likely cost about 2% the value of the home to do with labour which seems a little high for mostly unmoving storage), same with the concrete. Plus the concrete is only a year old. I think I'd want to see how it weathers....I have seen some in nearby places with some pretty rough looking spots.

I kind of like the idea of doing the gravel as a phase and see what we want to do from there. My guests will have to leave their shoes on the road....LOL I am hoping to do this in the late spring next year after the thaw has settled.....
Thank you everyone for the insight.....definitely way easier than trying to come up with the pro and cons list myself.

PS. Fori - We didn't lift the trailer, we rolled it up onto the patio slabs for distribution at the three points you mentioned plus the 4 feet....It's level and not much different than going over a bump in the road. My parents would not be happy had I broken their camper ;)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 5:42PM
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I currently have a dirt drive. Im planning on putting in gravel to begin with. The areas where cars are actually parked will be paved so that women with high heels on can get in and out of their cars and there wont be ruts. If I hit the lotto or something, then I could afford to pave my whole drive :)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 2:47AM
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Oh and Ive heard railroad timbers laid over gravel (like a train track only the timbers are close together laid out in brick style) can make good temporary drives too.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 2:50AM
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