A driveway doesn't just have to be a place to park your car. Depending on the materials that you use to pave it, it can help give your landscape a more decorative look as well. But if you have a large driveway, paving the area can be quite costly. If you're on a budget, some paving materials are more affordable than others. You should also keep maintenance and durability in mind, however, when deciding how to finish your driveway because a larger initial investment may actually save you money in the long run.
Rustic, Low-Cost Gravel
Gravel is one of the most inexpensive paving options for a driveway, at as little as 50 cents per square foot, according to the LandscapingNetwork. It provides a rustic look that works well with cottage-style homes, and it can be installed relatively quickly. A gravel driveway requires careful installation and long-term maintenance, however. The driveway area must be excavated approximately 1 foot down, and the subgrade should be compacted to form a solid base. Landscaping mesh should also be laid over the area to prevent weeds from growing up through the gravel.
You'll need to install a base material, such as crushed stone, and edging to help keep the gravel in place. The materials that you use for the base and edging will affect the total cost of your driveway, though. For example, plastic or wooden edging is fairly inexpensive but isn't very durable. Paver or stone edging is highly durable but more costly as well.
Familiar, Durable Asphalt
Asphalt is usually quite affordable, coming in at $1 to $5 per square foot, according to the LandscapingNetwork. As with gravel, your driveway area must be excavated and graded prior to installation. A base material like recycled concrete and asphalt is laid over the area before the hot asphalt is poured and compacted with a heavy-duty roller.
While it is extremely durable and strong, however, asphalt is not always the most aesthetically pleasing driveway paving option because it is usually a solid black color. You can have it stamped and colored, but that will drive up the cost of your driveway. Though asphalt driveways last for many years, they should be resealed every two to five years to keep them from breaking down.
Elegant Tar and Chip
A tar and chip driveway is an affordable driveway paving option that often has a more decorative appearance than plain asphalt. After your driveway area is excavated and graded, a gravel base is laid and hot liquid asphalt cement is poured over it. A layer or two of crushed stone is then spread on top of it and pushed down into the asphalt.
The added cost over a plain asphalt driveway depends on what type of stone you choose to add to the blacktop, but the finished product has an elegant appearance and is just as durable as plain asphalt. The rougher surface of the driveway also provides better traction in inclement weather. A tar and chip driveway can usually go as long as 10 years without needing to be resurfaced.
Concrete is often used as a paving material for driveways because its durability makes it budget-friendly over its 40-year lifespan, and it doesn't require as much maintenance as other materials. ConcreteNetwork.com places the average cost of a driveway at $8 to $12 per square foot for a basic version, and rising to $18 or more per square foot for a heavily customized drive.
As with any paving material, your driveway area must be properly excavated and compacted prior to installation to ensure that there is proper support for the concrete and that the slab has a uniform thickness throughout the driveway.
If the soil beneath your driveway is soft, it's a good idea to create a base of gravel or crushed rock so the driveway has a solid foundation. Steel reinforcement such as wire mesh or steel rebar can help strengthen the driveway if it will see heavy traffic. The concrete is then poured over the area and given a simple broom finish. You can have your concrete driveway stamped or colored for a more decorative appearance, but it will raise the cost of the finished product.
- LandscapingNetwork: Average Driveway Paving Cost
- LandscapingNetwork: Gravel Driveways
- Braen Stone: How to Install a Pea Gravel Driveway
- Family Handyman: How to Install a Durable Asphalt Driveway
- ConcreteNetwork.com: Concrete Driveway Thickness & Construction Basics
- ConcreteNetwork.com: Cost of a Concrete Driveway
Based in New York City, Jennifer Blair has been covering all things home and garden since 2001. Her writing has appeared on BobVila.com, World Lifestyle, and House Logic. Blair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.