Ditch the Concrete: 6 Innovative Options for 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 homeowner can improve their stewardship.
One quote about how small changes can make a big difference is particularly true when it comes to driveways. 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 a great opportunity to incorporate one of the newly developed options. Expanding outdoor living spaces, turning them into multi-use areas, and recreating places that both children and grown-ups enjoy can all include the need to remake a driveway.
Quotes on how small changes can make a big difference is particularly true when it comes to driveways.
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 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. Thankfully, the following ideas are not just doable, they are affordable (some remarkably so), whether applied to new construction or to a remodel.
1. Break Up Parts of Your Driveway and Take Advantage of Sloping Hills
A great example of this can be seen in Santa Monica, where a family remodeled their driveway (and front and back yards) to reduce runoff and catch more rain with permeable systems and smart drainage. It looks like they replaced their standard concrete driveway with grass interspersed with slate rock tiles. Compared to some other options, this is a fast solution. The grassy areas are penetrable spaces for water to soak in—rather than becoming runoff to the ocean—and this family also took advantage of slopes to further aid in catching rainwater. If I chose this method, I would definitely use a stain treatment to make the tiles look more like slate.
2. Build a Split (or Ribbon) Driveway
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 just like in the example above, 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.
Note: PermaTurf is a product worth looking at before installing a split driveway. For more info, you can check out Franke James' account of her experience installing it over the course of a long weekend.
3. Lay Down a Bed of Gravel or Crushed Stone
A bed made of pea gravel or crushed stone is a tried and true option. This article lists a number of different types of gravels and aggregates (or combinations of different materials), including the popular Crush N Run.
Though this classic method is not without its drawbacks, there are functional and pretty ways to use gravel. For instance, it's definitely worth considering combining it with modern, stone-look pavers that are actually new methods of allowing water to percolate into the ground (see below)—a method which is outlined in brief in this article from the Landscaping Network. Additionally, new products like EcoGrid also offer homeowners a more stable option for gravel driveways than they’ve had in the past.
Note: This handy how-to guide from This Old House breaks down the process of creating an all-gravel driveway that requires little maintenance.
4. Switch Out Your Impervious Asphalt for the Porous Kind
Though originally created in the 1970s, pervious (or porous) asphalt is now greatly improved, with further research and development still ongoing. 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 leads me to look forward to what may yet be developed to make this a real contender among homeowners.
Note: This article from PaveGreen outlines the various benefits—for both homeowners and the environment—of going with porous asphalt.
5. Consider Permeable Paver Replacements
Beloved for their ability to permit water to filter down into the earth—instead of making muddy messes, causing erosion, and transporting various chemicals into natural water sources—permeable paver replacements are a great runoff solution. Widely used by the industrial world and various homeowners alike, the range of quality should be well researched before making a decision on which to use.
Note: The United States Geological Survey conducted an in-depth evaluation and analysis of the potential benefits of permeable pavement on the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff that might prove helpful to homeowners considering following this route for their driveway remodeling. The survey can be read on their website.
6. Think About Installing Drivable Grass
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. (You can find a helpful gallery of their applications on the company's website.) 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; Home Depot’s concrete grass mat for savvy DIY types who want a plantable driveway; Grasscrete’s self-venting paving system that can bear up to 40 tonnes of gross vehicle weight; and Core Grass for its low-impact parking.
Note: Franke James wrote an informative post on the grass driveways that probes their rise in popularity and their effectiveness at reducing water waste and runoff, while also detailing some of James' experience installing them.
Our Journey to Find the Best Way to Remodel Our Driveway
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/grayish 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.
If you were choosing a new driveway for your property, which would be your first choice?
Paving Systems Are an Ever-Evolving Industry
Grass paving systems are constantly evolving. And 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 driveway you now have must be replaced. That's a happy thought, now that we have great alternatives!
For further information, feel free to check out some of these additional links to helpful articles and websites:
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