I am recirculating this post and adding to it because I have been getting quite a few calls and mail from people interested in upgrading their driveways. Since I feel I did a pretty good job with this particular post, I’m going to change it just a bit and recirculate it near the top of the blog. Sometimes, people don’t pore over the older stuff in here owing to the sheer quantity of posts I have. I am now categorizing better so that it will be a short walk to see all my relevant examples and explanations displayed easier. The categories are over on the right. Click one to take you there.
So my claim is that driveways constitute a major part of almost any landscape. The move to suburbia over the last 40 years has given Americans at least, homes of substantial size, along with, often, huge lots. Driveways get us up to the door. They are typically darn near the first things we see at a home. They are definitely, generally speaking, the largest things we see. They are also – surprisingly enough – among the most ephemeral. They crack and break and get fairly ugly in due time, causing a need for replacement.
My contention is that this is not necessary at all. Furthermore, I think it is possible to construct a driveway that can meet aesthetic ends as well as an unheard of longer-lasting durability using today’s cement technologies. Interlocking bricks are versatile as they can be, coming in many shapes and patterns – some utterly exotic – and their durability is legendary. Formed in manufacturing by machines that shake out the air voids common to all cement, they are made with additional cement and finer silicates that produce a compressed brick that is an unbelievable 8,500 PSI. To compare this to a typical poured cement driveway, consider that the typical pour uses cement with a rating of 3,500 PSI. Our curbs and gutters on our public streets come in at a “toughened-up” 4,500 PSI. Obviously, the durability is over the top in terms of expected longevity. And there is more, including a value-added dimension which I mention further down.
The segmented nature of their being composed of pieces, each snugly-fit in exact proximity with the fine tolerances and perfect shapes formed in manufacturing, means that they are flexible in essence. The heaving and malformations we see in severe climates which break monolithic slabs of cement and asphalt will not affect the composition of the surface whatsoever. Where monoliths break, then crack wider over time until they essentially disintegrate, brick pavers will be sitting there, intact and unbroken. A crack in a cement slab will never get better. The “cracks are already there” with bricks, something the old road builders knew back when bricks were the thing for streets. Indeed, Vancouver, BC, among other cities, is slowly replacing entire streets with brick pavers.
So we now see that they are a definitely superior product in the sense of durability. What do they cost?
Well, they cost more. Brick pavers typically cost about twice as much as cement and, depending on the pattern and style, they can cost more than that. They are definitely a labor-intensive application and, like all surfaces, depend mightily on the sub strata all being firmly and most completely compacted. That many omit this step in installing cement happens to also be one of its downfalls. This is not as commonly done as we would hope, I happen to know. Costing twice as much is substantial, there is no doubt. You can pay more in the end however just by addressing the same old daggone cement again, taking out the broken shards and re-pouring, ad nauseum. In this case, my point being, you really do pay for what you get. In fact, I would go so far as to say you might well exceed it. For resale purposes as well as general curb appeal, few things match brick paver driveways.
The next factor is Curb Appeal.
Composition, color and special effects can make a driveway something far more than one dreamed. The top picture is a very straightforward look at a simple design using a cheaper paver. It was done for a lady who had tried and tried to chase the cracking driveway she had been driving on for years. She had used patches in the past – ugly swaths of different-colored cement which stood out like a sore thumb. And then they started cracking too. Three of us were able to change that driveway to what you see there – complete with a walkway to her back yard and a patio in the same material – in two weeks.
The final pitch in favor of brick driveways is their resale value. Ask any real estate salesperson if they hold the value of their investment and I wager you’ll get a resounding “Yes!”. At least, in my experience it has been that way. Brick paver constructions tend to be lumped in real estate terminology with the terms “value-added” and “special”. They are often foremost in listings as described “benefits”.
These other pictures illustrate yet more possibilities in driveway compositions. I look at many expenditures in landscaping and wonder why some of it is not investing in driveways which could be made to catch the eye. A cool driveway is a unique and obvious way of welcoming people with pleasure and some style. It does not have to be overwhelming – although it can be – but it can certainly make a place look better. It can – if one wants – also show a bit of whimsy or even creativity. Driveways, like gardens, are opportunities.