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Newsletter #244

House Building Driveway Installation

February 2006 Home Page

Special Report - Driveway Installation Techniques


  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics
  3. Types of driveway surfaces
  4. Driveway installation
  5. Ongoing maintenance
  6. Summary
  7. Thought for the Day
  8. Subscriptions/Removal Instructions

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Residential driveways serve many purposes for consumers regardless of whether they have a small rural driveway or a grand entrance to a large mansion in suburbia. All consumers who are planning their new homes must take into account a number of regulations, design characteristics and esthetics when reviewing the alternatives and making decisions regarding the style, type and size of driveway that they will add to their new home.

In this newsletter, we will help you understand some of the basics about driveway materials and the design, installation, and maintenance issues regarding various driveway materials.

s usual, we have included some general references throughout this article to which you may refer to obtain addition information about driveway materials, etc., in general and about adding a stylish driveway to your home.


The Basics

Most cities and towns require some sort of driveway permit to be issued; and you or your builder can make arrangements to enquire what permit is needed in your area and also if there are any specific restrictions of which you should be aware. Each city will have specific requirements, however, in general they will cover the following areas:

  • Permits are usually required when the driveway encroaches on public right-of-way.
  • There may be specific set backs required from property lines or lot frontages for large circular driveways.
  • Usually, there are also requirements for the minimum and maximum width and length of the driveway.
  • Impervious surface areas must meet specified requirements for both front and side yard; these will vary, depending on whether you have a corner or regular lot.
  • Corner lots may have different requirements than other types of lots to ensure visibility from the street.
  • There may be requirements associated with the type of material that you plan to use for your driveway such as : concrete, asphalt, brick, decorative pavers, crushed rock, river rock, gravel, geoweb, turfblock or mulch.
  • Traffic safety will also be assessed regarding entry and exiting public roads onto your driveway.

We have provided a link to Baltimore County ’s Guidelines for Residential Driveway Access to use as an example and also, to give you some idea of what may be required. We strongly recommend that you contact your local department of public works to determine what is required in your area.

All driveways, regardless of the material used must follow basic design requirements to ensure a long life, a good investment, and be properly constructed. Your architect or contractor should be able to review these items with you:

  • Drainage – Although you will want your driveway to follow similar slopes and contours of your lot, you do need to ensure that water will drain off your driveway and away from your home.
  • Surface Width – in addition to local regulations, your driveway should be of sufficient size to accommodate vehicles and pedestrian traffic, as well as match esthetically with your lot and home.
  • Driveway Thickness – should consider the minimum requirements for your area based on sub-grade preparation, the weight and number of vehicles, trucks and any other unusual weight requirements that you may have.
  • Sub-grade Preparation – This is one of the most important aspects of your driveway, since it supports and distributes the weight of the vehicles on your driveway. In addition, any buried utilities must be accounted for and dealt with appropriately.
  • Other Considerations – Weather conditions, compaction and ongoing maintenance are considerations that should be reviewed, depending on the type of driveway material you use.

Some useful links to check out

Guidelines for Residential Driveway Access – Baltimore County

Asphalt Pavement Guides



Types of Driveway Surface Materials

There are many different driveway surface materials in use today, and we will review some of the common ones that many consumers consider. Driveway surface materials from which to chose are: concrete, asphalt, brick, decorative pavers, crushed rock, river rock, gravel, geoweb, turfblock or mulch.

Concrete Driveways
Concrete driveways have become popular over the last few years in many areas of the country regardless of the climate. While they tend to be a bit more expensive, concrete driveways offer great variety in terms of design and long durability when they are constructed properly. Parameters will vary, depending on the locale in which you live; however, the following are areas that you must take into account:
  • Sub-grade preparation
  • Correct mix of concrete
  • Concrete joints
  • Drainage
  • Reinforcement
  • Finishing

In addition, consumers can choose from a variety of designs, such as:

  • Decorative Concrete Options for New Driveways
    • Stamped Concrete Driveways
    • Concrete Engraved Driveways
    • Exposed Aggregate Finishes
    • Colored Concrete Driveways
    • Intricately sawed or grooved patterns
    • Concrete Driveway Stains
    • Interlocking Concrete Pavers

Concrete Paver Driveways
Concrete pavers are another style of driveway, using concrete paving stones in various sizes, designs and finishes. They have a simple, but powerful, advantage -- they can be put into service immediately and can be removed easily for repairs, if required. They are used for many different applications from patios to driveways. Consumers should inquire about driveway sub-base specifications for your area and follow those guidelines.

Asphalt Driveways
The asphalt used on our driveways meets different, less stringent specifications than the asphalt that is used on roads. The primary reason for this is that the amount of traffic and the likelihood of heavy trucks being on the driveway are much reduced, compared to local roads. If, for any reason, you will have heavy vehicles on your driveway, you will want to consult your contractor to ensure that the correct grade of asphalt will be used on your driveway. In addition, consumers like to have a smoother look and feel to their driveways than they would typically see on the roads. The asphalt on roads tends to contain a coarser aggregate than driveways, therefore there is a coarser look and feel to the road compared to a typical driveway.

Some Design Considerations

  • Minimum slope should be applied to prevent pooling of water on your driveway.
  • Ensure that sufficient sub-grade is designed to prevent premature aging. Requirements will vary across the country and will depend on soil conditions.
  • If there is a concern about oil or fuel spillage from vehicles, a sealer should be applied to prevent damage to the asphalt.
  • Proper compaction of the sub-base will prevent compacting under a parked car.
  • Hot-mix asphalt should always be used to prevent scuffing and damage from vehicles.

We have included a FAQ reference in our useful links section for residential asphalt driveways, which may be of interest to some consumers.

Interlocking Brick Driveways
Brick driveways come in a variety of shapes and sizes, as well as colors, with non-slip surfaces so that you will not slip on them when they become wet. The standard size makes it easy to install your driveway or even a patio. Interlocking bricks come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors that provide the consumer with a huge choice and the opportunity to provide an artistic addition to their home.

Many installers, as well as brick companies, will provide you with typical or popular designs that they support and what customers have chosen in the past. Treat these designs as idea generators and develop your own unique style and design.

As with all driveway materials, proper preparation of the sub-base is important to support the brick and avoid depressions forming under the weight of automobiles that use the driveway.

Useful Web Links

Concrete Driveways

Concrete Pavers

Asphalt Driveways

Residential Driveways

Residential FAQ’s



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Driveway Installation

The primary requirement for all driveways, regardless of were you live, is to ensure that there is a solid base under the driveway. This means:

  • Removal of loam and sand
  • Removal of all foreign material that could decay later
  • Removal of all organic material
  • Removal of any large stones
  • Install gravel that meets the specifications of the community you live in and the type of driveway you are installing.
  • Properly compacted gravel with an appropriate pitch to ensure good drainage

Typically, most driveways need to have from six inches to 12 inches of gravel; however, this really depends on local conditions and the climate in which you live. Check with a local driveway installer in your area to ensure that your driveway has sufficient base to support your choice of driveway, as well as the vehicles that will be placed on your driveway.

Additional installation considerations for your driveway include:

  • Install any utilities under or across your driveway prior to placement of the asphalt, concrete, etc.
    • Sprinkler systems
    • Lighting systems
    • Phone lines
    • Cable TV lines
    • Electrical lines
  • PVC conduit can be placed at this time, if you are unsure about future needs.
  • Always cap the ends of the PVC pipe to prevent them from filling.
  • Use reputable, recommended contractors.
  • Avoid door-to-door salesmen who may not offer the best quality materials.
  • Request a mark out to locate existing buried utilities to avoid damaging them.

Typical Steps for Proper Installation

Regardless of the type of driveway that you will install, these steps are common and can be followed by do-it-yourself builders or will be completed by contractors you may hire.

  • Decide on the area of your driveway, including edging and any walkways that may be part of your driveway.
  • Decide which type of driveway you will install, e.g., concrete, asphalt, interlock brick.
  • Calculate the amount of materials for the sub-base, including sand and gravel and the paving material, depending on the type of driveway you will install.
  • Prepare the area by removing existing material to the appropriate depth for your area and traffic requirements.
  • Don’t forget to check for local utilities to avoid damage to these utilities.
  • Frame the edges, if required, e.g., concrete or interlock paving stones.
  • Install any utilities or PVC pipe that you may need for future use.
  • Install the bed of sand and gravel, as required, for your driveway design.
  • Install the interlock stones, concrete or asphalt, following appropriate guidelines.
  • Properly seal all installations based on the type of material used. Your supplier or contractor can provide you with the appropriate material.
Useful Web Links

Driveway Installation and Maintenance Tips

Clay Brick Pavers


Ongoing Maintenance Requirement

Asphalt Driveways
All driveways need to be maintained and asphalt driveways are no different. Over time, due to wear and tear and climate conditions, your asphalt driveway will develop cracks and will lose that new freshly laid look. Colder climates with many freezing and thawing cycles are also hard on any surface, especially if there are cracks for water to lie in which, when frozen, will expand and cause further damage. A high-grade sealer is recommended to be applied every couple of years to ensure that your driveway looks better and lasts longer. If you have large cracks, you will also want to fill these cracks prior to applying a sealer

Concrete Driveways
Concrete driveways are usually much more durable and do not develop cracks, unless there is an insufficient sub-base prepared. Nevertheless, annual cleaning is sufficient for most concrete driveways. Decorative concrete should be cleaned yearly and then resealed. You can use your pressure washer to clean your concrete driveway.

Brick Pavers
Sealing pavers will protect them from the elements, as well as fuel and oil spills on your driveway. In addition, a sealer will enhance, as well as protect, the natural beauty of the paver and should be completed every one or two years to protect your brick pavers. This, of course, depends on the amount and type of traffic on your driveway. Weeds and grass can still grow between the brick pavers and should be removed prior to sealing.

Too much sealer may cause a white film to appear or the pavers may become slippery from saturation of the brick, which can be dangerous. Keep your driveway clean and free of all debris to maintain the driveway at its optimum.

Useful Web Links

Hot Asphalt Driveways

Concrete Driveways

Pressure Cleaning and Sealing Brick Pavers



The selection and choice of driveway materials is actually much more complicated than many people may realize, especially if you plan to make a statement as visitors approach your home from the street. Selection of the base material will be the first step and may depend on the price, timing, and the durability for which you are looking.

Asphalt driveways are the most common driveway and can be installed relatively quickly, compared to other materials. Often, an asphalt driveway can be installed within one or two days, once the sub-grade base is prepared and the asphalt is laid. The sub-base is the most important element of all driveways and will prevent all driveways from compacting in high traffic areas potentially causing cracks and other damage.

While Asphalt can be installed quickly, concrete, concrete pavers and brick pavers offer much more versatility in terms of design alternatives and esthetics. They take longer to properly install. However, the other major advantage is that these pavers can be removed later for repairs or to gain access to buried utilities.

All driveway surfaces should be sealed to increase their service life, as well as to enhance their beauty. All surfaces will fade over time and sealers are ideal to rejuvenate the colors, as well as provide protection.

Contact a local expert in your area for further information that pertains to the construction conditions in your city or town. Readers can also take advantage of several of the links we have provided for additional information.


Thought For The Day

"The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can't be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it." - Elbert Hubbard


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