Angie's LIST Guide to
Driveways

A homeowner's guide to the advantages and disadvantages of different types of driveway materials, including asphalt, concrete, paving stones and gravel.
 

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 A driveway should be a low-maintenance, high-return sort of investment. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Mark K.)
A driveway should be a low-maintenance, high-return sort of investment. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Mark K.)
 
 

Driveway Installation

Driveways are the paths linking the street to your home or garage, and they’re one of the first features people notice about your home. Properly installed driveways can last for at least two decades, which is why some homeowners are willing to pay extra to ensure their driveways stand out.

Gravel driveways are the most basic type, while concrete and asphalt are two of the most popular and basic driveway options. If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can have the concrete’s surface stamped to add color and texture.

Paver driveways are another option, especially if your goal is to make your home blend in with a walkway or other hardscaping feature.

Before hiring a contractor to install a driveway, you’ll need to be sure they have experience installing the specific kind of driveway you’re looking for. Each type requires specific skills and knowledge to install, and you want to be sure the contractor you hire knows how to do the job correctly the first time.

Concrete vs. asphalt driveways

concrete driveway
Workers replace the driveway at this Pennsylvania home with fresh concrete. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Kenneth B.)

Concrete and asphalt driveways are the two most popular driveway materials in the U.S. When choosing the perfect driveway surface, homeowners must consider a variety of factors, like cost, upkeep, crack repair, stain removal and regional weather. 

An asphalt driveway costs less and is easier to repair, but concrete lasts longer and requires less maintenance. Angie's List members nationwide reported paying $7,400 on average for a poured concrete driveway, while the cost to install an asphalt driveway averaged $5,300. Click here for a full list of pros and cons of concrete vs. asphalt driveways. 

While concrete and asphalt remain the top choices, there are many other alternative driveway materials on the market. Ultimately, no matter which driveway surface you pick, it's critical you hire a qualified driveway contractor who can install a drive that meets professional installation standards and plan it out properly to avert potential issues down the road, such as intrusive tree roots and poor drainage. 

Stamped concrete: Unique yet affordable look

Homeowners are turning to stamped concrete to give their driveways, walkways, patios and pool decks a unique look. A contractor first pours a slab with the base color mixed in. As the concrete dries, the contractor will apply highlight coloring and push down a stamp to create a pattern that can mimic brick, stone, tile or custom designs like leaves. It’s cheaper than installing brick pavers and it can last for decades if properly maintained with sealer. 

Check out the stamped concrete gallery to see how Angie’s List members have added it to their homes.

MORE: Stamped Concrete Adds Affordable Appeal to Outdoor Patios

Paver or brick driveways: Quickly installed, likely to last 25 years

Depending on the length your driveway, a paver driveway can usually be installed in about two days and is ready for use immediately upon completion.

A paver driveway will last up to 25 years and provides a unique and elegant look to your house. However, it provides a flexible surface and the bricks can shift or sink over time - resulting in an uneven driveway.

Broken bricks are relatively easy to replace. While brick driveway material costs vary greatly from region to region as well as the variances in ground conditions, brick pavers are likely to be a more expensive option.

Decorative touches or combinations of materials (brick and concrete for example) will also have an impact on the final cost.

Advantages of pavers & brick:

  • Create stately looking properties
  • Requires the least amount of maintenance of all paving options
  •  Last a relatively long time with desired results
  • Can be created using colorful and appealing concrete pavers or bricks

Disdvantages of pavers & brick:

  • Can be expensive to install
  • Requires long installation times
  • Can crack during extremely cold or freezing temperatures
  • Can stain due to motor oil, antifreeze and other chemical agents

Gravel driveways: Not costly, but short lifespan

The least expensive driveway option is gravel or crushed stone. A wide variety of crushed stone materials offer the homeowner several choices in color and overall look. Because this material is used in driveway foundations, no separate foundation is required — making this a very cost-effective option.

The gravel driveway will need to be replenished over time as the rocks settle into ruts faster than a hard surface driveway. Raking will be required on occasion to keep the rocks from getting into your grass. And while the material is not as likely to freeze, shoveling snow from a stone driveway can be difficult.

Advantages of gravel driveways:

  • Least expensive driveway paving method
  • Very little to no maintenance required
  • Driveway can be used even during installation
  • Can be switched to asphalt with ease

Disdvantages of gravel driveways:

  • Has a very short life expectancy rating
  • Can shift when used on a sloping property
  • Does not provide the same curb appeal as other paving methods
  • Does not provide a high increase to the value of the property
  • Can create divots and holes from normal driving over a short duration of time

RELATED: 5 Ways to Reduce Dust from Your New Gravel Driveway

Hiring tips for high-quality driveway installers

  • Do your homework on the various options and costs for driveway materials and decide which is best for your home and your budget.
  • Be extremely wary of unsolicited offers from someone who claims to to have "left over" materials from a nearby job and offers to install your driveway at a great discount. Any offer that sounds too good to be true, probably is, and puts you at risk for a driveway scam. In driveway work, even if there is asphalt or cement left over from a job, it is unlikely to be sufficient for a second job, would probably have cooled too much and therefore would not have been time to properly prepare the second driveway. The result is highly likely to be a bad driveway that will need to be repaired or replaced very quickly.
  • Get on-site estimates from three or more paving contractors. You may have a friend or neighbor who can recommend a high-quality local company — preferably when the job was done a few years earlier since flaws in workmanship may not present themselves for a while.  If you join Angie's List you will be able to read reviews and ratings of specific driveway installation companies that work in your area from other Angie's List members in your community.
  • Get the job details in a written estimate. In order to obtain an accurate estimate, have a sketch of the home and the desired driveway footprint. Walk the site with the driveway paving contractor and have him/her mark where the paved driveway is to lay.
  • Talk to the professional driveway installer about slope and drainage.  If these are not handled properly, you may end up with water pooling on the finished driveway, or draining into your garage or home.
  • Make sure the contractor accounts for any underground pipes so that these are not damaged in any excavation. Typically, this is not a factor when an existing driveway is being repaved, but is often a factor when a new driveway is being installed where no previous base had been established.

MORE: 7 Tips for Hiring a Dependable Drive

Comments

When I had an asphalt driveway replaced last summer, the contractor offered a $100 discount if I would recommend him to Angie's List. I said no.

Good choice to say no!!! The conracter should not have to buy a good reputaion They should earn it from their customers.

I would highly recommend Fiedler's Concrete & Bobcat Services for concrete work. In the Dayton, Ohio and surrounding areas. They do shrub removal, asphalt removal and swimming pool removal. They are very resonable. He pulled a tree (root and all) and a lot of shrubs for us. He removed our old two car blacktop driveway. He added an additional driveway for our camper. I am highly satisfied with the job that was done. Contact James at 937-287-1876 or 937-262-7057 or on facebook at Fiedler's Bobcat Services. He specializes in Concrete Driveways, sidewalks, steps, patio's and Driveway Aprons.

I have an asphalt driveway and do the necessary maintenance. However I have a low spot about 8'x10' so when it rains it holds water. Is there anything that could be done for this. This was in the initial installation.

I had depressions in my asphalt driveway where water would pool. Therefore, I hired AAA Paving & Excavating Inc. (Waynesboro, PA) to "hot patch" the low spots and seal coat the entire driveway. The repair work and seal coating made my 14 year old driveway look brand new. I am immensely pleased with the quality of their work and satisfied with the cost of labor and materials.

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