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.
 

driveway_450.jpg

 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.)
 
 

Asphalt driveways

seal coated asphalt driveway
The asphalt driveway of this home is seal coated. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List members Suzanne and Charles M.)
The asphalt driveway of this home is seal coated before it can be used by homeowners. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List members Suzanne and Charles M.)

Asphalt, or blacktop, can be installed in about two days using a process that lays hot asphalt over the foundation and is then rolled flat. After it sets, you will be able to use your driveway in about a week. This is likely to be your least expensive driveway option and, with proper maintenance, it should last 20 years or more.

Because asphalt has a tendency to fade with time and use, a sealer will have to be applied every one to three years, depending on condition, in order to keep the driveway looking good and to help prevent or slow deterioration. With time, asphalt driveways may also be weakened by poor water drainage or plant growth - forcing them to sag or crack prematurely. Often, an asphalt driveway can be repaired or restored by a recapping process, adding a new layer of asphalt over the old.

If your car develops a fuel leak, don’t park it over asphalt until it’s fixed.  Gasoline will dissolve asphalt and create a gravelly hole.

Advantages of asphalt:

  • Cost-effective
  • Easy to repair
  • Less susceptible to damage from freezing or thawing
  • Hides dirt and stains well

Disadvantages of asphalt:

  • Tendency to sag, crack heave due to poor drainage or plant growth
  • Fades over time, requiring regularly sealing
  • Limited color, stamping options

Concrete driveways

Concrete is generally the  most durable driveway option, keeping in mind that even a concrete driveway is only as good as its foundation. Installation takes about a week and generally involves pouring concrete in defined sections and allowing that concrete to cure.

A concrete driveway can last up to 30 years and can get stronger with time. If not installed properly, however, concrete driveways can crack.  Contaminants and pollutants - such as road salt - can adversely affect the surface in the winter. While these are not likely to compromise the integrity of the driveway, they can impact the overall look.

New techniques and concrete materials have broadened the way concrete can be used. Many creative effects can be applied in order to create a truly unique look without the extra expense of special materials.

One thing to consider is that concrete does not "dry;" it cures over time. The key to a quality driveway is preventing cracking and breaking that can occur during the curing process. While it can take years for concrete to cure completely, it can cure to the point of use in about a week. Keeping the concrete moist during the initial curing stages by using a fine sprinkler or mist, especially in warmer weather, may help cut down on potential cracks by preventing the concrete from curing too fast.

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

Advantages of concrete:

  • Extremely durable and long-lasting
  • Wide variety of unique surfaces, stampings and material combinations (concrete driveway with paver borders, e.g.)
  • Can add significant curb appeal and resale value to a property

Disadvantages of concrete:

  • Oils and other chemicals can cause permanent stains
  • More costly to install
  • Can crack during freezing temperatures
  • More difficult to hide repairs

Stamped concrete

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.

Pavers or bricks

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 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.

What you decide to have done, such as 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

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

Hiring tips

  • Do your homework on the various options 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 do your driveway at a great discount.  Any offer that sounds too good to be true, probably is.   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 there would not have been time to properly prepare the second driveway.  The result is highly likely to be a bad driveway.
  • Get on-site estimates from three or more paving contrators.  You may have a friend or neighbor who can recommend a 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 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 paving contractor and have him/her mark where the paved driveway is to lay.
  • Talk to the contractor 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 any underground pipes are accounted for 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.

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.

Add comment

Anonymous reviews are Internet graffiti.  Angie's List has real reviews from real people.

What is Angie's List?

Angie’s List is the trusted site where more than 2 million households go to get ratings and reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Stop guessing when it comes to hiring! Check Angie’s List to find out who does the best work in town.

Local Discounts

Daily deals up to 70% off popular home improvement projects from top-rated contractors on Angie’s List!