Installing a driveway can be an exciting period for many households. One aspect that should be considered when choosing the surface is how will your driveway affect your local environment. The most direct effect is always the amount of runoff water from surfaces that are impermeable. Installations of tarmac and concrete driveways are the major culprits for this.
As urban areas in the UK have become more built up to cater for everyday city life, the amount of permeable materials has reduced considerably, increasing the over reliance on drainage being sufficient to cope with heavy rainfall. What we have seen is the rate of flooding increasing as the draining systems struggle to cope with the amount of water that is required to be drained over extended periods of heavy rainfall.
Households could play their part in helping to reduce this effect by installing driveways that are permeable, which means there is less run off water that has to go through the drainage system. Materials such as block paving, gravel and permeable concrete are the best to combat this.
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New driveway considerations
Some people may decide that they would rather save on the labour cost and build a driveway themselves. The ability to do this will vary depending on the material you are planning on choosing, for example a resin bound driveway would require specialist equipment and expertise to install properly - this therefore may warrant paying a professional do complete the job for you. We explore what is and isn't possible for the driveway surface you might go for below.
The most difficult part of the tarmac driveways is making sure the drainage is added to the driveway. Many people may overlook that tarmac is impermeable, therefore any run off water will need to go somewhere - or else it will be left standing. Seeking outside help may be warranted to ensure this step is executed effectively.
Anyone with experience laying block paving already should find a DIY job fairly straight forwards. The hardest part for any block paving driveway is ensuring the pattern is executed correctly, therefore if you are unable to do this it may be worth either going for a simple monocolour design or paying a professional company.
Gravel is generally quite a straight forward processes. A point to consider is to ensure the weed membrane is installed correctly to make sure the weed growth through the gravel is controlled.
There are a number of things to consider when installing concrete, such as preparing the foundations, installing the iron rods and installing drainage. Due to the complexity, it might be worth hiring a specialist firm to install your concrete driveway.
Resin driveways are highly complex and will most likely require a professional proficient in installing driveways using the material to do so.
Installing a DIY is certainly possible - however you should expect it to take you considerably longer than paying a professional company to do so.
Some properties have an existing driveway and may be looking to either change the driveway material or upgrade the current one to bring it into the 21st century. Both have their merits and we consider them below.
Changing Driveway Material
How much this will cost and how long it will take is highly dependant on the surface you currently have and what you want to change it to. If you are considering changing your current surface to a tarmac driveway, this can be relatively inexpensive and wouldn't require you to dig ut the current driveway as the tarmac will be laid on top the existing driveway. For any other surface change i.e. going to block paving, gravel, stone or resin, the current driveway will need to be dug up all the way down to the base as a fresh area will need to be prepared for these materials. This could be quite an expensive job - depending on how much waste removal would be required.
Upgrading Current Driveway
If you are looking to upgrade your current driveway using the same material that is currently there, the cost of the job will depend on how much you want to upgrade for most surfaces.
Tarmac is the easiest to upgrade as you can just lay another layer on top of the current tarmac driveway.
Upgrading block paving cost will depend on the extent of the work you require. If you are merely replacing a small patch / section, this could be really be a very cheap job. If you are looking to overhaul the whole driveway - expect to pay considerably more.
Gravel driveways generally do not need to be upgraded, however they do need to be regularly shaped and compacted to ensure large holes and divots do not appear.
If you have a under maintained concrete driveway, you will most likely need to replace the while driveway and start afresh. Given the advancements in technology, this could mean installing a new type of concrete that is permeable - definitely something to consider if this is a job you are planning to start.
As you can see, depending on the surface there are a few things to consider if you are looking to upgrade your existing driveway.
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Depending on the type of driveway you go for and the size of your plot, installation may take a couple days to a couple of weeks. Regardless of the time taken the below steps should be taken by you contractor to ensure the project runs as smooth as possible.
Decide on the driveway you want
If you have an idea of the driveway surface you would like for the front of your property, you can create a shortlist of company you would like to receive quotes from. It is important to aim for companies that have particular specialisms installing driveways using the material you want.
Aim to receive around three quotes from reputable business in your local area. Make sure the quotes are on a line by line basis and include total costs including VAT.
Plan and schedule
Review the quotes and make sure you choose the contractor that has evidenced they will do a good job using quality materials. This doesn't necessarily have to be the cheapest quote.
Once signed up - the contractor will now agree a plan and schedule for when the materials should be received and when work can start. This would also be the time when any last minute adjustments can happen, be it adding an extra wall or drainage.
Depending on the driveway you are having, the contractor may start work prior the materials are received by clearing out what is in the forecourt, which will prepare the ground for you driveway surface.
Work in progress
Once the material has been received the contractor will install your driveway. Depending on the material, size and complexity this could take a few days to a few weeks. The timeline would have initially been agreed with you during the plan and schedule stage.
Some surface like block paving need a few days to set before a car can be sat on it, during this period the contractor will do final checks to ensure your driveways has been installed with the highest standards.
There are a number of steps to be considered, however, a good contractor will let you know everything including timescales in advance to ensure you are clear what is happening at every stage of the build.
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Should you upgrade your driveway
Depending on the size of your forecourt, your new driveway might be an expensive addition to your property, however, given the investment in improving the look of the front of your home should last at least a couple of decades if you regularly maintain it. Due to the longevity of any new driveway surface it is important that you consider the below steps to avoid having the redo the driveway in a couple of years’ time.
Ensuring there is sufficient drainage from your driveway is incredibly important, as depending on the surface you go for, heavy rainfall can cause large puddles of standing water that may lead to flooding. Concrete and tarmac are the main causes for concern as they are both impermeable surfaces that will require sufficient run off to reduce the likelihood of flooding. It is possible to get permeable concrete blocks, however as this is a relatively new technology, expect this to come at a high cost.
Unknown Material Costs
If you know the material you would like, be it tarmac, block paving, concrete etc. make sure you do your research into the quality and cost of each component so you have a rough idea what the materials costs will be at retail prices. What you should see if the actual cost in the quote is lower as your driveway contractor is able to access the materials at trade prices. If you find the quote is higher than you expect, ask the contractor why this is the case - it might be that it is cheaper for you to buy the materials yourself and just pay for the labour costs of the installation.
One line quotes
Be very careful of a quote that isn't broken down line by line, i.e. each component of the driveway installation needs to be costed line for line so it is clear where your money is going. This serves two purposes, the first is as the customer, you are clear where you money is going and you can maybe negotiate prices of individual components / additions. Secondly, once the price is agreed you have locked in the price the contractor has to work towards, therefore this prevents any surprises for example if you see the materials bill increasing by 20% above the original quoted price.
As you can see there are a number of aspects to avoid to make sure you can rest easy that you are getting a quality driveway at a fair price.
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Driveway installation process
Choosing the right firm to build your driveway is probably the most important thing to consider. Not every driveway company would have the expertise to complete all types of driveways, therefore it may be useful to find companies that either specialise in specific types of driveway installations or have contractors within their company that specialise in certain types of driveways. Below we highlight some of the things to consider when choosing your driveway contractor.
The main accreditations to look out for are those that have evidence that they are the basic levels of understanding of the driveway type they are quoting the job for. You wouldn't want to speak to a block paving expert about installing a gravel driveway. An easy way to evidence this is to discuss with the contractor how many jobs they have completed previously for the material - be it tarmac or concrete.
Never take their word for it that they have completed the jobs, always ask for picture evidence of the completed jobs they have done and when it was completed. Any contractor worth their salt will have a portfolio of the jobs they have completed so this should be an easy tick box exercise. If they are unable to show anything - I would stay clear!
Reviews are an important way to gauge if the contract is as good as they say they are. Looking at places such as google maps, yell, facebook etc should give a strong indication on how well their jobs have been. Be careful not to base your decision just on reviews, as it is usually those who want to complain that leave reviews. If you do see a negative review, it would be worth speaking to the contractor about it to see their point of view.
It is very easy to just go for the cheapest quote as cost is definitely a factor in driveway construction. Cheap generally means poor quality materials and poor workmanship - therefore be wary of the quotes that come so much lower than the other quotes you have received. We believe 3 quotes is a healthy number - any more than that and it becomes overkill and makes it hard for you to make a decision.
Guarantees and Insurance
If the contractor doesn't come with limited liability insurance of at least £1 million and guarantees on their completed work for at least 5 years, find someone else. The last thing you want to do is fork out thousands of pounds, to then see within a year your driveway breaking up! Always make sure you speak to your contactor about this and make sure they also provide evidence - dont take their word as given!
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Things to avoid
Really this is a question of durability. Driveway replacement cycles for all materials have lengthened over the past couple of decades as the quality of materials improve and the standard of building work also improves by introducing new techniques. As you would expect, the durability of each surface is highly dependant on the quality of the material and installation work and if it is maintained regularly. Therefore the figures quoted below should be used as guide rather than as given.
Asphalt driveways are expected to last over 25 year but there are a number of factors that can shorten this lifespan in the UK. The first is water damage, a large amount of water sitting on or around the driveway will slowly erode the tarmac, it is even worse if ice gets into any cracks as it will expand and create larger holes. To extend the life, we recommend applying sealant regularly, which cover over any small holes/cracks during the summer months. Fortunately, replacing tarmac is simple, you can just add a layer on top of the existing tarmac drive, which is relatively inexpensive to do.
If not installed with the right extra, maintaining block paving can be a nightmare. The surface can last up to 20 years in most cases, however this would require regular jet washing, weeding and general upkeep. What is great about block paving is if there is any damage to a block or patch of blocks, you only need to replace that area, therefore it could be possible to extend the life over a 20 years by placing any damage when it occurs - effectively having new sections within old sections.
It is not uncommon to expect gravel driveways to last over 50 years as really it is a collection of crushed stones packed into an area. The most important thing to install with your gravel driveway is a weed protection membrane as that will reduce amount the gravels base gets disturbed by plants growing. Added to this, racking the gravel so it is evenly distributed across your driveway is important to prevent any holes emerging.
Concrete driveways can last around 25 years or over. Similar to tarmac driveways cracks that form in concrete can cause long lasting damager. However, unlike asphalt driveways a crack in concrete is not easy to repair, it most likely will require the whole surface to be replaced if deicer isn't used when required before snowfall.
Resin is expected to last over 25 years and is a highly durable surface. Unlike tarmac and concrete, resin driveways have been designed to withstand both extremely hot conditions, extremely cold ones and extended periods of heavy rainfall as it is permeable. To maintain your resin driveway you will need to ensure the surface is cleaned regularly to prevent the build up of moss - that is pretty much it!
As you can see, all the driveway surfaces are highly durable, however how long they last is really up to how well they are looked after. One thing to also consider is the material guarantee provided by suppliers and your contractor which should indicate their confidence in the quality of the materials and the work they have completed.
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Finding a company to install your driveway
The cost of a new driveway is always a sticking point for many negotiations and what doesn't help is that the cost can vary widely from one contractor to the next. It is important you do not judge a driveways contractor on cost alone and the likelihood is if you go for the cheapest option you should expect a cheap finish that may mean you need to revisit your driveway much earlier than you anticipated. Below we split the potential costs in ranges for materials and labour.
Tarmac driveways are relatively cheap to install - however you can see the price spiral if you want to add extras such a block paving pattern or a wall around the edges.
Materials cost: £20 - £40 per square meter
Labour cost: £25 - £45 per square meter
Block paving can be simple, or complex and the price is highly sensitive to the blocks, patterns and extra chosen.
Materials cost: £30 - £50 per square meter
Labour cost: £50 - £100 per square meter
This surface is relatively cheap to install but can become expensive if large waste disposal is required
Materials cost: £15 - £35 per square meter
Labour cost: £20 - £40 per square meter
Depending on the type of concrete you use, it can be quite an expensive job as it has a number of aspects that can affect the overall price.
Materials cost: £45 - £70 per square meter
Labour cost: £35 - £60 per square meter
Resin driveways are relatively expensive as you really want to make sure you are using the highest quality materials where possible or else the surface will become unusable very quickly.
Materials cost: £45 - £75 per square meter
Labour cost: £35 - £60 per square meter
All the costs stated above can vary differently from where you are located in the country to the size and complexity of your driveway. Added to this, if significant waste needs to be disposed of, expect the price to increase by another 10-20%.
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The material you choose for the basis of your new driveways is very important. There is no right or wrong answer as everyone’s preference is different and some surface may suit certain styles of properties better than others. Below we aim to give a brief overview of what each surface is, its main advantages over the other surfaces and considerations that may mean it is not the right surface for you.
Probably one of the most durable driveway surface in existence, tarmac driveways are considered the dependable solution to construct a driveway. Installing the material is quite simple as it can be laid on top of most materials - this means less time is spent clearing the front of your home, which saves on cost and time. Today, tarmac can come in two colours, red and black - although is considered a boring material i.e. there isn't really any customisation you can do to it to improve the design. As a result, it is not uncommon to see people add block paving patterns or walls around their tarmac driveway to help improve the aesthetics of the forecourt.
Probably the most popular driveway material used today, block paving has really come to its own in the last decade due to vast improvements in technology that has mean the once high maintenance surface is now considered low maintenance, due to the advent of permeable weed membrane. The main reason for block pavings popularity is the vast amount of customisation that is available, from the colour of the blocks to the design on the ground. Due to the complexity of installing the blocks on the ground, you should expect a block paving driveway to be relatively expensive.
Gravel is a relatively cheap material that comes in a variety of colours to suit the front of most homes. As with block paving driveways, laying a weed membrane is paramount to ensure maintenance is kept as low as possible. From our experience, gravel is generally installed on very large driveway spaces due to the cost advantage and the natural look it affords any home - compared to tarmac and concrete, which provide more of an industrial look in large doses. One of the main disadvantage is the surface is fluid, which means holes and ruts can form which collects water and can be a pain to walk on!
Concrete driveways, like tarmac, is a very durable surface that is expect to last a number of decades. However, unlike tarmac, it is quite expensive as you initially have to lay a gravel base before laying the concrete on top - virtually paying for two driveways. As with block paving, concrete has had a mini revolution - now available in number of patterns and designs. Decorative concrete definitely has its style merits but don't expect this to be cheap.
Resin bound driveways are a mixture of stones and resin to create a permeable paving surface that has the gravel look but smooth finish. The material can be laid on top of most surfaces - which will save on costs. As it is a very complex surface, getting the right contractor is extremely important. As with block paving, the surface can be customised with a number if different colours, however the lighter the colour, expect it to fade if you don't pay extra for the UV protection. Generally maintenance is easy, it will just need regular washing - if you don't do this, expect to see moss growing on your driveway!
As you can see, there a number of considerations you need to be mindful of when choosing the driveway surface for the front of your property.
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Cost of a new driveway
So you are thinking of changing your front garden into a driveway? This is quite a common step for many households as it generally is requires much lower maintenance and allows the front of your home to be more functional, whilst also adding to the style and decor of your property (when done right!). There are a number of things you will need to consider before you initiate getting a new driveway - below we highlight some of the key areas.
You can build a driveway from tarmac, block paving, gravel, resin, cobblestone, concrete and stone slabs. As there are a number of materials to choose from, making sure you pick the right one for your property is very important, especially given the new driveway will be the first thing guests see of your home. We dig in deeper on materials in a later blog post.
Pretty much all of the materials listed above will be able to be enhanced with some type of design element, be it a block paved border around your tarmac driveway or using decorative concrete, which gives the illusion of an expensive, hard wearing finish. This is a very important consideration and it would definitely help if you do your research to confirm which style is the most appropriate for your property.
There are two things you will be paying a driveways contractor for. The first is the materials, which your contractor may be able to source at trade price, saving you potentially thousands. And the second is labour. Generally, people will tend to go for the cheapest quote - in our experience cheap generally means cheap materials and work. Make sure when you contact a driveways contractor you obtain samples of their previous work so you can judge if they are able to provide the finish your property deserves.
With general advancement in technology, pretty much all the driveway materials are highly durable and would come with at least a 5 year guarantee from any reputable driveway contractor.
Minimising time spent on maintaining is most homeowners dream. Surfaces such as block paving can be high maintenance if a weed membrane is not installed below the surface. Tarmac is generally considered the least demanding when it comes to maintenance.
Some additions to your driveway may require planning permission. If you will be required to get a drop kerb installed at the front of your home, the council will need to be notified and have the discretion to block any work before it starts. Added to this, installing a large area of impermeable material, such as concrete or tarmac may also require planning permission as it may increase the flood risk in urban areas if sufficient drainage isn't installed.
As you can see there are so many things to consider in just the planning phase of obtaining your new driveway. We dig in deeper in the next post.
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Which material to choose?