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Driveways: Complete Guide to Choosing the Right Material

resin bound driveways
(Image credit: SureSet)

Driveways are often one of the first things you see when approaching a house. As well as playing an important role in boosting your home’s kerb appeal, the driveway serves an important practical purpose. So it's important, whether you're self-builder or renovating a house, to give this area some attention. 

Planning permission for new homes almost always requires provision for off-road car parking. So while a garage is a luxury you could postpone or dispense with, you’ll need to accommodate driveways and hardstandings within the initial design.

(MORE: Self Build Guide)

The Rules & Regs of Driveways

You’ll need to consider how your driveway will cope with rainwater. The government introduced Sustainable Drainage Systems (or SuDS) in 2008, to deal with the stress being placed on the mains sewer network by new housing development.

As a result, any hard surface over 5m2 between the house’s front and the highway requires planning permission unless the surface is SuDS-compliant.

For the self builder and renovator, the most common solution is to replace the normally impervious hard surfaces of driveways and parking areas with permeable materials that allow rainwater to pass through. 

There are various permeable, SuDS-compliant options including gravel, permeable concrete block pavers or porous asphalt, to name a few. 

laying a block paving driveway

(Image credit: Bradstone)

What Should You Lay as a Foundation to a Driveway?

Whatever drive finish you decide on, the base you lay should essentially be the same: ideally 100-150mm of hardcore. The most efficient method is to use machines to spread and tamp hardcore — digger buckets are particularly effective tampers.

It is very useful to have hardcore laid as early as possible on a building job as it aids access and stops the site becoming a quagmire, but drain-laying timetables do not always allow this use of machinery. Whether it is worth getting machinery in later just to lay hardcore depends on the driveway’s size.

What Material Should You Choose for Your Driveway?

Permeable block pavers

These provide a neat finish that is easy to maintain. Plus, there’s a wealth of colour and style options to complement the exterior of your house. If one paver gets damaged, it’s straightforward to replace it without having to re-do the whole driveway. 

As each unit is laid individually, completing a block paved driveway is more time-consuming than other materials. Professionals will be required to lay it, too, which means that this option comes at a higher cost than some others. 

COST: Expect to pay upwards of £30/m2 for this finish, which doesn’t include installation. 

block paver driveway

To ensure effective drainage of this driveway, the Alpha Flow range of block pavers from Brett Landscaping feature a nib-shaped design. This allows surface water to drain between the blocks into a specially designed sub-layer. Three colours are available – brindle (pictured here), Autumn gold and charcoal. (Image credit: Brett Landscaping)

Permeable concrete

Provides a hard-wearing, low-maintenance option for your driveway and can last more than 20 years when designed and installed correctly. There’s a selection of colour options to choose from, too, and you can even paint over the surface if you fancy a change in the future.

Good installation is essential to ensure water runoff is not an issue. Bear in mind that concrete can be prone to discolouration, especially if the surface comes into contact with oil. Cracking is also a potential issue in cases where the concrete has been poorly laid.

COST: Expect to pay between £35 and £50/m2, including installation.

concrete driveway with contemporary gate

The concrete driveway pictured here has been given a contemporary twist with the Marano aluminium fencing and gate system from F H Brundle. At a height of 1.8m, this setup would cost in the region of £180/metre. (Image credit: F H Brundle)

Permeable Tarmac

This material offers a durable, cost-effective surfacing solution for your driveway. A high-quality sealant finish makes it a low-maintenance option (although obviously it also reduces permeability), providing a service life of approximately 20 years. 

While there are alternative colour options to the typical dark grey hue, there is less scope to transform a tarmac surface into an eye-catching design statement. 

COST: Expect to pay upwards of £20/m2, not including installation.

porcelain pavers for a driveway

Brett Landscaping’s GeoCeramica Bluestone range of porcelain paving recreates the unique appeal of natural stone. The material means these pavers are resistant to stains caused by vehicles.  (Image credit: Brett Landscaping)

Porcelain paving

This is a robust system that offers a solid, scratch-resistant solution. However, a standard porcelain tile is not recommended for driveways. 

“Due to the bound installation, a larger, heavier car will introduce a cantilever effect on porcelain used over a wide area. Depending on the product’s dimensions, it may exceed the surface’s flexural strength and result in cracking,” says Mark MacIntosh-Watson at Brett Landscaping. “Therefore, it’s important to specify a specialist system that can manage the load effectively.”

COST: Porcelain sits at the higher end of the market, costing upwards of £70/m2, not including installation.

resin bound surface driveway

A resin bound surface offers a sleek, even finish across your whole driveway. This natural aggregate blend is SureSet’s Barley Butter. The standard DIY kit is priced at £84. (Image credit: SureSet)

Resin bound products

These offer a sleek, even surface across the whole driveway. A variety of colours are available and you can also choose from permeable and impermeable solutions, depending on your drainage requirements. 

It is fairly low maintenance, too, with the occasional jet wash required for upkeep. Quick installation is another bonus. 

COST: It’s at the higher end of the price spectrum — expect to pay between £50 and £75/m2, including installation costs.

Stone pavers 

Stone pavers are durable and offer a natural aesthetic. Pavers will retain their appearance over time and are frost resistant. In terms of maintenance, this type of surface will need to be re-sealed every few years to protect against oil stains, for example. 

As you are working with a dense, solid material, you’ll need to ensure you incorporate an effective drainage solution. Before parting with any cash, ensure the type of stone you choose is suitable for the driveway (some options are only suitable for footpaths and patio areas) and can support the load of vehicles effectively. 

COST: Depending on the type of stone you choose, expect to pay upwards of £70/m2, not including installation. The cost could rise above £100/m2 for certain varieties so do check first.

permeable paved driveway

Unit 1 Architects masterminded the design of this contemporary self-build home. Hanson Formpave’s Aquasett Permeable Pavers in Eco Granite were chosen as the SuDS compliant driveway surface. (Image credit: Unit 1 Architects; Charlie Birchmore Photography)

What is the Cheapest Driveway Material?

Gravel

Gravel is the most wallet-friendly option and it’s the quickest to lay, too. This solution can cost as little as £4/m2, not including installation. But installation can be done on a DIY basis. Plus, there’s a broad selection of colours and blends to choose from. 

Usually the gravel supplier removes all of the fines (or dust). This ensures that you are provided with clean pebbles or chips. Self-binding gravel (a type of gravel that is SuDs-compliant) keeps and even adds to the fines, in order to capitalise and improve on the gravel’s self-binding properties.

Whatever type of gravel you use, the better gravel driveways are actually labour intensive as they involve laying three or four layers of stones, each rolled and then left for a day or two between coats. Edgings need to be placed – treated timber strips are adequate – and the success of the drive overall depends on good hardcore beneath.

Reinforced grass paving

Reinforced grass paving costs between £8 and £12/m2 for material supply only. Specialists might be required to lay this type of paving, which could drive up installation costs.

Grass paving is a SuDs-compliant option that comprises a concrete or plastic honeycomb form, typically 500mm x 500mm. The honeycomb structure carries the weight of people or vehicles and allows grass to grow through it. You can also use grass paving with gravel, which would not need to be self binding.

Paving Patterns

Paving patterns for driveways

1. The simple but popular running bond; 2. The decorative basket weave; 3. Dutch herringbone weave; 4. A highly ornate fan pattern; 5. The diagonal herringbone (Image credit: )