Driveway aesthetics are usually an after-thought (if they are thought of at all) in front yard landscaping. A “makeover” of your driveway surface using new materials could significantly enhance the “arrival experience” at your home. And if you are already considering a front yard landscaping project, this would be the ideal time to bring fresh driveway design ideas into the mix.
Surface Materials & Techniques that Enhance Your Driveway Design
If you think of a driveway surface as you would think of flooring on the interior of your house, you will find there are many stylish options from which to choose. Also, it’s an opportunity to consider your driveway as an artistic contributor to the overall front yard landscape design, rather than a mere thoroughfare that cuts abruptly through the landscape without relating to it.
In this article, we’ll take a look at five different types of driveway surface materials and techniques that can be used to make your driveway stand out from the crowd.
Basic Asphalt with Borders & Trim Patterns
The asphalt driveway is ubiquitous for a reason. Although it is a high maintenance driveway surface, it is less expensive than a poured concrete surface. It’s generic. It’s bland. But it gets the job done neatly.
A surefire way to counteract “the bland” is to work with a designer to inject visual interest by adding border and trim elements to that basic asphalt surface. There are a lot of ways to do this. One of the easiest ways to achieve this would be to insert cobblestone curbs or trim borders to an existing asphalt driveway. If well designed and executed, this technique immediately dresses up the look of your driveway
Working with a designer, you could take this a step further by cutting trenches across the asphalt every 15 or 20 feet and inserting the same type of cobblestones used in the border (or curb) to create repeating patterns on the driveway surface.
Another simple and effective improvement would be to lay the first five feet of surface at the driveway entrance with cobblestone and allow the stone to transition into the asphalt surface after that.
There are a number of methods and materials that can be used for coloring concrete. Two of the most simple and reliable employ stains and pigments. Both resist fading from exposure to UV radiation.
Staining. Stains are the most versatile concrete coloring material because they can be applied to new or existing concrete. They penetrate and permanently color with earth-tones (browns, tans, dusky reds) that blend nicely with most landscaping.
Pigmentation. Pigments can be used only on new pours. Because pigments are added to the concrete mix prior to installation, the color extends throughout the entire mix, so even if the driveway surface is scratched or chipped, the color won’t be affected. The palette revolves around earth-tones but subtle shades of gray, blue and green are also available.
There are a lot of concrete pavers that come in different sizes, shapes (thicker for driveways than the standard patio paver), and colors. Interlocking driveway pavers are somewhat less labor-intensive to install because no mortar is required. Although they are fabricated in a factory, interlocking pavers do an excellent job of simulating the look of stone.
Interlocking paver driveway surfaces can be designed using multiple color combinations and patterns to achieve a highly customized artistic effect.
Note: It is critical that this type of driveway surface is built over a solid base to prevent pavers from shifting which will cause cracks and ridges to develop over time.
An exposed aggregate driveway is created by power washing the concrete surface to expose the gravel and pebble aggregate after pouring the concrete. This produces an interesting textural effect. The more you wash away, the greater the variety in size, color, and texture (roughness) will be revealed in the finished driveway surface.
Working with a designer, this can be done in an artistic way to create a beautiful and unusual driveway surface. The exposed aggregate technique results in non-slip driveway surfaces that last for up to ten years with almost no maintenance.
Tar & Chip
Although the name doesn’t sound all that appealing, a tar & chip application provides the stability of an asphalt driveway at a lower cost and with an unexpected aesthetic, a somewhat rustic effect like you might find in a French country estate. Like an exposed aggregate surface, the look of a tar and chip surface is variegated and textured.
This type of driveway starts with a gravel base. Hot tar is poured over the gravel and stones are poured on top of the tar. The surface is then compressed with roller equipment. It can be customized further by using colored stone in the final press.
Even though this type of project can be fairly simple to implement, it is important to consult with a landscape architect because they will be up-to-date on county government regulations that apply to hardscaping. Many governments have gotten more strict about limiting the percentage of impervious surface on a lot–and the driveway is part of that calculation.
The rules about the permeable and impermeable surface area have to do protecting our waterways from uncontrolled runoff that causes erosion and diminished water quality in the Chesapeake Watershed. If it turns out that your property has maxed out its allowed percentage of impermeable surface area, your landscape architect may be able to get your project approved by specifying permeable pavers in the parking or turnaround area of your driveway.