Guide to Designing a Successful Driveway

Create a fabulous frontage for your home with an attractive driveway and garage. Emily Brooks explains the costs and benefits of the main design options for both
by Emily Brooks
23rd September 2016

Often the last big project to be tackled in a new build or renovation, the cost and specification of driveways and garages can sometimes catch people out. So start planning now to create an outdoor space that boasts some serious kerb appeal.

Driveway basics

If you’re creating a new driveway from scratch, expect to pay around £20 per m2 for groundworks (including digging down, laying a membrane and filling with compacted hardcore).

Drainage is an important issue. Planning permission is required for laying a new driveway of impermeable materials that does not include any provision for rainwater run-off. In practice this does not limit you to only permeable products, as long as you design in controlled run-off (eg with drainage channels leading to a lawned area or dedicated soakaway).

Material options

Gravel is the most economical option as a driveway surface, costing as little as £4 per m2 – plus it’s quick and easy to lay. “Decorative aggregate takes little skill to install: an afternoon to get it down and you’ll soon have a natural-looking, weed-free driveway,” says Craig Hall from Deco-Pak.

Gravel adds rustic texture to this driveway, which has been created using Deco-Pak’s Yorkshire Gold aggregate
Made from solid red cedar and available in five woodstain finishes, Garador’s Kingsbury door adds a stylish touch to this driveway

He advises using edging stones, curbs or bricks to retain the gravel – “Just be sure it stops about 20mm short of the edging’s top. To prevent further movement, use a sand-based foundation and angular gravel to ensure it beds in.” You might also want to consider laying a cellular grid (such as Marshalls’ Drive Grid) to help to minimise motion.

Asphalt costs approximately £15 per m2 for a single layer, but it is best to install two coatings for better durability. Porous versions are now available, such as Tarmac’s Ultidrive.

Block paving is highly popular and comes in permeable and non-permeable versions. Prices start from around £28 per m2, which includes installation. Expect to pay more for complex patterns, and for real stone rather than stone-effect concrete.

Permeable resin-bound gravel is a further option, which offers the equivalent attractiveness without the movement issues. SureSet’s costs £54-£60 per m2 including installation.

 Adding design interest to a driveway

With their large swathes of uninterrupted hard surfaces, driveways can look bland if not enough thought goes into the overall design. Here’s how to create more kerb appeal:

  • Use a mixture of paving products. Look for ranges that include a variety of design elements, such as Marshall’s Drivesett Argent Priora, available in three shades of grey; or create a bigger contrast with mixed materials – stone pavers with gravel edging, for example.
  • Banish straight lines with curved edging lining the flowerbeds, a meandering path or a paving design that radiates out from a circle instead of being laid in strict rows.
  • Good planting will soften hard edges, as well as providing drainage. Go for evergreen shrubs if you want year-round interest with little maintenance.
  • Bring everything to life at night with integrated lighting. Flush, drive-over lights will withstand the weight of a car, while low bollard designs add a more sculptural element. Opt for products with movement sensors if you only want them to come on as you approach.

Garages: attached or detached?

Incorporating your garage within (or alongside) your home gives easy access – useful if you want it to home tumble dryers, freezers and storage, not just the car – and will look streamlined and unfussy. If you build secure enough foundations it also gives you the option of converting it to living space later on. If you’re building a garage onto an existing property, it will be treated as an extension in terms of planning rules.

Garage outbuilding
This bespoke four-vehicle garage by Scotts of Thrapston features a tiled roof and domestic-looking windows designed to match the main house

A detached garage makes a style statement in its own right, and allows for a larger, multi-purpose structure to be built. “It is worth considering other uses for the garage at the design stage. Roof space can be put to good use as a teenagers’ retreat, guest room, games room or gym,” says James Scott of Scotts of Thrapston

Costs vary wildly depending on size, materials and design quality. A basic concrete garage from Lidget Compton costs from around £1,500 (depending on delivery location). A detached double garage built with bricks and tiles to match the main house, meanwhile, might be £15,000-£18,000 including preparation and site work.

Many oak and timber frame companies also build garages, working on a modular system so you can create your ideal spec (The Oak Designs Company’s Acorn range has more than 480 configurations, for example) or offer bespoke solutions. The Oak Designs Company quotes from £3,000 for a simple two-bay garage for the oak frame only, and from £12,000 for a garage with first floor, but that doesn’t include groundworks, roofing or assembly.

To be classed as permitted development, structures should fall under a maximum roof height (4m for a dual pitched roof, 3m for any other roof – but 2.5m for any building sitting within 2m of the boundary). If your garage also includes living space, its purpose needs to be secondary – home offices and gyms are fine, but bedrooms will require formal consent.

If you’re embarking on a self-build, constructing a detached garage ahead of the main house can make sense, acting as secure storage for plant and materials or a watertight base for your construction team.

Garage door options

“The size of your garage and the type of opening mechanism that’s best for your home tend to dictate the general style of door you can have,” says Coral Pearce-Mariner of garage door supplier and installer Evander. Certain styles and materials suit particular circumstances, she advises – for example, durable glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) products are great in coastal areas, where the salty air can degrade timber and some metals.

The main material options are galvanized steel, solid timber and GRP, each having their own benefits. Steel is lightweight and inexpensive; timber is heavier and more pricey but naturally beautiful; and GRP comes in a huge range of colours, but may fade and is not easily recycled.

For the opening mechanism, choose from up-and-over, sectional (split horizontally into panels), roller, or side-hinged. “Roller doors are very popular at the moment, because they take up almost no room inside the garage when open and come automated as standard,” says Coral. The downside of this kind of setup is that it is visually plain-looking, whereas a steel or timber door can add character with glazing, relief designs and hardware.

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