Driveway Materials: What’s the Best Driveway Surface Material for Your Project?

Wondering which driveway material will best suit you and your new home? We take a look at the benefits, costs and key characteristics of the different driveway materials to help you make the right choice
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It magazine
13th January 2024

Specifying the best driveway materials for your project will ensure enhanced kerb appeal and property value. Selecting the right surface material will not only complement your home’s aesthetics but will offer durability and functionality – so there’s plenty to consider and take into account when making a decision.

“A driveway isn’t just a place for parking the car, it’s a focal point for your home. Driveways occupy a prominent position in any property – usually in front of your house – so it’s often the first thing anyone sees,” says Viki Harris of Marshalls.

“A great driveway design ensures your property looks its best, maximises its kerb appeal and stands out. The most striking results make great use of the size, shape, and space available – and that means being robust, resilient and functional, as well looking good.”

With a plethora of driveway materials available, the decision-making process can be overwhelming – so what are the best options? And what should you consider in terms of cost, maintenance and style? Here, we take a look at the characteristics of the different driveway materials.

Block Paving Driveways

Block paving is a popular choice for those seeking an attractive and affordable driveway solution. This style has a tessellating pattern, created by slotting identical stones together. This driveway material can create an extremely visually pleasing design that will give your home bags of character.

Even better, block paving complements a wide range of property types – from ultra-modern to cottage-style – as there are so many types of stone, brick and block available.

Driveway Materials: What’s the Best Driveway Surface Material for Your Project?

Antique Honey Cathedral Paving from Westminster Stone has has a natural textured finish. Its traditional character would be a perfect addition to contemporary and historical settings alike

Pros: Block paving is known for its durability and ability to withstand heavy loads, making it a perfect driveway material that can stand up to parking cars for decades. Individual blocks allow for easy replacement, meaning driveway maintenance can be simple, too. 

Benefits of block paving driveways: Some types of block paving are designed with permeable features, allowing water to drain through the surface of your driveway. This can help manage rainwater and reduce surface runoff. Also, block paving is flexible and can adapt to slight ground movements or settling. This flexibility helps prevent cracking or uneven surfaces. They’re most Ideal for driveways with high car traffic and external spaces prone to wet conditions.

COST There is huge variation here depending on the material. Prices can range from £70-£120 per m² (installed). Concrete blocks are budget-friendly, while natural stone versions will be a more expensive option.

Essential Advice: 10 Top Tips For Building a Garage: Planning, Costs & Design

Driveway Materials: What’s the Best Driveway Surface Material for Your Project?

Bradstone Woburn Rumbled block paving driveway offers a gorgeous weathered and mottled effect which has plenty of character

Tarmac Driveways

Tarmac is made using what most of us call macadam – broken stones of even size, bound with tar or bitumen. Tarmac offers a strong and even surface that is flat, smooth and resilient. It is a popular choice for homeowners building their driveway, as it offers a simple and clean finish – but this basic aesthetic means it is not the most beautiful to look at.

Pros: Tarmac will provide a comfortable and smooth drive with low-maintenance requirements. It is ideal for parking cars as it can withstand heavy weights, and offers some resistance to skidding.

Benefits of tarmac driveways: This is a flexible material, so it can adapt to different weather conditions, making it a sound driveway material in both hot temperatures and icy conditions. Tarmac is also recyclable – when it reaches the end of its lifespan, it can be recycled and reused in new asphalt projects. It’s best for self builders looking a for simple, cost-effective driveway material solution with a quick installation.

COST Look to budget approximately £45 per m², but allow for an additional £60 per m² for excavation during installation.

TOP TIPS Using driveway materials to add interest

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, 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 a landscaping scheme that features 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.

More Ideas: Driveway Ideas: How to Add Kerb Appeal to Your Home’s Entrance

Imprinted Concrete Driveways

Also known as pattern imprinted or stamped concrete driveways, this is a decorative solution that involves creating a textured or patterned surface on freshly poured concrete. It allows self builders or renovators to achieve the appearance of high-end paving materials, such as flagstones, while still benefiting from the durability and cost-effectiveness of concrete.

Pros: Unlike individual blocks or pavers that may sink over time, imprinted concrete maintains a smooth and even surface. This option is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear.

Benefits of imprinted concrete driveways: There is flexibility in choice with this driveway material and you can achieve a wide range of patterns, textures, and colours, too. Because it is a solid surface, it minimises the spaces where weeds could grow, making imprinted concrete a low-maintenance driveway material. It’s best for anyone on a budget who wants to create an attractive pattern with a smooth surface.

COST Including materials and labour, this can range from £60-£100 per . At the lower end of that scale, you’re looking at a basic product without complex patterns or additional features.

CLOSER LOOK Designing a garage

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.

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.

Driveway Materials: What’s the Best Driveway Surface Material for Your Project?The charming Little Gloucester garage from Oakwrights features oak double ledged and braced garage doors with black metal detailing and handles. The double-height garage is part of Oakwrights’ Room above Garage range; a customisable green oak frame design with the option to include dormer windows, rooflights and your choice of roof covering for additional character

Many oak and timber frame companies also build garages, working on a modular system so you can create your ideal spec or offer bespoke solutions.

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.

Resin Bonded Driveways

A resin bonded driveway is a surface that combines natural aggregates (such as gravel or stones) with a clear resin to create a visually appealing and durable finish. Homeowners can choose from various colours, sizes, and types of aggregates to achieve the desired driveway effect.

As with most driveway materials, proper installation is essential for the success of resin bonded driveways. This includes good base preparation, precise application of the resin, and even scattering of aggregates.

Driveway Materials: What’s the Best Driveway Surface Material for Your Project?

Oltco Recycle Bound is an innovative resin-bonded solution, made using waste plastic straws, drink bottles and food packaging. Each m2 consists of the equivalent of 3,000 plastic straws

Pros: Resin bonded driveways are known for their durability and ability to maintain a good-as-new aesthetic. The resin helps to bind the aggregates together, providing a robust surface, without loose gravel escaping. The bonded surface minimises weed growth, too.

Benefits of resin bonded driveways: The installation of resin bonded driveways is typically faster compared to some of the other popular options. Another benefit is that the resin cures quickly, allowing for a swift transformation. They’re sold as fully-permeable solutions that comply with Sustainable Urban Drainage System standards. It’s best for self builders looking for an attractive, easy-to-maintain finish with surface water drainage built-in.

COST The cost of resin bonded driveways can vary based on factors such as the type of aggregates used, the size of the area, and the complexity of the design. Budget for around £100-£150 per m².

Gravel Driveways

Gravel driveways are popular for their natural appearance, cost-effectiveness, and relatively simple installation – plus the pleasing sound of the crunch when driven on! They consist of loose aggregates, which can include various types of stones, rocks, or fragments, which are spread and compacted to create a stable surface.

Driveway Materials: What’s the Best Driveway Surface Material for Your Project?

With the help of Welsh Oak Frame, Matt and Sarah Switzer self built their dream 1.5 storey oak home in the essex countryside. The gravel driveway suits the cottage-style home perfectly while adding a level of security with its crunch sound when driven on. Photo: Nikhilesh Haval

Pros: Gravel driveways provide a natural and rustic appearance that can complement a range of architectural styles, from traditional to contemporary. This is a budget-friendly option with various natural stone shades available.

Benefits of gravel driveways: Gravel is a permeable material, allowing water to pass through and reducing surface runoff. This can be beneficial for managing rainwater and preventing puddles. The installation process for gravel driveways is generally simpler compared to more complex driveway materials. It involves preparing the base, spreading the gravel, and compacting it. Gravel driveways are best for those seeking a cost-effective solution with a natural and characterful feel.

COST The base price for a basic driveway, with standard gravel and minimal site preparation, starts from around £15 per . This can go up to more like £40 per m2 for more complex projects.

Essential Reading: 10 Steps to Your Dream Self Build Home

Main image: Marshalls’ Drivesys features a realistic antique cobble stone look with all the benefits of an engineered driveway system.

Words by Emily Brooks & Anna-Marie DeSouza.

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