Choosing the Right Front Drive for Your Home

Creating a front drive from scratch may mean that you need to get planning permission for the new access from the public road, from your local authority. You will need permission if the access is onto a classified road, or likely to cause a traffic safety problem. If you are at all uncertain, it’s wise to double check with the local planning office.

Choosing A Drive

The choice of covering for a drive will probably be dictated by the character of the house and its location, whether it is traditional or contemporary, in town or country.

Some surfaces won’t work on a hill (for instance loose gravel) or very uneven ground (for instance brick paving). It’s worth comparing prices from several different specialist driveway suppliers, because this is an area where many people get thoroughly ripped off.

Drives take a lot of wear and tear, far more than paths only used by pedestrians, and specialist companies should have the skills to ensure a new drive will last.

Shingle Or Gravel

These come in various colours and sizes (from 6mm to 20mm). It has great advantages for security, because it makes a noise as you walk across it. However, it’s illegal to use shingle with new builds because wheelchairs have difficulty getting across it.

If it’s big enough shingle tends to stay where it is laid (use 18mm), whereas smaller grades tend to spray up when a car drives over them. Shingle or gravel are not good solutions for a sloping driveway unless you use concrete as a base, brush tar over it and roll the shingle on top, brushing off the excess. This will look like a shingle drive but won’t slip to the bottom of the slope or spray over the grass.

Another variation is self-binding gravel, which is cheap, low maintenance and doesn’t spray up easily. It’s most suitable for a country house.

Tarmacadam

This is an excellent, long-lasting, tidy solution. Red tarmac can look good too, and comes in a number of shades, but is a little more expensive than the usual black.

Surfacing contractors usually charge by area, but on a small job such as a drive, will probably charge by the hour for a team of four men. Use a reputable contractor who will lay the drive properly, so that it will last well. A badly laid drive will soon crack and quickly show signs of wear and tear.

Pattern Imprinted Concrete (PIC)

This has numerous finishes and colours and can look like stone, brick, tiles, cobbles or even decking, to name just a few of them. Bear in mind that it is a big job to lift concrete once it has been laid, so if anything goes wrong with drainage or gas pipes running underneath the drive, you can be in for problems.

PIC can look great, but will need maintenance. Weeds will grow in the joints if they are left unattended and it should be regularly swept so lichen doesn’t get a hold. This drive covering must be laid properly or it will sink or crack, or the surface may flake.

I would always recommend that you hire a specialist company and check out their previous work. Costs can vary wildly so it is also sensible to get several quotes before deciding which company to use.

A badly laid drive will soon crack and quickly show signs of wear and tear!

Brick Paving

This is a more expensive solution than many other types of driveway, because it is much more labour intensive to lay.

Because bricks are not always exactly the same dimensions, laying them is fiddly and therefore time consuming and expensive.

Laid in patterns, bricks can look lovely, for example, herringbone angled at either 90 degrees or 45 degrees stretcher bond, basket bond or interlocking patterns that use different colours. The colour of an individual brick can be a monotone or it can be multicoloured, giving a softer effect.

The choice is bewildering, but let the character of the house and its environment guide you towards making the right one. Clay bricks are very hard wearing, they can last for centuries and their colour will not fade. Brick paths are prone to moss and can get very slippery so need occasional cleaning with a high-pressure hose. In time, you may also need to do a bit of weeding to tidy up between the pavers.

Blocks

While bricks are mostly square or rectangular, blocks come in a wide variety of shapes. Bear in mind that blocks don’t last as long as bricks, but they will still give you a good twenty years.

There are also special shaped pavers and endless variations in colour to choose from, although the colour will gradually dim in the sunshine. The different production process for blocks and bricks make bricks the more expensive option. Blocks are usually exactly the same dimensions, so laying them is less time consuming and labour intensive than bricks.

Crushed Limestone (scalpings)

These give a rougher finish than the other options but is a good solution for a traditional country driveway. Roll the scalpings and cover with sand or gravel.

Hoggin

This is a mixture of clay, sand and shingle. Once it is put down and rolled, it provides an extremely hard finish. It also has the benefit of being very cheap.

Most drives that crack up soon after being laid have inadequate foundations. Ask your local building regulations officer for advice on the foundations that are required.

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