Building a driveway with sand, gravel or grass is an old alternative for paving that has been rejuvenated as landscapes go more eco-friendly. Instead of hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete, these permeable paving choices not only allow for better water penetration and easier repairs, but offer a whole assortment of decorative ideas. Paving with sand, gravel or grass might be the least expensive way to build a driveway.
The concept is simple. To build a driveway with sand, gravel or grass, you will want to construct a flat area with a solid base that can handle the heavy weight of cars and trucks. If you establish a firm sub-surface, these coverings will be long-lasting, easy maintenance and will absorb water so you will be less likely to cause the erosion problem seen with water sheeting off of solid surfaces like concrete.
You can construct a proper support with deep excavation and layers of road base, heavy gravel or another firmly packed drainage material used as a foundation. New building technology now offers a selection of cast polyethylene forms that allows additional support for containing your sand, gravel or grass without having to create a deep foundation. You can buy these forms and set them into a flexible network that works as a network of light-weight, connected containers for your fill. The network will distribute the weight of heavy vehicles evenly and will eliminate problems with sinking or crushing.
Although there are different designs available, most of these prefabricated forms are thin and are seen on the surface for approximately 10% of the overall area. Once your cover material is applied, they are not easily visible at all. The grid-work keeps gravel and sand from scattering. These prefabricated grid forms are ideal for growing grass or other living ground covers, too. They absorb enough weight to protect the roots of grass yet are low enough to allow for easy mowing.
The pre-cast forms themselves are perforated and light. That makes them easy to install and ideal for drainage, which, unlike cement and asphalt, will not plug up the landscape with dense material. They are even portable enough that you can dig them out and change the design of your driveway in the future. In short, by building a permeable driveway with sand, gravel or grass using the new containment forms, you are minimizing labor and maintenance while offering a much more eco-friendly surface that should reduce erosion problems and avoid water waste. You also will be adding much more flexibility to your designing choices and saving considerably on construction costs. Of course, you can skip using the forms and dig deeper to add your roadbase, broken recycled concrete, or gravel for a foundation. This may prove less expensive but more labor intensive. Either way, you will still have all the benefits of building a driveway with sand, gravel or grass.
Building with permeable materials will look clean and natural and will fit into just about any style landscape design. You can also build sand, gravel and grass pathways, play areas, and patios using the same concepts and materials.
The are many materials you can use in addition to sand, gravel or grass and the ideas for designing are limited only by your imagination. Use permeable paving in a driveway in the form of prefabricated blocks, stone, gravel or even sand, decomposed granite or recycled crushed glass. You can use all one type of permeable paving or mix materials. You can create designs and patterns or pave it all the same. Consider replacing your lawn with decorative areas of permeable materials for easy maintenance and an artistic effect.
So long as you create a strong, stable foundation for your driveway, the top three to five inches can be covered with the more attractive medium. All materials used in the installation of permeable paving for a driveway allow for air space which will let water to penetrate into the ground below. It’s easy to make the top layer decorative by designing in pictures, designs and patterns. Use prefabricated forms to hold gravel and smaller particulates in place, or contain areas of different colors or textures with block or stone.
There is no limit to the patterns and designs you can use for your driveway. Check out some of the companies offering commercial or residential installations to see if any of their designs appeal to you. Look at ideas used in books, magazines or the internet. Or simply draw out your own driveway designs on paper. Planning ahead will make success more likely.
Remember to keep continuity in your color choices. Select colors that echo your house color theme and any garden decor or structures like fencing or walls. Try to blend your colors and textures with that already exist. If, for example, you have a brick walkway or brick facing on your house, you might want to carry through the idea by using bricks as permeable paving in your driveway as an edging or in the design itself. If you already have a lot of brick in your house, don’t do the whole permeable driveway in brick or the effect will be too overwhelming. But maybe use just a touch of brick to outline the edges.
One last suggestion: keep your designs or patterns simple. A large area like a driveway can offset the look of the house nicely, but you don’t want it to be the focal point of your landscape. Small details are likely to get lost, and designs that are too busy will only look confusing.
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