Choosing the right driveway material can be tough, especially when you have to take into account many different factors -- price, durability, appearance, maintenance requirements, and more. While concrete driveways are still one of the most popular choices for residential and commercial properties, other excellent options are available today. Asphalt is another popular choice thanks to its affordability and ease of installation, while brick provides a unique option that's perfect for upscale homes in established neighborhoods. Here are the pros and cons for each type of driveway material so you can choose what works best for your property.
Concrete is a great option for homeowners who want a clean, streamlined look that won't go out of style. While it's more expensive than asphalt and requires occasional sealing, concrete is the best choice if you want durability and longevity from your driveway.
The Pros of Concrete:
- Durable: Unlike asphalt, concrete is resistant to weather and won't crack or bend with changes in temperature. Additionally, it's extremely strong and will last for decades without any need for maintenance.
- Resistant to wear and tear: The best material if you frequently find yourself on your driveway (or if you have a lot of visitors). Concrete is tough enough that it can handle cars, trucks, and even semi-traffic without showing any signs of wear.
- Simple upkeep: Just like asphalt driveways, concrete can be easily sealed regularly to protect the material from outside elements like acid rain and dirt. While sealing is undoubtedly needed with asphalt, too, this is something you'll want to do more often with concrete since the pores in the material are larger.
- Style options: While just about any color of stained concrete is popular today; some homeowners prefer to add a personal touch with stamped concrete. By using a custom design or pattern on the surface, you can add stylish flair to your driveway at a low cost.
The Cons of Concrete:
- Price: Because it's so durable and long-lasting, professionals charge more for labor and materials on concrete driveways than asphalt due to the special equipment needed. The good news is that once you've paid for installation, there isn't much need for upkeep or repairs unless absolutely necessary -- all thanks to the incredibly strong material.
Asphalt is a great option for homeowners on a budget who want the convenience of an all-in-one solution. Since it's extremely flexible and requires very little maintenance, companies can install asphalt at a lower cost than many other materials.
The Pros of Asphalt:
- Price: When you consider how long it lasts (20+ years) and its ease of installation, asphalt is decidedly one of the most affordable driveway solutions available today. Concrete might be less expensive initially, depending on where you live or what kind of shape your property is in when you start, but over time the price difference really adds up.
- Strength: Unlike concrete, asphalt can bend with temperature changes without showing any signs of wear or damage to the surface.
- Durability: Since asphalt is flexible, it can withstand impact from cars and trucks without cracking or breaking apart. Additionally, the surface is easy to add on top of (such as with new paving) if needed in the future.
The Cons of Asphalt:
- Appearance: Unlike concrete and brick, asphalt has a lower visual appeal due to its flat color and texture. While some people like the sleek look, others find it too drab and boring for their desired property aesthetic.
- Ease of installation: While do-it-yourself homeowners can easily knock out an asphalt driveway on the weekend, professionals charge more than they would on other types of jobs since it requires less skill and special equipment than concrete does.
- Repair and upkeep: Because the material doesn't bend or flex with temperature changes, asphalt needs to be repaired more often than concrete due to cracks and other damage caused by extreme heat and cold. This is especially true for anyone who lives in a region that sees significant fluctuations throughout the year (such as those near the coast). Additionally, there's no need to seal asphalt as you do with concrete since it has fewer pores and, therefore, a lesser risk of damage from things like acid rain.
While brick driveways are almost always installed by professionals, this timeless material offers homeowners a simple yet elegant look that will never go out of style. Plus, brick is an ideal option if you don't want to do any repairs or upkeep, as it requires absolutely no maintenance.
The Pros of Brick:
- Appearance: The beauty and durability of brick has made it a popular choice for driveways, sidewalks, and other outdoor features for decades. Though you can get the look in asphalt or concrete today (with stamped or stained materials), nothing quite beats the classic aesthetic of brick.
- Durability: A strong material that will last forever with little to no wear, brick is an ideal choice if you want something traditional yet timeless on your property.
- Ease of installation: While cost varies by region and how much work needs to be done on your property before installation begins, most people pay around $8-$12 per square foot for this kind of driveway job (though prices can go much higher depending on the kind of brick, the driveway design, and the number of man-hours required to complete installation).
- Price: A strong contender with asphalt due to how long it lasts (30+ years), brick is often less expensive upfront than concrete since you don't have initial installation fees.
The Cons of Brick:
- Appearance: While most people love the look of brick over asphalt or concrete, if your property doesn't have a uniform level surface, then this may not be practical for your needs. For example, bricks tend to stand out when installed over an uneven lot that hasn't been properly graded beforehand -- especially at basement entrances where steps are necessary. However, pavers are another popular choice in this case.
- Durability: Brick can crack or chip over time if not properly installed on a uniform surface, leaving the driveway susceptible to drainage problems over time (especially in heavy rain). Additionally, dirt and grime can get caught between bricks due to a lack of smoothness (which means that maintaining your brick is even more essential than with other materials).
- Elevation: If you live somewhere with steep grades, you're going to need some extra equipment and possibly a crane service since bricks are very heavy and it will be difficult for one person to lift and place them alone (this is especially true near slopes and downspouts).
While gravel is the most traditional of driveway materials, it isn't as popular as asphalt or brick due to how much maintenance is required. Generally speaking, gravel lasts somewhere between 5-10 years before you'll need to top up your material with more loose stones.
The Pros of Gravel:
- Appearance: A natural option that's perfect for those who want something more earthy and wild-looking on their property, gravel doesn't have the same kind of uniform look as concrete or asphalt, so it can be a nice way to stand out from the crowd if you're tired of seeing everything look the same across town. Plus, this type of material helps your driveway blend better into your landscaping needs since stones are one unit rather than multiple pieces of materials.
- Durability: A good choice for areas with heavy rain or snow, gravel will withstand most weather conditions better than other materials on the market today. It won't crack or chip as easily as brick during cold months and is usually acceptable to drive on within a few hours of large storms passing through your area, provided that you have enough material to last long term.
The Cons of Gravel:
- Appearance: As mentioned before, gravel isn't an ideal choice if you'd prefer something more uniform on your property -- or if your property is sloped since stones are difficult to work within this regard. Depending on what kind of stone you get (size/weight), some people also complain about dust problems over time which can be a nuisance -- especially if you value your privacy and keep some windows open while cars are parked in the driveway during certain parts of the year.
- Durability: Even though some gravel driveways can last up to 10 years, they aren't always ideal since stones will still break down over time given enough traffic (meaning that it may not be wise to install on steep slopes or above basements if you want something more permanent). Plus, stones tend to get caught between tires, which means that dirt and grime get pushed into the cracks of your driveway with every passing car (even after sweeping).
If you've ever seen a European-style sidewalk on TV, then you're probably already familiar with how pavers can look like a driveway material. While there are many different types of paver materials which we'll go over later on, the main difference between them and gravel is that stones tend to be laid closer together and more regularly for a smooth finish (which means no dust problems).
The Pros of Pavers:
- Appearance: As mentioned before, pavers come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, so it's possible to get creative here if your property has some outdoor space available surrounding the driveway area. Plus, most types of stone aren't going to repel water like concrete or asphalt, so this type of material works well with properties that tend to get a lot of rain or snowfall.
- Durability: Paver stones can last anywhere from 15-25 years before needing to be replaced if they're installed properly, and the right type of stone is used for your area (gravel isn't as high quality, so it will typically only take about five years at most to start seeing cracks and chips appear -- and should be replaced after that since you won't always notice this stuff unless you're looking out for these types of things).
The Cons of Pavers:
- Appearance: Although there are some simpler options available here, pavers don't come in as many different shapes as gravel does, which could limit creativity depending on what kind of look you prefer. Plus, it's harder to make curves in areas with paver stones which could be a challenge if you want certain trees or plants near your driveway.
- Cost: Most people can't afford to have pavers installed on their entire property since the material itself isn't cheap -- especially when combined with additional costs for things like grading, concrete curbing, etc. That said, even though it may initially seem expensive, there are ways that you can get creative by mixing up different types of stone based on where they are located on your property (if you have some flat areas, then use flatter stones).
When it comes down to choosing the best driveway material for your house, there's no such thing as an absolute "best" choice since some properties will work better with one type of stone over another -- depending on availability, cost, and appearance. Be sure to research all the available options before choosing a new material for your driveway.