After a long workout, dinner with the in-laws, or business trip, pulling into your driveway can trigger instant relief. Why? Because it means that you’re finally home. The day, however good or bad, is now behind you and it’s time to unwind, celebrate, or just do nothing.
Your driveway should reflect that wonderful transition home. And, in today’s modern world, you have many options when building or reconstructing your driveway. To help you achieve the best sense of “home,” here are the basics of 4 common driveway materials. (Please note cost estimates don’t necessarily include labor.)
4 popular driveway materials
- Cost: $3 to $5 per square foot
- Maintenance: Moderate (resealing every 2 to 4 years)
- Lifespan: 20 years
Pros: Asphalt holds up well against drastic temperature changes. Its dark hue preserves heat, aiding efforts to melt snow. Recycled asphalt’s another option that’s typically cheaper than a brand-new installation. And even when repairs are needed, recapping (adding a fresh layer over the original foundation) is a relatively quick process.
Cons: While it’s low cost to install, asphalt calls for regular upkeep, so resealing every 2 to 4 years is recommended. This shields the surface from weather erosion and chemicals like car fluids. Other things to watch out for include potential drainage issues and pesky plants that cause surface indentations.
Look out for drive-by driveway offers. The National Asphalt Pavement Association warns against accepting someone’s offer to pave your driveway the same day. They might emphasize a steep discount using “leftover” asphalt from another driveway job, but the material’s likely too low in temperature to be effective. It’s better to shop around, collect multiple bids, and be comfortable with your contractor to receive the best return on investment.
- Cost: $1 to $3 per square foot
- Maintenance: High (managing weeds, snow, and loose rocks)
- Lifespan: Potentially forever!
Pros: Relatively inexpensive and quick to install, gravel’s a great choice for many homeowners. It’s also an understated way to accent a variety of home styles. Plus, with the right installation and proper maintenance, a gravel driveway can last a lifetime.
Cons: Talk about high maintenance. For one thing, gravel creates dust. The loose rocks can get into your car, house, grass, garage, and even your shoes. Weeding can prove difficult, and refreshing the top layer is needed every 1 to 5 years. If you’re no stranger to snowfall, plowing can also be tricky and usually calls for an expert operator.
- Cost: $2 to $4 per square foot ($10 to $50 for pattern / color)
- Maintenance: Low (removing occasional stains)
- Lifespan: 30 to 40 years
Pros: It’s all in the name — concrete is solid! In general, major cracks shouldn’t be an issue. Design options range from a flat pave to a stamped, colored, or patterned finish. You can personalize in endless ways (and maybe even pretend you’re famous by sticking your hands in a discreet corner).
Cons: Stains are difficult to remove (think oil and tire marks), and the surface erodes easily when exposed to road salt. While major cracks aren’t likely, damage can be caused by freezing temps, installation missteps, and rampant tree roots. (Depending on your handiness level, cleaning, filling, and smoothing these cracks can be a relatively simple DIY project.)
- Cost: $5 to $50+ per square foot
- Maintenance: Moderate (replacing pavers as needed)
- Lifespan: 20+ years
Pros: Perhaps the sexiest of driveway types (or as sexy as a driveway can be), pavers are available in a variety of colors and shapes. Concrete pavers are lower cost while clay, brick, and natural stone can get pricey. But, if part of the driveway cracks, you can sometimes just replace the affected pieces instead of tearing up the entire driveway.
For the environmentally conscious, permeable (aka pervious) pavers allow the ground to absorb and clean rainwater, which takes some of the burden off sewer systems during heavy rainstorms. This also provides natural irrigation for your lawn.
Cons: Pavers are expensive to install and finding replacement pavers that match your original choice can be difficult. If you go with brick pavers, harsh weather can easily wear down the uneven edges.
Alternative driveway materials
If you wanted to stamp Lady Gaga’s face all over your driveway, you likely could. From glow-in-the-dark paving to crushed shells, the options are only limited by your imagination and, of course, your budget.
And if you’ve got money to blow, you might want to consider the almighty heated driveway. Make this investment and kiss shoveling goodbye forever.
Homeowners insurance might cover some driveway damage
Homeowners insurance policies vary widely on driveway coverage. Normal wear and tear typically isn’t covered, and damage due to natural disasters isn’t covered unless you have separate insurance for that specific incident, like flood insurance.
But, natural disasters aside, if a fallen tree or hailstorm tears up your driveway, your homeowners policy might provide coverage. Get a free homeowners quote from Esurance to see what coverage could work for you.