They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. Usually the first thing someone encounters when visiting a house for the first time is the driveway. A poorly maintained or unpaved driveway not only makes a poor impression, it also can cause major issues related to weather as a heavy rain or snow could turn a dirt driveway into one big mud puddle. In order to avoid these problems inherent to a dirt driveway, various methods of paving, or installing a hard, permanent surface, have been developed.
- Asphalt - this method of paving is done by mixing bitumen, which is a thick, sticky petroleum product with small gravel particles to create what is referred to as asphalt concrete. This mixture is poured onto the driveway then flattened with a roller to form a solid, durable surface. With proper maintenance, which consists primarily of sealing cracks, an asphalt driveway can be expected to last thirty years or longer.
- Concrete - similar to asphalt in that it is a mixture of gravel and a binding agent, concrete is typically a mix of a lime-based cement, gravel and water that can be poured into forms. As it dries, the concrete hardens to a stone-like material. The benefits include the ability to pour the concrete into precise shapes as needed and to put a smooth surface finish on it. Although it is considerably more expensive than asphalt, it also has a much longer life expectancy and can last for decades with minimal maintenance required. A variation of this type of driveway is stamped concrete which uses stencils pressed into wet concrete to give the illusion of being brick or stone.
- Exposed aggregate - this method is also based on the use of a binding agent and aggregate gravel. However, instead of mixing the two, this method consists of laying down the binding agent and then pressing a layer of aggregate into the top of it. The result is a sealed, non-slip surface. The biggest benefit of this method is the option of using different colored aggregates to customize the color of the driveway.
- Interlocking Pavers - this method is actually similar to one of the oldest forms of paving which is cobblestones. The difference is that instead of using natural stones laid next to each other, this method uses concrete "pavers" that have a smooth surface and uniform shape to fit tightly together to form a smooth decorative finish.
While many different options exist to pave a driveway, consulting a paving professional is the best way to determine which method best fits an individual situation and budget.