The question: We’ve been living with a dirt driveway for a while now. We like the natural look of it, but it requires a lot of maintenance. It’s time to upgrade. What are my options?
In terms of both design and functionality, driveways are often afterthoughts. But a driveway is more than just a point of entry to your property. It can enhance — or detract from — your home’s “curb appeal.” A driveway is a focal point that the rest of your landscaping is built around. Plan carefully so it complements the other elements of your setting, or you may end up with a driveway that clashes with the surrounding landscape.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with your driveway design, too. There are many aesthetic options for customers and contractors to consider.
One of the most popular choices is crushed clam shells. The pearly color of the shells is a classic Cape Cod look. This material is one of the least expensive options, but it’s also more difficult to maintain. Prepare to spend some time every spring replenishing the shells or at least raking them. Over time, weeds and grass will grow through the surface.
A shortage of clam shells has been an unexpected side effect of the Covid-19 crisis. We are now dealing with that, with projects and orders for shells on hold.
Stone provides another low-key option, in shades of tan, gray, and earth tones. Popular choices include the three-quarter-inch native stone and the three-eighths-inch native stone, which is a little bit easier on bare feet than the three-quarter size. Another option is three-quarter-inch bluestone. One special order that’s recently become popular is a mix of the three-quarter native stone and shells. The earth tones of the stone blend well with the white shells to create a natural look.
With both stones and shells, the snowplow is bound to scrape some up in the winter. Talk to your plow person about moving the plow two inches higher than the surface to minimize damage. Of course, an asphalt driveway requires the least maintenance and is easiest to plow in the winter. As a petroleum-based product, it’s also the least environmentally friendly option.
Perimeter edging is another important consideration for keeping the material you’ve chosen contained on the driveway. Steel edging is a simple approach; cobblestones add character.
After you’ve chosen materials, proper installation begins with a thorough scraping and removal — going down a good four to six inches — of the existing surface with a machine. Next, a hardening material is spread and compacted to ensure proper stability over time. This step is really important, as you are creating the foundation of your driveway. It’s also essential here to create the proper elevations and pitch for water runoff.
Don’t forget about decorative finishing touches, like cobblestone pavers or stamped concrete, to put your personal mark on the project.
Once you’ve considered the design elements of your own driveway, you’ll notice them around the neighborhood. Make that part of your planning process and give it a little time. A well-designed driveway is a home improvement you’ll benefit from for years to come.
This week’s Dovetail Joint question is answered by Corey Brundage, founder of Brundage Site Work in Eastham. Keep sending your questions and we’ll find more good answers.