Concrete and asphalt are by far the most popular surfaces for driveways. Both are long-lasting materials that are relatively economical. An asphalt driveway averages about $3 to $5 per square foot installed, and the average lifespan is 12 to 20 years with proper care. The costs to install a concrete driveway average about $6 per square foot, nationally, and it may last 40 years with good maintenance.
But both these materials are a little boring. If you are tired of the usual fare when it comes to driveways, maybe it's time to start thinking about using driveway pavers on your next project.
All paver driveway installations begin with the installation of a good base, typically composed of compacted gravel and sand. But some people are surprised to learn that there are three distinctly different types of pavers, each with their own merits and drawbacks.
Advantages of Pavers
Pavers offer many more options for color, design, and overall appearance. If you choose the right pavers and install them to professional standards, you're sure to the curb appeal of your home.
For environmentally-conscious homeowners, pavers also offer the advantage of being permeable. Rather than allowing rainwater (and driveway oils and salts) to wash off into the street and into watersheds, the sand-filled joints in pavers allow water to soak down into the ground rather than washing away.
Brick pavers are formed from molded and baked clay. A brick paver driveway can last for several decades, but this is still the most fragile of the paver options, as weather and wear can eventually cause clay bricks to flake and disintegrate. Brick pavers have a strength rating of about 12,000 pounds per square inch, making this one of the stronger options. A brick paver driveway can last 25 years with proper upkeep.
Cost: $10 to $30 per square foot, including materials and labor.
Perhaps the most popular option for paver driveways is to use pavers that are made from concrete molded into the shapes of bricks. Concrete paver driveways usually have better longevity than clay bricks; lifespans of 25 to 50 years are common. Concrete pavers are slightly less strong than brick paver driveways, although their 8,000 pounds-per-square-inch strength rating is perfectly sufficient for normal use. Concrete paver driveways are stronger than solid concrete slabs.
Cost: $30 to $40 per square foot, including materials and labor.
When paving materials are made from blocks of natural quarried stone, they are known as cobblestones. This is by far the most durable of all paver options; cobblestones should be good for at least a century, and even then it is usually the driveway base that gives way; the cobblestones themselves are largely indestructible. A cobblestone driveway is extremely attractive, but the surface is somewhat rough which may limit how you use the driveway. You can't play basketball on a cobblestone driveway, for example.
Cost: $40 to $70 per square foot, including materials and labor.
DIY or Pro Installation?
While paver driveways typically are considerably more expensive than concrete or asphalt, intrepid DIYers can radically cut those costs by doing the work themselves. While the work can be time-consuming and physically demanding, it is not complicated to install pavers yourself. The process looks like this:
- Lay the base: Most installations use crushed stone as a base material.
- Build edging forms: Plastic or metal edging is used to create a form for holding the pavers.
- Compact and level the surface: A motorized plate compactor or hand-held tamper is used to compress and flatten the gravel base, and a layer of sand is added and flattened out to form the base for the pavers.
- Place the pavers: The pavers sit directly atop the sand surface. Ornamental patterns can be created through varying arrangements of pavers. This is the most difficult part of the job since precise leveling is required as placement proceeds.
- Fill in the paver gaps: Mason’s sand is now used to fill in the gaps between pavers. A plate compactor is used to vibrate the pavers to fully pack the joints with sand.
- Seal the surface: Many types of pavers require sealing to protect the materials from stains and weather. Sealing may need to be repeated every few years.
If you plan to hire a contractor to handle the job, it helps to do some homework first. Never hire one without interviewing several and receiving bids. Most contractors will do an estimate for free. Remember that the lowest cost is not necessarily the best choice. If you get one estimate that is substantially lower than others, it should raise a red flag. Customer satisfaction is the best indicator that a contractor is worth hiring.