How to choose the best driveway material

Make the right selection for your home, from crunchy gravel to smooth paving, with this in-depth guide

By Caroline Rodrigues | 16 April 2021

The exterior design and landscaping, including the driveway material, is almost as crucial as the house itself. ‘Access and connection to highways are a core part of planning permission,’ says Charlie Luxton of Charlie Luxton Design. ‘The journey from driveway to front door to entrance hall is an important part of the story. It’s your first impressions of the house.’

Do I need planning permission for a driveway?

Planning permission is not usually necessary if a driveway uses permeable paving, allowing water to drain through it. Or if the water flows into a lawn or border to drain away. A Sustainable Drainage System (SUDS) compliant driveway prevents excess water adding to the pressure on the national drainage network. You will have to apply for consent if you decide against a permeable system and the area is larger than 5sqm. Check with your local authority as other restrictions may apply. For access across a footpath, you’ll need permission to drop the kerb.

Research your driveway material options

It’s important to take time to research all the materials options. ‘Eighty per cent of the cost relates to the bits you don’t see – the sub-base and ground preparation. Only 20 per cent goes on paving or other driveway materials,’ says Anna Hampshire, from Marshalls. ‘An upgrade to the surface may have less impact on the overall cost than you think. But it will have a big impact on the finish and style.’ The base is usually 100-150mm of hardcore. Factor in extra funds for specialist installation or complex laying patterns.

Go for gravel

Gravel has a lot to offer as a driveway material. It’s water permeable and has a natural look. It includes various stones including tough granite and comes in colours from gold to grey. Traditional loose gravel is usually put down in three or four layers. Each one is rolled and left for a day to settle. It’s not the ideal choice for steep slopes or areas that get heavy snowfall. To keep it in place, you can fit a cellular plastic grid. ‘This allows you to drive over the gravel without compacting it. It stops the stones moving when you turn on it,’ says Rob Pollard of RX Architects. Also, the stones need occasional raking and topping up from time to time.

Architect Charlie Luxton project with gravel driveway at St Eval, Cornwall.

A driveway created by Charlie Luxton Design. Reclaimed granite setts create a clear boundary.