A coordinated finish
For a sleek and contemporary look, choose the same surface for steps, pathways, edging and even a patio or terrace if the drive continues to the back of the house. Keep greenery simple with linear planting and neatly trimmed bushes for a modern scheme, or opt for wild flowers and foliage for a more relaxed, country style.
However, it is important to note that large swathes of the same surface can look bland, so consider ways to add interest such as creating curves, laying block paving in a pattern or fitting built-in lighting.
On the surface
Budget will be a major factor in your choice of materials, but you should also consider the age and style of your house. Gravel is one of the cheapest, easiest and quickest driveway surfaces. It’s fully permeable and comes in a range of shades.
Driveways should have three or four layers; each rolled and left for a day to settle. Gravel comes in different sizes but avoid the very small varieties as they will get stuck in tyres and are harder to walk on. Around 20 millimetres is a good option. It is prone to scattering unless contained by some form of edging. A gravel retention system will stabilise loose material and minimise movement.
Simon Orchard Garden Design installed gravel channels so water run-off drains into the plant beds. The granite setts and pebbles are from CED Stone.
Resin-bound gravel has a contemporary, professional finish. The mix of aggregate, stones and resin stays looking pristine and it is suitable for slopes. ‘This can be an expensive solution, but creates a softer feel while achieving a firm surface. It needs to be laid over a porous sub-base to be SUDS compliant,’ says David James, managing director at David James Architects & Partners.
Self-binding gravel has better stability than loose gravel. Its fine textured with clay particles and binds together when rolled.
KR Garden Design chose a tar and chip driveway by Axtell Surfacing for this sloped drive. Minimum order 100sqm, priced around £1,500 including installation.
A hard decision
Block paving can be laid in contemporary and traditional patterns. Concrete blocks are the cheapest option but coloured versions will fade over time. Clay and natural stone, although more expensive, wil retain their colour. Setts or cobbles are hard-wearing and come in natural stone such as granite or stone-effect.
Block paving can be permeable or impermeable, with the former being laid on a free draining base with wide joints around the blocks filled with fine aggregate to allow water to drain through. ‘Sloping driveways can be surfaced with concrete block paving,’ says Claire Blake, product manager at Marshalls. ‘Ensure that the sub base is good quality and level, and blocks have a suitable textured finish for improved traction.’
Contrasting stones make an eye-catching feature, as this project by Langlea shows. Black basalt imperial setts, £90.02 per sqm, and silver grey granite imperial setts, £73.48 per sqm, at CED Stone
A different approach
Poured concrete is strong, durable and easy to maintain. However, it can crack over time and look unsightly due to root growth and freezing conditions.
Control joints can combat cracking, but they’re visible and give the surface a large slab look rather than being smooth and expansive. Available in a range of colours, concrete can be stamped or imprinted with a decorative design. Permeable concrete has a porous open-cell structure to allow water to drain away.
Tarmac, although not as aesthetically pleasing, performs well in extreme temperatures, is suitable for slopes, can be laid over existing materials and is low maintenance.
Grass paving is a porous, eco-friendly surface. Grass is grown through an open cell matrix. Select a tough grass variety; good ground preparation is essential.
Landscape architect Barnes Walker used reclaimed Yorkshire stone paving in this driveway, with a quirky grass centre to link with the garden design