What Is The Best Material to Use for Your Driveway?

A gravel driveway

If you are considering installing a new driveway this summer, you may be wondering what driveway materials are popular right now. But what is the best driveway material?

Driveways are an essential focal point of your home, and how you design it can say a lot about you. A driveway is the first thing that greets visitors when they come to your house. You want it to be impressive and reflect your personality, but it also needs to be safe and practical. 

When choosing what material to use for your driveway, there are several things you should keep in mind: cost, maintenance, durability, longevity, and appearance. 

There are a variety of materials available on the market that will give you different advantages depending on your situation. Here is an overview of the most popular options:

Blacktop Driveways

Blacktop is the most commonly used driveway material in the US because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to install. However, it does require some maintenance and upkeep which can raise the overall cost. 

  • Cost- A new blacktop driveway costs about $5-7 per square foot installed for flat unobscured land making it one of the most affordable paving options. However, maintenance costs should be factored in; this type of material will need to be sealed every few years which runs about $3-7 per square foot.
  • Maintenance- Blacktop is easy to clean, simply spray it down with a garden hose a few times a year. However, it will need to be sealed every 3 to 5 years for optimum longevity, and occasional cracks will need to be repaired. 
  • Durability- Blacktop is fairly durable due to its flexibility, however, cracks are almost guaranteed. It stands up well to snow, ice, and salt but wayward tree roots can break through blacktop pretty easily. 
  • Longevity- 15-20 years with proper care and maintenance. 
  • Appearance- Blacktop gives a cookie-cutter look to your driveway. With no choice of colors, stains, or etching, your blacktop driveway will look exactly like every other across the country. 
  • Pros- Relatively inexpensive, flexible, durable, and well-suited for cold climates. 
  • Cons- Requires maintenance, relatively short life span, not very eco-friendly since it’s composed of oil and petroleum by-products, gets very hot, soft, and sticky in the heat so it’s not a great choice for hot climates. 

Concrete Driveways

Concrete driveways are gaining popularity due to their durability and design versatility. Made with a mixture of various types of stone, lime, and cement, concrete provides a smooth surface for driveways, walkways, and patios around your home. It’s also a great way to increase your property value

  • Cost- Professional installation of a concrete driveway will cost anywhere from $4-10 per square foot depending on your location. It’s slightly more expensive than blacktop or gravel but significantly less than brick or cobblestone despite having a considerably longer lifespan. 
  • Maintenance- Concrete can be virtually maintenance-free, however applying a yearly sealant can extend its lifespan, especially in snowy climates. 
  • Durability- Concrete is strong enough for heavy vehicles and durable enough to last a lifetime, even in harsh climates. However, cracks can happen and should be repaired. 
  • Longevity- a well-tended concrete driveway can last up to 50 years meaning it might be the only driveway you ever need to install in your home. 
  • Appearance- Plain concrete is fairly standard-looking, but skilled installers can color your concrete or add designs through stamping or broom-brushing for endless unique looks. Tiles can also be set into concrete for a decorative touch. 
  • Pros- Strength, durability, low-maintenance, very long lifespan, stays cool even in hot climates, eco-friendly.
  • Cons- Can crack in cold climates, requires professional installation.

Gravel Driveways

Gravel driveways are comprised of small loose rock or stone mixed with bits of sand and clay. Gravel driveways are popular on rural properties with a lot of land because it’s relatively inexpensive to gravel even long driveways and its texture provides great traction over hilly terrain. 

  • Cost- A basic gravel driveway ranges from $1-3 per square foot, making it the cheapest driveway material available. 
  • Maintenance- Although gravel driveways don’t crack or need to be sealed, they still require a bit of upkeep. They should be regraded once a year and filled in as needed when holes or bare areas appear. Gravel scatters and should be raked back into position frequently. 
  • Durability- Gravel holds up well through all weather and drains rainwater naturally, however it can make snow shoveling and plowing difficult.
  • Longevity- A gravel driveway can technically last a lifetime- but only because you must add new gravel every few years. 
  • Appearance- There are several types of gravel that work well for driveways so there are a few different shapes and earth-tone colors you can choose from to complement your home. 
  • Pros- A very low-cost option when you have a long driveway, great traction through snow or over hills, doesn’t require professional installation.
  • Cons- Must be raked, leveled, and refilled regularly, makes snow removal difficult, not permitted in some urban areas. 

Brick Paver Driveways

Brick driveways are an elegant and classic choice for any home. Unlike bricks used to build homes, brick driveways are made of smooth clay brick pavers. They are modern and durable, but look as if they could have been in place for hundreds of years. Brick gives your home a high-end luxury look and it’s reflected in the price tag for your new driveway. This material is expensive, but it can last for decades so it may be worth it if you have the budget available.

  • Cost- Standard brick driveways run about $10-20 per square foot with professional installation, although there are high-end brick choices that can drive this price up considerably.
  • Maintenance- Clay brick driveways require quite a bit of upkeep to keep them looking great. These driveways should be weeded regularly as plants can grow up from between the pavers. The driveway should be washed a few times a year and sealed after each wash to prevent flaking and peeling. The space between bricks will need to be packed with sand or re-mortered depending on how they were installed. 
  • Durability- Brick is durable enough to withstand moderate traffic and a wide range of weather. 
  • Longevity- Brick driveways can be expected to last up to 25 years with typical use in moderate climates
  • Appearance- Brick pavers can be laid in various patterns and there are a few color choices but they’re usually limited to browns and reds.
  • Pros- A classic choice that complements any style of home, durable, and easy to repair. 
  • Cons- Expensive, requires extensive maintenance, limited color choices. 

Crushed Seashell Driveways

If you are looking for a truly unique driveway, consider using seashells. These driveways are laid similar to gravel but it uses crushed seashell waste from the seafood industry. While it’s not the most long-lasting driveway choice, this colorful material is a way to add a touch of beachy tranquility to your coastline home.

  • Cost- Along the coastline you can have a seashell driveway installed for about $5 per square foot, however, this price can be significantly higher further inland. 
  • Maintenance- Very low maintenance. Shells will need to be replenished every few years but other than that they don’t require much attention. 
  • Durability- Shells stand up well in warm climates. They crack and break under the weight of car tires, but that is to be expected. The pieces simply settle into place and provide better coverage. 
  • Longevity- Shells should be replenished every 1-5 years depending on the amount of use your driveway gets and the look that you desire. 
  • Appearance- If a relaxed beachy vibe is what you are going for, this is the driveway for you. Choose from a wide variety of colors shapes and sizes depending on the type of shells you choose. 
  • Pros- Can be inexpensive and low maintenance depending on where you live, provides great drainage, extremely eco-friendly.
  • Cons- Can be sharp under bare feet, needs to be replenished frequently, difficult for snow and ice removal, can be expensive if you live inland. 

Call Peak Builders & Roofers to Install your Concrete Driveway

As you can see concrete driveways give you the most bang for your buck in the Sand Diego area. This durable material can last a lifetime with proper care and it stays cool in the hot California sun. 

The experts at Peak Builders & Roofers know how to install your concrete driveway so that it’s stable, strong, and beautiful. We can even stamp, color, and broom-brush your concrete to give your all the modern style options. Call today to discuss your dream driveway remodel and see how we can work for you!