Friday, 3 December 2010

Designing a front driveway

Although I hate to say it, sacrificing the front garden for parking where parking space is scarce/non-existent near the house, is sometimes unavoidable and guaranteed to add value to a property. I dislike the idea of turning the front garden into a car park, but understand (from experience) the need for doing so.

Here are some suggestions for what makes a good driveway surface:-

1. Stone setts: these are blocks of stone usually 50 or 100mm square and either 50mm or 100mm deep. They are usually made from granite, basalt or sandstone. Setts are laid on a mortar bed on a compacted hardcore sub-base and pointed with a mortar joint. They make a fabulous driveway surface which is durable, attractive and will take most kinds of traffic. However, they are expensive to buy and lay and drainage will be required.

2. Block paving: block paviors are made of dyed concrete and come in various colours. There are two types of block paving. The first uses paviors of the same size 100mm x 200mm, laid in a regular pattern. The second uses a variety of sizes of pavior laid in a semi-random pattern. Block paving is laid on on sand over a compacted hardcore sub-base and the joints are filled with fine sand. They are cheaper than setts, and are permeable – water runs through the sand in the joints of the blocks. They are also easy to lift if you need to get access to, for example, a service pipe underneath the driveway.

3. Resin-bound/resin-bonded gravel: my absolute favourite. Gravel is either sprayed onto a resin layer thereby sticking it onto the surface, or mixed with resin and applyed to the surface with a trowel. It comes in loads of great colours and unlike loose gravel can be swept. It is hard wearing and gives a lovely natural looking surface. Resin-bound and resin-bonded gravel requires a hard edging – setts, bricks or block paviors are often used – and a sub-base. It is not the cheapest option but can be made self-draining.

4. Loose gravel: this is the cheapest and most often used solution for driveways. You can lay gravel directly onto the sub-soil, but I don’t recommend this. It should be laid on a sub-base over a membrane. A gravel driveway will also need a hard edging to stop the gravel moving onto the pavement and other garden areas. Gravel is self-draining, cheap, looks attractive if well maintained and gives a crunch when walked on that helps with security. It is hard to keep clean as you cannot sweep it and requires maintenance.

5. Stabilised gravel: this involves laying a structure comprising plastic honeycomb pockets which hold the gravel in place. The structure is made up of square sections which join together. Stabilised gravel requires a sub-base and an edging – railway sleepers will do, but setts, bricks, or paviours are also used. A membrane should be laid over the sub-base, but the best system available has a membrane attached to the base of each section avoiding the need for a separate membrane. This system gives a hard surface that can be walked on in heels and driven on by heavy vehicles – I know because I’ve just specified it for a Polo yard car park. It’s a little more expensive than just chucking down a bulk bag of gravel, but will last longer, look better, require less maintenance and is easier to rake clean than loose gravel.

There are other solutions, and a combination of two of the above (some gravel and some block paving, for example) can work well and help get a quality look at less cost. Don’t forget to check with the Local Authority before ripping up the front garden and putting in parking, it’s always worth getting a Permitted Development Certificate. If you want to avoid the SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems) legislation check the requirements and make sure your scheme is compliant otherwise you’ll need planning permission.

Another necessary expense it to get the local authority to drop the kerb so that you can access the driveway. If you do not do this people can still legally park in front of your new driveway.

One final plea, if there is space, include some planting to soften the scheme and keep the front of the house looking more like a garden and less like a car park.

Have a look at these front gardens in Woking, Surrey, Crowthorne, Berkshire and Chiswick, London.

If you need help designing your garden please visit my Web site to have a look at some of my work. All contact details are on the Web site.

No comments: