Rural Driveway Options

As you may have read in a previous post, we’ve been forced to research driveway options beyond our existing driveway. We share the driveway with two other homes, which means if those two homes want to put in another driveway surface besides our gravel driveway then that’s basically what we have to do whether we like it or not.

Having had this sprung upon us a few weeks ago, there hasn’t been much time to react. The neighbors were nice enough to give me a few days to research all of our options before we just knee jerk go and put in an asphalt driveway. So in addition to my day job and in lieu of spending excessive time with my kids I spent a week researching options and gathering estimates.

So now I’m sort of involuntarily a driveway expert, or at least as expert as I can be in a week and one PowerPoint presentation later.

Here’s what I found out…

Our Driveway – Existing Gravel

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Current driveway is an almost cement like finish, despite technically being a gravel driveway. It is prone to pot holes.

Our property came with a gravel driveway already leading to it from the road. For the purposes of the neighbors intent, we’re just looking at changing the driveway material along the first 1,700 feet (about 17,000 square feet for a 10′ wide driveway). There’s a shared utility easement that the driveway resides upon. Neighbors are each responsible for 1/3 the maintenance and upkeep, while maintaining the existing material (gravel).

The biggest complaints are dust, pot holes and gravel being pushed into the grass.

Personally I think it’s congruent with the rural atmosphere of the property and our country setting.

To maintain it we got quotes from a gentleman who has an apparatus on the back of his Jeep that “rakes” the driveway to get help prevent pot holes. Driving slow on the driveway helps prevent pot holes as well.

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The knives aren’t on the rig in this shot, but the bar lowers down with metal posts on the end and rakes the gravel driveway

My recommendation is that we try maintaining the driveway properly and professionally. In addition to the raking, we could hire a landscaper to cut the grass in the utility area, as well as put a definitive edge on the drive; possibly even a hardscape paver edging. Raking is $300-$500 per year. Not sure how much a landscaper charges to cut and trim during the growing season. A hardscape edge would be a couple grand I suspect.

Pros:

  • rural look
  • low cost to maintain
  • indefinite lifetime

Cons:

  • prone to pot holes
  • compacted surface is impervious can lead to flooding or erosion
  • difficult DIY maintenance

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Asphalt – This is the preferred method of our neighbors. Asphalt is made from oil and crushed limestone. It’s put down in two layers, #57 stone makes up a base coat of about 2.5″ and at top coat made from smaller stone creates a smooth ~1.5″ driving surface. The driveway has to be sealed ever year or two at a cost of about $1,500. Installation cost for our driveway is around $30K-$37K, or around $2 per square foot.

Another option is just to install the 2.5″ basecoat, which is only $25K. This saves money but results in a rougher surface because it’s just the #57 stones. And it’s not recommended for drives that will get truck traffic such as from UPS or FedEx trucks.

Asphalt can be salted in winter (which is bad for the environment) and it’s dark texture radiates heat year round – melting snow in the winter, and making it unbearable to walk on in the summer.

It’s important to know what kind of sealant the contractor puts down. Coal Tar is a highly toxic chemical that causes cancer in children and adults, as well hurt wildlife and contaminate water supplies. Click here for more info on sealants.

Pros:

  • relatively inexpensive
  • fairly low maintenance
  • 20 year lifespan

Cons:

  • oil based product
  • looks urban
  • impervious so it can lead to flooding and erosion

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Cement

Cement driveways are pretty ubiquitous in America. They last a long time and are virtually maintenance free. The down side is they’re expensive to install and repair.

We got two quotes from $50K up to $95K for our driveway, or about $3 per square foot.

With all the water on the surface of our land, we want to make sure that the cement is reinforced with mesh and possibly rebar. Thickness quoted was 4″ total.

Pros:

  • estate look and feel
  • no maintanence
  • 30 year lifespan

Cons:

  • expense
  • can’t drive on it for 7 days after install
  • impervious material prone to causing flooding and erosion

Chart from Angie’s List weighing pros and cons of asphalt and concrete:

Prosand Cons_ConcreteVsAsphalt.jpg

 

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Pervious Cement and Asphalt

These are identical to their non-pervious counterparts, but they leave out some of the stones in the mix to create voids that water can pass through. This makes the surfaces better for the environment by allowing water to pass through and not run off and cause flooding. The surface also acts as a filter to clean oil and auto residue through the material, filtering it before it gets to the ground water supply.

I could not readily find any local contractors for the materials though. And the biggest down side is you have to pressure wash it regularly to keep the voids open, otherwise they clog up.

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Grass Pavers

I love the look of these cast cement pavers. They have large voids that can be filled with pea gravel, and even allow grass to grow through. The biggest challenge here is the cost of $10 per square foot installed. Although for smaller areas they could be perfect, and even be a DIY project. Belgard Turfstone is the brand name we checked out.

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Pea Gravel

The one landscaper I talked to didn’t recommend cement or asphalt because we have so much surface water – which would but their lifespans in half potentially. His recommendation was edging the entire driveway and laying down pea gravel. Cost would be $7,000 year one, and then $7,000 a year to refresh. The cost seemed a little off but there’s no doubt the look is great. This would have to be investigated further. And there’s the potential that snow plows would trash it in the winter.

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Chip and Seal

This is when they just lay down the base coat of asphalt then finish it off with decorative stones. I love the look of this. The challenge is finding a contractor in northeast Ohio that will do it. Also there are concerns with the amount of surface water we get as to how well it would hold up. I think there’s a lot of stigma at play here. If it were up to me, it’s definitely an option I would consider versus ugly black asphalt. Cost was around $27K or $1.60 per square foot.

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Permeable Pavers

Just like grass pavers, but no voids for grass. Can be anything from stones, to bricks and cement blocks. Cost is probably around $10 per square foot. Looks super high end though.

Here’s an article from This Old House that walks you through the DIY install process for permeable pavers.

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image from NDS website of their grid product for stabilizing driveways while allowing water to flow through.

Permeable Driveway

Companies like CORE Driveway and NDS make these plastic grids from recycled plastic that interlock and create a substrate upon which you can place pea gravel or even let grass grow through. Cities often use this for parking areas or emergency response centers where there isn’t alway vehicle traffic, but it can support traffic if necessary.

This is the most environmentally responsible driveway in my opinion, because it allows water to pass through, grass to grow through it as well. Plastic lasts indefinitely so it shouldn’t really need replacing if maintained properly.

One installer recommended against it for anywhere where cars will turn around, as that might damage the grid over time.

It’s expensive at $44K in material alone, $2.60 per square foot. Though installation could be DIY, plus the cost of preparing the base and topping it off with gravel.

This is definitely what I would put on my driveway, and even the parking areas around the homestead.

My Recommendation

After I researched everything, my proposal was to implement a maintenance program on the driveway, including landscaping. Also we could explore the pea gravel solution, with possibly some hardscape edging. This is a very nice look and would cut down on dust.

Ultimately a gravel driveway is congruent with the rural look and feel of the properties. And it’s the material we all knew we were dealing with when we bought our various parcels. I believe it can be maintained economically and effectively with a comprehensive, competitively bid program.

If money was no object I’d go the permeable pavers or driveway grid solutions, which are the most environmentally responsible solutions.

Lastly hard surface wise, if we had to, my preference is cement because it would eliminate maintenance altogether and it would last 30+ years, longer than I’m likely to be alive. It can also be budgeted for long term repairs and will increase property values quite a bit.

Would be interesting to explore chip and seal some more too.

Asphalt just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me environmentally, economically or aesthetically. It still requires cost to maintain, looks ugly and cheap, and is resource intense with the possibly of poisoning the environment. I think it’s just a typical suburban “this is how everyone else does it” response to a problem, which lacks elegance or thoughtfulness. But in this day and age it’s not surprising at all.

Here are some additional links for your reference:

Why Should You Consider a Stormwater Friendly Driveway?

https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/sites/default/files/DPW/Stormwater/Driveways/SW%20Friendly%20Driveways_web_v2.pdf

Permeable Pavement

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DEP/water/permeable-pavement.html

Pros and Cons Asphalt vs. Concrete – Angie’s List

https://www.angieslist.com/articles/pros-and-cons-asphalt-vs-concrete-driveway.htm

Coal-tar sealcoats pollute nearby soil and water

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/coal-tar-sealcoats-release-pahs

University of Maryland Permeable Pavement Fact Sheet

https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/master-gardeners/Howardcounty/Baywise/PermeablePavingHowardCountyMasterGardeners10_5_11%20Final.pdf

Rainfall as a Resource – Connecticut Guide to Pervious Pavement

http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water/watershed_management/wm_plans/lid/what_is_permeable_pavement.pdf

California Pervious Pavement Design Guidance

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/stormwtr/bmp/DG-Pervious-Pvm_082114.pdf

Could Your Driveway be Poisoning Your Kids?

http://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2014/01/23/could-your-driveway-be-poisoning-your-kids/

Coal Tar Free America

http://coaltarfreeamerica.blogspot.com

Alternative Asphalt Sealants Getting Mixed Reviews (4/11 – Columbus Dispatch)

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/home_and_garden/2011/04/10/alternative-asphalt-sealants-getting-mixed-reviews.html

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Making Progress

Yay, we have cement in our basement!

We finished placing down the 4″ rigid insulation last night.  Also we installed our 2×4 thermal breaks in the foam pockets I’d previously cut out of our Superior Wall bays. As an added measure I also sprayed some expanding foam in the gaps between the 2×4’s and the blue foam in the walls.  I also sprayed around the base of the steel columns and any other misc. places I could see.   I didn’t go completely nuts with the spray foam but the little bit I did should help.  There were some gaps in the our insulation here and there but I doubt any of it will add up to anything meaningful. Afterall we’re dealing with constant temperature earth, then rigid and then 4″ of cement.  On top of that eventually is any furnishings like carpet, drywall, etc. plus more wall insulation.  The basement should be fine and toasty, or cool depending on the time of year.

I’ll share some photos from the day with you….

Here are the pressure treated 2x4's in the pockets I cut out of the foam walls. I used liquid nails to adhere the 2x4's. You can see how nicely everything is lining up on our level lines on the studs. 4" gravel, 4" foam, then 4" cement.

I ran out of daylight last night so I woke up and was the first person in line at Lowe’s to get some more spray foam.  I scampered out to the site and the cement contractor and pump truck were already set up by 7:30am.  I snuck downstairs and sprayed a few last-minute spots while they laid down the rebar on top of my rigid insulation.
 
 
 
 

Rough plumbing for the bathroom. We had to move the horizontal pipe up 4" after this picture so it'd clear the foam and cement. I'm not sure these pipes are all in the right place....probably something I should've checked before they poured the basement this morning.

Morning in Lowes parking lot. Mmmmm...pretty. Now back to work

Because our lot isn’t back filled yet and the general difficulty in getting to the main house, we had to employ a pump truck to pour the basement floor.  It was pretty neat to see.  I cement truck basically backs up to the pump truck and dumps the cement in to a hopper.   The pump truck then out reaches its long boom and pumps the cement into the basement through the stairwell.  The boom is operated via remote control.  We ended up needing two trucks worth of cement to do our basement.
 

Here's a good view of the job site with the pump truck and cement truck getting ready to pump cement into the basement.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The boom is controlled via remote control by the operator, standing to the left in this picture.

The floor was poured in about 1-2 hours.  By 10:30am they were finishing off the top surface of the cement and using a trowel to cut the expansion joints in the cement floor.  The cement flowed into the bays of the foundation walls, locking everything together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Will be interesting to see what kind of cracking develops in the floor over time as the house settles.

Christine brought the boys out to see the cement truck and pump truck. I thought the trucks were pretty neat to see up close too.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Picture of the poured basement. Very cool indeed. Starting to look and feel like a house. Eventually somewhere in there we'll have a play room, storage room, bath and maybe even a home theater with tiered seating.

Now that the foam is down and floor is poured, my work out at the site pretty much revolves around keeping things clean and orderly.  I took out two new shiny trash cans.  One for trash and the other for recyclables.  Eventually we’ll probably get one of those large dumpsters for construction waste.  I’ve got a call into a supplier that rents them and claims to recycle up to 80% of the contents.  In the meantime I’ve started separating our construction waste and setting it off to the side.  I’ve got  a lot of foam cut offs that I need to figure out what to do with.  Hopefully they can be recycled, if not they may end up being landfilled or maybe I can use them up in my studio floor.
 

We picked up these nice Rubbermaid cans at Home Depot or Lowes (I didn't actually go to buy them, the in-laws did, I just hauled them out to the site). They both fit in the VW. Not sure if anyone will use them but they make me feel better; at least I'm trying..

 
 The excavator starts back filling this weekend and we’ll be ready to go when the framers come back to start framing the first floor.  Then ProjectCam will really have something to take pictures of and the house will start taking shape 
 
 
 
 

I started separating the construction waste as well as storing the various building materials off to the side. Backfilling starts soon so I want to make sure things are organized.