Cheapest way to make a driveway

Cheapest way to make a driveway

Recycled Crushed Concrete Driveway

Photo Courtesy of Lady Lee’s Home
Photo Courtesy of Lady Lee’s Home

If you’re not looking for anything particularly fancy, but really need to establish a driveway, consider this project from Lady Lee’s Home. Utilizing materials like recycled, crushed concrete, this driveway is ideal for a rural setting or an area that’s prone to heavy rains. Packed gravel does a good job of keeping muddy puddles at bay, giving you a beautiful concrete driveway that is always clean and trim.

The trickiest part of this project is sourcing the recycled concrete. Check Craigslist and call local concrete plants to see if they have any you can take off their hands.

Find the plans at Lady Lee’s Home

Grass and Stone Driveway

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Now, you could argue this isn’t really a driveway since so much of it is grass, but I think the stones would do a good job of keeping muddy puddles at bay. This particular driveway has an almost mesmerizing look with the super green grass and bright white tiles contrasting perfectly.

The real question with this idea, though, is to mow or not to mow? If you’re not super into mowing grass, or even watering it for that matter, then perhaps that grass could be replaced with a more sustainable ground cover.


Low Cost Option No.2: Gravel

Once again, this can be a great D.I.Y option and therefore it has significantly lowered costs compared to some other driveway choices. Your gravel driveway would need to be dug down by a few inches and a weed barrier material added to prevent weeds growing through.

Then simply add a few layers of stone in varying sizes until you reach the gravel layer on the top. This all works to give the driveway good drainage and will provide the stable long lasting surface you need.

The costs will be little more than the cost of the gravel and stone, but bear in mind that you will need much more than you expect and that you will need to top up the gravel from time to time as it sinks into the earth. In terms of maintenance, a gravel driveway needs to be raked occasionally to level out the surface.

Etching, Staining, and Stamping

Etching, staining, and stamping are processes that are often regarded as concrete enhancements. acid etching and acid stain are used to create an acidic base on concrete driveways resulting in a look that mimics wood, leather or natural stone. a stamped concrete driveway has a unique decorative look.

The benefit of all these concrete enhancements is that they help to improve your home’s appeal.

Asphalt Driveways

  • Cost Per Square Foot: Between $7 and $13 per square foot for a new asphalt driveway, according to Angi. Chip sealing is less expensive — around $3 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.
  • Useful Lifespan: 10 to 20 years, depending on climate and use
  • Maintenance: Moderate to high
  • DIY Potential: Low

Asphalt is a common, highly functional driveway material that’s cheaper than stone and concrete, its two main solid-surface competitors. The construction process is involved, though, and isn’t recommended for DIYers without prior experience operating paving equipment.

Asphalt is also relatively high-maintenance, especially in harsh climates. Experts recommend sealing asphalt driveways within a year of installation, then resealing every three to five years. Reseals are not cheap: The average cost is around $400, lower for shorter driveways and higher for longer ones. Periodic patching may be required as well, depending on use patterns and the quality and stability of the substrate. (Patching is within DIYers’ capabilities.)

Asphalt’s useful lifespan is the shortest of any material on this list. In colder climates, expect to resurface every 10 to 15 years. In milder regions, asphalt can last longer than 20 years – but other surfaces last comparatively longer as well.

Advantages of Asphalt Driveways

  1. Stability. Asphalt is a stable, solid material. Once cured, you can safely walk on it without worrying about mud or messy residue sticking to your shoes. That’s a big advantage over aggregate, which is prone to sloppiness in wet weather.
  2. Aesthetic Appeal. Aesthetically, asphalt is a known quantity. While it’s not as arresting as stone, brick, or colored concrete, it looks professional and finished. The same can’t be said for gravel.
  3. Easy Winter Maintenance. Asphalt is easy to plow during the winter. Unlike stone and gravel, both of which are prone to damage from plows (and vice versa), a professionally paved asphalt surface can be scraped clean and salted with little trouble. (Salt and chemical ice-melters don’t work as well on porous gravel.)
  4. Traction. Asphalt’s traction quotient is far higher than stone’s. This matters in wet and icy conditions, and for pedestrians with impractical footwear.

Disadvantages of Asphalt Driveways

  1. Relatively High Maintenance Requirements. Asphalt driveways require resurfacing every three to five years. The average resurfacing project costs $400 to $500 a pop – nearly what you’d spend on a new gravel driveway.
  2. Relatively High Cost. Asphalt isn’t quite as dear as stone, but it’s expensive relative to aggregate. If you’re looking for a functional, budget-friendly driveway surface, this should not be your first choice.
  3. Runoff and Other Environmental Issues. Like stone and brick, asphalt promotes runoff and all its attendant ills.
  4. Shorter Lifespan. Asphalt driveways deteriorate relatively rapidly, even with periodic resurfacing. Depending on your local climate and use rates, you can look forward to replacing your asphalt driveway every 15 to 20 years.
  5. Professional Installation Highly Recommended. Like stone, asphalt is best left to the pros. While hiring a professional reduces headaches down the road, it’s sure to swell the cost of your project.

Gravel Driveways

Traditionally, the gravel used for driveways is a naturally occurring material gathered from stream beds or gravel pits. But these days, the material called gravel may be a processed product obtained when a hardened slurry of rock, sand, and clay is crushed. While classic gravel will have aggregates of many different colors, processed gravel is usually a single color, buff or brown. This processed form of gravel is sometimes called “compactible gravel” or “class-5 gravel.” This type of gravel is more often used as a base layer under other paving surfaces, but it can also be used for the exposed surface of a loose-material driveway.

Whatever type of gravel you choose, the cost of a gravel driveway can vary from under $1 per square foot to more than $3 per square foot, installed. Even at the high end, it's still about the least expensive driveway you can build, depending on how far the gravel has to be trucked and the thickness of the driveway.

Whatever form of gravel is used, it is a very durable surface that can easily last 100 years, though some periodic redistribution of the gravel or addition of more gravel may be necessary. It is also relatively easy for DIYers to build a gravel driveway, which contributes to the cost savings.

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6. Opt for a low-cost ribbon driveway

A design like this has multiple benefits

(Image credit: Imagenet/Alamy Stock Photo)

Ribbon driveways are perfect if you’re on the lookout for cheap garden ideas. As there is less hard landscaping involved, they are more affordable to install than a fully paved or concreted space. And, it’s easy to make them fit the shape of your plot – whether you need them curved or straight.

There is the added benefit that they are more permeable than solid surfaces, meaning they are good for rainwater drainage. And, we think they look fantastic too. You don’t have to stick to grass for the center, either. Some people prefer to opt for alternative low-growing hardy plants such as succulents, bugleweed, or pretty Vinca minor with its purple blooms – all of which are great for encouraging wildlife to your plot.

2. Up the visual interest with a DIY rockery and permeable pavers

Grass block pavers will give your driveway a unique look

(Image credit: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo)

Gravel is great if you’re looking for budget driveway ideas that provide drainage, but another option is to opt for grass block pavers. 

Made of durable concrete, these have open cells ready for planting with grass seed. The result is a permeable surface which will help reduce the risk of flooding. And, it offers an attractive aesthetic, too – much more interesting than just a plain span of concrete. Sure, it is a little more expensive than the latter, and needs a bit more maintenance (you’ll probably need to deal with some weeds from time to time), but it’s still an affordable approach.

We also love how this example has been paired with a rockery – another good option for easy drainage that looks fantastic. They make a great budget-friendly project – our guide on how to build a rock garden explains all.

Can You Lay a New Drive Over Your Existing Drive?

You can lay a new drive over the existing drive that you have, but you should not do it. While laying a new surface on top of the driveway seems to be a cheaper solution, it is a mistake that needs to be avoided. After many years, driveways will start to erode and the sub-base will begin to drop. This can cause a lot of issues for the homeowner. Make sure that you get in touch with your contractor for the best solution that you can do for your driveway. We have also shared this article that discusses if you can chip seal a gravel driveway. Read the article for more information.

Planning Considerations

  • Gravel, stone, and tar-and-chip driveways may not be suitable for in certain residential locations. While they are very common in rural areas, they may seem quite out-of-place in urban locations where all other driveways are made of poured concrete, pavers, or asphalt. There may even be zoning restrictions that prevent you from installing gravel or stone driveways.
  • Driveway costs are subject to market fluctuations in the costs of materials (oil-based products in particular) and labor, and they can vary with the location and design of the driveway, the depth of material, and the prep work necessary, among other factors.
  • Consider doing some or all of the work yourself. Except for tar-and-chip, loose-fill driveways are not hard to build, requiring rough labor but no special skills. If you have a straight driveway and a reasonably flat surface, you should be able to install a loose material driveway installed for well under $3 per square foot. For a typical 12-foot-wide by 50-foot-long driveway, which is 600 square feet, the installation will likely cost you between $1,000 and $1,800.

What are the Common Concerns about Gravel?

The common concerns of gravel are that it can get pushed away from the driveway and scatter into the yard and other areas around your property. Because it can be moved around, it can cause bare patches on your driveways. Aside from that, you also have to deal with rutting and pitting, a messy appearance, and you will need to replenish the gravel once in a while to maintain a neat and level driveway. Moreover, gravel can also make it hard to push buggies, wheelchairs, or riding bikes because of its rough surface. While there are many benefits to a gravel driveway, they also come with many issues. Hence, you need to weigh out the pros and cons to decide whether this material is ideal for your driveway or not. You can also check out this article that discusses what the most durable material for a driveway is. We have shared helpful tips and ideas that you can refer to.

Final Word

Even if you’re perfectly content in your current home, your plans could always change. It never hurts to keep one eye on the future.

An attractive driveway won’t single-handedly bring buyers to your door, but it could raise your home’s selling price. It’s certainly not one of these ill-advised home improvement projects that actually decrease resale value. Keep it on your to-do list for a future time when your budget and appetite for hands-on housework allow.

Selecting the Best Driveway Paving Alternative

You have a lot of options when it comes to alternative driveways. Paved driveway alternatives aren’t always cheap and temporary, some alternative driveway solutions are even more durable than concrete or asphalt. Brick is one of the alternatives to a concrete driveway that looks great and won’t cost you much. It can be semi-permeable if laid over sand and comes in many styles. 

Loose gravel makes for one of the cheapest driveway alternatives, though it can be high-maintenance when compared to other asphalt driveway alternatives. While it will be able to help with water drainage, ruts and mud holes can still occur if the gravel isn’t regularly reapplied. In terms of alternative driveways, loose gravel is a good option but inferior to other paved driveway alternatives such as TRUEGRID permeable pavers.

Their interlocking plastic pavers are one of the best driveway material alternatives on the market due to their cost-effectiveness, ease-of-installation, and durability. In terms of driveway alternatives to paving, these pavers outperform traditional asphalt and concrete in terms of water-drainage as well as environmental-friendliness. 

Looking for alternatives to asphalt driveway can seem like a chore, but going with TRUEGRID permeable pavers can allow you to put all the other driveway alternatives to concrete out of your mind. Their sheer superiority when it comes to permeability, durability, functionality, versatility, and length-of-life make residential pavers from TRUEGRID the number one option to consider when searching for a good alternative to an asphalt driveway.

Browsing through alternatives to paving a driveway doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. Consider using the TRUEGRID permeable paving system and see for yourself why so many homeowners have chosen it instead of other driveway paving alternatives.

option for the base layer of a gravel driveway is item #4. Item #4 is comprised of sand, dirt, and golf ball-sized stones. This type of gravel is available in a few different variations including recycled item # 4, which is made up of recycled stones, brick, blacktop, concrete, and rock. 

There is also quarry item # 4, or crushed limestone, gray item # 4 which appears dark grey in color, and crushed bluestone item #4. Crushed bluestone item #4 is usually found in municipal driveways, though. 

The middle layer of a gravel driveway features stones closer to golf ball size, with #57 stone being the prominent type of gravel. Otherwise known simply as crushed gravel, #57 stone also helps promote drainage. 

Resin Bound Surfacing: A Cost-Effective Choice

In terms of value for money, this driveway type really is the best option of them all. Resin bound driveways consist of a mixture of resin and aggregate stone in the colour of your choice.

This is laid directly onto an asphalt base that has been poured over a layer of crushed stone for drainage. You will expect a driveway that will last up to 30 years, and one that will maintain its good looks for that entire time.

People choose resin bound because it offers excellent value for money and needs little or no maintenance.

But what if you would like to lower the cost of a resin bound driveway? Despite it needing well prepared base construction, it is still possible to make it slightly cheaper. A large proportion of the cost of laying a resin bound driveway is the preparation of the base.

It is possible to lower the cost by doing some of this work yourself. You can dig up your existing driveway and level it off yourself – digging down to the required depth. This is work that can be carried out before you contractor arrives, but you should agree this in advance.

You can also save some money on a resin bound driveway by choosing aggregate stone that is at the cheaper end of the scale. More abundant stones are often cheaper to buy and will therefore lower the overall cost of the project. You may have fewer options to choose from, but the look can still be impressive.

Improving your driveway using any of the options listed above will have the effect of improving the value of your home and the way it looks.

Some are cheaper than others and this is reflected in the length of time it will last before needing to be replaced and in the amount of maintenance you might be expected to do. The best advice when it comes to your driveway is always to get the very best driveway you can within your budget.

This almost always means that the driveway is laid from scratch rather than resurfaced. If this means you have to get your hands dirty – that might be well worth the effort.

Ready to upgrade your existing driveway to an ultra-low maintenance alternative? Take the first step to transforming your driveway’s surface today, by giving us a call on 0800 1700 636. Alternatively, simply click the button below to get the ball rolling today!


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