Choosing the best driveway for your home and budget

Affordable Driveway Options

by Debra Karplus


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Your gravel driveway looks more like a muddy horse trail than a path for your vehicles; you see more dirt than rock. Or maybe your paved driveway is cracked. It might be time to spend a little money on your driveway. Both durability and aesthetics are what you're striving for. The climate and weather where you live are also factors in what material you choose. Whether you select gravel, asphalt, concrete or decorative brick, there are affordable options for improving your driveway. With an average driveway being 12 feet by 60 feet or 600 square feet, your first step is to gather exact measurements before obtaining estimates.

For saving money on improving your driveway, gravel rocks!

White rock that is 3/4 inch to one inch in diameter can be attractive and affordable. One family in a medium-sized Midwest town paid about $175 to cover 600 square feet with rock two-inches deep. She was quoted $26.50 per ton delivered and spread and calculated that she needed 6.5 tons. Had she owned a truck instead of a small car, she could have picked it up, transported, and spread it herself for about half the price. This isn't an easy task, but it can save a substantial amount of money. For an additional cost, decorative driveway rock can be purchased in a variety of colors.

Road pack or crushed rock is a lower grade of driveway rock. It's more finely ground and a bit muddy when wet and dusty when dry, but it costs even less than white rock. However, it is less attractive.

There are a few disadvantages to using rock instead of paved material. If you live in an area where you shovel snow, when you shovel the gravel driveway, you'll be tossing around some of the gravel. Consequently, after several years, you'll need to add more gravel to some or all of the areas. Also, weeds can grow between the rocks. Weeding gravel driveways can be more work than weeding in grass or soil. Additionally, when you are putting down rock or gravel, you may need to add to the cost if you need to add edges along the sides.

Despite higher cost initially, paving has many concrete benefits.

Many people use asphalt for their driveway surface. Depending on where you live, expect to pay about $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot or $1500 to $2400 for 600 square feet. It's expected to last about 20 years. Tar is its main ingredient, making it less expensive than most other paving materials, but tar degrades faster than other materials and also becomes very hot in the summer in warmer climates. Therefore, every three to five years, it must be treated with sealant. Asphalt only comes in black. There is no other choice of color.

When you think of a paved driveway, you typically consider concrete. There is some real skill to paving a concrete driveway, so leave this job to an expert. Concrete's main component is cement, making it pricier than asphalt, but you can expect a concrete driveway to last closer to 40 years. It's considered to be lower maintenance than gravel or asphalt, but it costs notably more initially. A 600-square-foot concrete driveway should cost approximately $2400 to $3600 ($4 to $6 per square foot). Add more to the price if you choose colored concrete. One of the major disadvantages to concrete driveways is that they can crack.

Perhaps the priciest and most labor-intensive way to finish your driveway is with colorful paving stones or bricks, which can be very visually appealing. Do a search online of images and be impressed at the decorative ways people do their driveways.

Should I use a HELOC for home remodeling and repairs?

Pay attention to a few important considerations before you improve your driveway.

Some municipalities have specific building codes pertinent to driveways, so be sure your plans are okay in your community. Many older neighborhoods have homes with shared driveways. Be aware of where the property line is located and also any legally binding issues regarding the use and maintenance of this driveway.

If you are putting in a new driveway, be sure to pay attention to drainage issues. You definitely want rain water draining away from the house, not toward it.

The main variables in improving your driveway are size, choice of materials, and prep work. If you are improving an existing driveway, it should cost less than putting in a new one. Add to the cost if a tree is to be removed as well as the cost of stump grinding. And, if you're planning to transform a gravel driveway into a concrete one, ask a professional about this.

You'll be amazed at the compliments you'll receive with the appropriate choice of driveway materials

Reviewed March 2018


Take the Next Step:

  • Try these tips if you'd just like to resurface your driveway.
  • Will you need to finance your new driveway? See if a HELOC is a smart option for financing this project.
  • Home improvements can be costly. For many projects, we can help you save. Just visit the Home Improvement section of the Dollar Stretcher Library before you start that next project.
  • Once those home improvements are done, why not take some time to improve your finances? The TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have can provide you with the tools you need to demolish your debt and rebuild your finances.
  • Join those who 'live better...for less' - Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter, a weekly look at how to stretch both your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for freelancewriting.com and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

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