Driveway Design and Planning Tips

What material do you recommend for the building of a driveway?

Many materials make satisfactory driveways, but much depends on whether the drive is straight or curved, flat or sloping, in cold country or warm. A good, cheap driveway for a level drive in the New York area can be made of either cinders mixed with loam and sand or bank-run gravel. Either can be finished with grits or bluestone screenings. If there are curves or grades, crushed stone with a tar binder is practically mandatory.

Can you recommend any books or resources for designing and building driveways?

Yes, an excellent book on this very topic is called Driveways, Paths and Patios: Complete Guide to Design, Management and Construction.

How would you build a driveway on a steep slope to prevent washing?

What material should be used?  For a short driveway on a steep slope, granite paving blocks set in sand make an ideal material. They are rough enough to give good traction in icy weather, they need no maintenance, they are good-looking. For a long driveway, they may be too uneven for comfortable riding, and concrete, heavily scored to provide traction, may be better. But it is a hard, uncompromising-looking material.

I am building a driveway for my home. What sort of parking space for visiting cars do you recommend, and where should it be located?

Parking space for at least one guest car should be provided right at he front door or the path leading to it, so arranged that the use of the driveway by other cars is not prevented. (See next question.) Parking for a larger number of cars should be located at a distance from the front entrance of the house. It should be constructed of the same material as the driveway.

When guests come to the house and leave their cars before the front door, it is impossible for anyone else to use the driveway from the garage to the street. How can I avoid this situation?

Construct a pass court in front of the door wide enough so that a car can stand at the door and another pass it on the outside. The court should be about 30 ft. long and 16 ft. wide. Any interesting shape can be given it to make it a pleasing part of the landscape picture.

What is the most practical shape for a turn court at the garage on a small property?

The so-called Y-turn takes up the least space and yet provides for easy turning, either for your own car coming out of the garage, or for other cars using the driveway. The radius of the curves in the accompanying sketch should be 15 ft. to 20 ft., and it is important that the space into which the cars back be at least 14 ft. wide.

How large should a turn-around in front of the house be?

The largest cars require a turning space about 60 ft. in diameter for making a complete turn without backing. An area of bluestone or gravel that large is often out of proportion to the house. It can be broken up with a grass island (but this should not have anything else planted in it). To make arrival at the house door easy, it is wise to distort the shape of the turn-around somewhat, making it more of an apple shape instead of a true circle.

Would you recommend brick or stone edging for a driveway or path?

For a driveway, brick edging is somewhat too fragile unless the bricks are set in a heavy foundation of concrete. Then they are likely to be ugly. Granite paving blocks (Belgian blocks) are better because they are heavy enough to stay put without cement. For pathways, brick is ideal. Small rounded stones are useless for either purpose and never are aesthetically pleasing.

What sort of edging should I use for a brick walk or driveway?

There are three standard patterns of edging: sawtooth, rowlock, and stretcher. For garden paths where there are no grass edges, sawtooth looks well, and it uses less brick than does rowlock. Against a lawn or grass edge rowlock is better because the mower can be run up on ti and there is less hand clipping. Stretcher edging uses the least brick of all, but, since the bricks do not go down into the ground any farther than the bricks of the walk itself, it provides less stability for the walk.

What can I use to edge a driveway that will look well, but also make a strong, permanent edge?

Granite paving blocks are ideal for this. They are so heavy they will stay in place without concrete to hold them. Do not let them stick up above the lawn area. Set them on end, with the short dimension parallel to the line of the driveway.