Asphalt, blacktop, or tarmac. Whatever you choose to call it, its very popular in some parts of the world. Its a very affordable driveway and walkway material; depending on the price of crude oil, it can usually be installed for about $2.00 to $6.50 per square foot. Asphalt driveway maintenance is routine. Generally, just hose it off occasionally and patch it when needed.
Of course, if Al Gore is right, climate change will liquefy this stuff.
Then theres concrete, sometimes mistakenly called cement when its actually a mixture of Portland cement and various other aggregates such as sand, gravel, and sometimes dye. Like blacktop, the price varies with global market conditions. For example, in the 90s the price really spiked when China was undergoing huge growth and caused the law of supply and demand to kick in.
It has a long, virtually maintenance-free lifespan as long as tree roots and erratic overly dry/wet conditions do not happen. You can expect it to last at least a good 25 years.
Alternatives to Concrete and Asphalt Driveways
Bricks. Bricks really boost home equity when used on the driveway, walkway, and a garden path or two. Expect to pay from $10 to $35.00 per square foot depending on shape, color, etc. Theyre somewhat porous, so moss is likely to occur under the right circumstances. It looks quaint on your garden path, but can cause a bit of a problem if installed for your driveway. A periodic pass with a pressure washer will take care of that. A properly-laid surface of clay fired bricks should have a lifespan of 30 years.
Decorative Concrete. This is a nice alternative to vanilla-flavor concrete, it can be had for $10.00 to $18.00 per square foot. Once again, market demand rules. There are a variety of construction techniques at the contractors disposal, such as dye, stamping, or an imaginative combination of the two.
Loose Stones. Stones are an excellent choice for the frugal among us; it generally runs around about $1.00 to $4.00 per square foot. Stones can be a real eye-opener when their color is matched to the homes trim or to the landscaping theme. The should have a border to keep the stones from wandering into the yard from foot or vehicular traffic, and with periodic maintenance will outlast the homeowner. However, remember that heavy weather such as hurricanes can really wreak havoc with this material.
Cobblestone. These are natural rock, commonly basalt, granite, or something similar. This makes it very durable and long-lasting. Because its installed in in a modular fashion rather than being poured into a form, it doesnt have concretes cracking issues. It will usually set you back $15.00 to $50.00 per square foot, depending on how far you are from the quarry; heavy freight costs a lot to transport.
Tar and Chip. You may have heard this called macadam (which actually sounds better as a general contractor once told me; marketing guides price as always). To install it, a gravel base goes down first. Next, its coated it with hot, molten asphalt. It reasonably priced at around $1.75 to $6.00 per square foot. The lifespan is approximately 8 years before a face lift is called for. It is easy to patch when it cracks.
Gravel Driveways. This is probably the least expensive of all driveway materials; there are no conspiracy theories here. Its a bargain at $0.45 to $4.00 per square foot. Its usually a mixture of clay, small rocks, and sand. This combination packs nicely. It can last a hundred years or more and does best with an annual grading and perimeter containment.
These are the most common driveway, walkway, and garden path building materials. The prices mentioned are far from set in stone, but they can give you a good sense of which are inexpensive and which will set you back a bit. Just remember to adjust your homeowner insurance policy to reflect your new home equity after making any home improvements.