As you approach the comfort of your home, think of the driveway as one big welcome mat. An attractive driveway can do a lot for your home’s appearance and curb appeal, so if it’s time to be thinking of a new set of welcoming arms for your house, you’ve got some options to consider.

CONCRETE

Concrete has long been the favorite choice for a driveway. Concrete is sturdy and long lasting, relatively inexpensive compared to some of the other options, and simple to install. It’s a little on the bland side, however, so if you’re looking to dress up the approach to your home, you might want to think about some of concrete’s many optional faces.

For one, concrete can be colored to get away from the standard gray of its natural tone. There are powdered dyes that can be added to the concrete while it’s still wet, producing a consistent color that extends through the entire mix. There are also a number of liquid and dry powder stains that can be applied to the concrete after it’s placed, and some types even work on existing cured concrete.

You also don’t need to be limited to just one color. By employing different masking techniques, colors can be intermixed in a virtually unlimited number of patterns and designs.

Another option is concrete stamping. As the wet concrete begins to set up, special steel stamps are used to imprint the concrete surface with patterns ranging from cobblestones to tiles to antique slate. Properly done and combined with various colorants, stamped concrete creates a stunning new driveway, either for the entire surface or just for strips along the edges.

Yet another possibility is the combining of concrete with other materials. At the time the concrete is formed and poured, open areas can be left along the edges, down the center, or anywhere on the driveway that you want a contrasting look. After the forms are removed, the open areas are filled in with bricks, stone, pavers, cobbles, or any other hard surface material that will handle the elements and the weight of the vehicles on them. Here again, the possibilities are almost limitless.

Concrete doesn’t need to be a solid slab that stretches the full width of the garage either. Two strips of plain or colored concrete for the car to drive on combined with grass between them is a great look, and works particularly well with some of the older styles of homes such as Victorian and Craftsman.

PAVERS

A growing number of homes are incorporating interlocking pavers into their landscaping themes, both as walkways and driveways. Pavers are a great do-it-yourself project, and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns that will compliment virtually any architectural style.

Pavers are laid over a sand base, and correctly installed they offer excellent strength, stability and weather resistance. The fact that they are individual units allows for expansion and contraction without cracking – a real plus in areas with hot summers or freezing winters. And, should the driveway get damaged for any reason, one or more of the units can simply be removed and replaced without affecting the rest of the driveway (buy and store several extra pavers with your initial order so you always have access to units of the same size and color as the originals).

ASPHALT

OK, it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of attractive, but asphalt has a lot of virtues as a driveway material. For one, it’s sturdy and weather-resistant, and requires little in the way of ongoing maintenance. A periodic application of top sealer, which you can do yourself, is all that’s needed to minimize cracking and keep it looking shiny black.

Because of the type of equipment that is used and the setup time for installing asphalt, this may not be a cost effective material for small installations. Once the equipment is there, however, the installation costs drop per square foot, so conversely asphalt can be very economical for long driveways when compared to concrete or pavers.

Don’t get hung up on that industrial image either. As with concrete, asphalt can easily be combined with pavers, rock or even stamped concrete to create an eye-catching front driveway that will last for decades.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.

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