Having a driveway has all sorts of advantages. One particularly notable bonus is that you will receive lower insurance premiums than if you keep your car parked in the street! The reasons are apparent. Your vehicle is less likely to be vandalized, broken into, or involved in an accident when parked if it is off the road.
So while getting a driveway is an excellent idea, you may be overwhelmed by the number of surfaces available. One of the most popular and cost-effective options are concrete-based driveways. Concrete is a simple material that is used for all sorts of construction jobs, including most highways.
When installing any driveway, one of the primary considerations is the durability of the surface. A properly constructed concrete driveway is likely to last 30 years or more. Bad weather will take its toll, but you can guarantee many years of reliable use with maintenance.
Concrete is known for its durability. Besides, because it is a relatively inexpensive substance to use, the upkeep costs are not high even when a touch-up is required.
Concrete Driveway Costs Explained
Concrete is a relatively reasonably priced substance for driveway use. You can expect to pay £500 for the smallest driveway and £8,000 for the longest ones. You can also think of the cost in terms of how many cars will park on the driveway. Driveways suitable for one car average at around £800. Meanwhile. Three car driveways cost £3,500 or so.
Aside from the size of the job, the complexity of the installation is another factor in figuring the cost. If you already have a driveway with solid foundations, the installation will be simpler and less expensive.
Another important factor in the cost is the drainage system. Concrete is not permeable and therefore requires adequate draining. If you already have a system in place, it will make the installation easier for the contracting crew. However, if you had a permeable driveway without sufficient drainage capacity, solving the problem will drive up costs considerably.
Finally, decorations and patterns increase the cost of installation. Let’s face it; untreated concrete is pretty unattractive. Therefore, many homeowners prefer decorated or stamped varieties of concrete. However, these can be pretty expensive. They also don’t last quite as long as the undecorated variety making them less cost-effective in more than one way.
As always, be careful with deals that appear too good to be true. Concrete installation is not the most challenging job, but there are plenty of contractors who will botch it up anyway. In particular, it is hard to get a professional-looking finish. Therefore, make sure to get an accredited and reliable contractor.
Keep in mind that costs are always significantly higher around London and in the south of England.
What parts cost the most?
Luckily, concrete is not a particularly expensive material. It is a relatively simple combination of portland cement, water, and a basic mixture of aggregate. Therefore, it makes up a little more than a quarter of the cost of the overall cost. Meanwhile, waste disposal and VAT make up another quarter of the expenses when put together.
Labour expenses are a large part of any driveway installation job. In most cases, it will make up 46.3% of the overall cost. And if you try to save on that element of the price, you may pay for it. Dearly. While any contractor will tell you they can install a concrete driveway, some of the details are pretty tricky. Tarmac driveways can be laid by just about anyone, but with concrete, you need a contractor who understands mixing ratios, the dynamics of material expansion, and understands drying times.
The average cost of installation is around £50/m2. While the job is labour intensive, most contractors can do it with ease, and that part of the equation will set you back anywhere between £200 and £450 per day.
Coloured and Imprinted Concrete Installation
However, these prices are calculated for standard concrete. You can get a variety of attractive coloured and imprinted concrete driveway finishes. However, their cost can be significantly higher. For example, a 40m2 coloured driveway can cost £3,600 to £3,900, including labour costs.
One way to save on these costs is by having the attractive pattern placed on top of a simple sub-base. That can often negate the need for excavation work and extensive use of more expensive materials. However, be careful. This sort of corner-cutting process may not always be desirable or even feasible. The extra 100mm or so added through the installation of a decorative layer could make the boundary area problematic and even breach the damp course. It is usually safer to just install the decorative concrete from the bottom up.
Can you do it yourself?
In most cases, the job is too complex to attempt without a strong background in construction. The trickiest part is figuring in the expansion of material and the mixing ratios, which can change depending on the properties of the surface. In particular, it is not recommended to install decorated concrete on your own. Instead, keep DIY to simple concrete installations applied to a limited surface area.
If you do decide to do it yourself, timing is an aspect you must keep a close eye on. The material dries very quickly, almost as soon as you lay it. Therefore, you should lay all of the concrete in a section simultaneously. We recommend that you divide the area into sections using 2×4’s. To do all of this, you will need some willing and reliable helpers on hand to help you complete the job and that the concrete does not dry incorrectly.
Also, it will take an amateur significantly longer to install a concrete driveway. While a professional crew can usually the job in a day or two, expect to take about a week to do it yourself. It is considerably easier to install a driveway that is even than one operating on a slope. If concrete is simply placed on the surface, the slurry will slide down and overflow the shuttering. Sometimes the best thing to do in this case is to reduce the water content within the mix. Other times, you may want to pour the concrete into smaller slabs and add more shuttering.
One of the main problems with poorly installed concrete driveways is the flaking of the material. Another problem is spalling, a condition wherein the driveway surface peels or breaks away. If you experience these problems due to inadequate installation, there is usually little a good contractor can do to salvage the situation.
Why does this problem occur? Concrete expands and contracts with temperature changes. Therefore, if you do not adequately account for expansion, cracks will appear. If the foundation was also laid in a suboptimal manner, you could compound the problem.
Therefore, if you do the job yourself, keep in mind that sealing the driveway is one of the trickiest installation elements. You will want to add expansion joints between the slabs you use. Then apply some clear silicone sealant into the gaps. When you do this correctly, you are unlikely to face any cracks in the driveway.
Another element to account for if you go the DIY route is the thickness of the material. Most houses need a 100mm thick driveway for average use by normal-sized vehicles. However, if the pavement will have to carry larger vehicles and loads regularly, we recommend at least 125mm of con concrete. You should also consider installing concrete reinforcing mesh. By spreading the load throughout the concrete, it helps to prevent cracking. If you are expecting heavy use, many contractors also add a steel reinforcing mesh. To prevent problems, it is best to use 100mm of compressed hardcore as a base for the concrete installation. Most contractors use 75mm to dust.
The real challenge is getting the finishing right. The smoothing has to occur at just the right time before the concrete even begins to dry. If the material is underworked, it won’t be smooth. Meanwhile, if it is overdone, the surface will flake and spall.
The bottom line is that while some of the work necessary for laying a concrete driveway is suitable for amateurs skilled in DIY, a great deal of it is not. In particular, the finishing requires quality workmanship and even good contractors get it wrong sometimes. And if you get the finishing wrong and it dries up, it can remain like that for decades.
The Pros and Cons of Installing a Concrete Driveway
No material is perfect, and you can expect significant downsides to any choice you make. Therefore, before you select, it is vital to be fully aware of the advantages and disadvantages of installing a concrete driveway.
- The main pro of a concrete driveway is its durability. A well-installed and maintained driveway can last several decades. Many homeowners have only had to install a driveway once during their ownership of a property due to its inherent longevity.
- It is one of the most cost-effective methods for paving a large driveway area. It is considerably less dear than an equivalent installation of bricks.
- Decorative concrete driveways offer a wider array of patterns than most, allowing you to select and implement a unique look. If you choose one of the more interesting patterns, your home will stand out.
- Maintenance is straightforward, and no weeds will grow on the surface even after years of wear and tear. It is also a notoriously easy surface to clean.
- Adding surface protection through the application of surface sealants. Besides, it is easy to change the surface colour later if you so desire.
- Concrete is not particularly pretty, and there are more attractive alternatives. While adding colours and stamps helps with the aesthetic part, the decorative varieties require more maintenance and do not last as long as the undecorated finishes.
- Concrete is an exceptionally durable material and does not damage easily. However, once it is damaged, it is surprisingly hard to patch. Often damage will require a complete reinstallation. So you have to be very careful when doing future construction or landscaping because you may find yourself reinstalling the driveway.
- Concrete driveways are prone to cracking. While you can install crack joints as a precaution, they still may appear earlier than expected.
- Common driveway liquids such as engine oil leak into the surface and stain the surface, ruining the finish. You can apply a surface sealer to try to prevent it, but that is not enough for more serious leaks.
- While maintenance is not strenuous, it is necessary and should be done annually. In particular, the material should be sealed to prevent stains from oils and fluids, which are very difficult to remove once they take.
- Concrete driveways may require permits. More on this below.
Things to consider: Concrete VS Resin Vs. Block Paving
A concrete driveway is more cost-effective than most alternatives. For example, an asphalt driveway is cheaper to install and, therefore, may be a tempting option if you have a limited budget. However, it is a worse deal in the long run. Asphalt will require a considerable amount of maintenance and repair, which over time can get quite costly.
Concrete or Resin?
Much like concrete, resin driveways are very durable and it’s a robust material capable of withstanding a good amount of regular traffic. Just like with its concrete equivalent, it is scatter free. Neither requires a great deal of maintenance, although concrete does require regular resealing.
Where resin has a considerable advantage over concrete is in customizability. While you can obtain attractive stamps and colourings for concrete, the options for resin are greater and more attractive. Also, resin retains its quality when beautiful natural stone aggregates are added into the mix. At the same time, concrete is somewhat degraded by the addition of aesthetically pleasing stamps. Therefore, although some people prefer the simpler look of concrete, resin has the edge if you pursue an attractive finish.
Another advantage of resin is its natural permeability. However, one of the unique features of resin is its easy drainage, which pushes the water into an underlying water table, reducing pooling and freeze-over. Meanwhile, concrete does not absorb water, and it can pool or become slippery in the winter.
However, resin is considerably more expensive. There are also open questions regarding how long they last since they have only been used in driveways in recent years.
Concrete or Block Paving?
Block paving is more resistant to staining than its concrete equivalent. Also, if one stone stains or chips, you can just replace it instead of having to repave the entire driveway. Therefore, brick pavers save a significant amount of money on repairs. Brick driveways do not crack as quickly when the ground beneath them shifts because the part can move independently. However, bricks can cause problems as well. Individual bricks loosen over time and can be a hazard when they do.
Another significant advantage for block paving, especially in our climate, is that they become less slippery in the rain or snow. They also have a higher resale value than their concrete equivalents.
If your driveway is used often by heavier vehicles, it is probably better to opt for a brick driveway. They can absorb about four times as much weight without cracking. Finally, like resin, blocks have a far wider variety of decorations and customizations than concrete.
A concrete slab is easier to install because the contractor pours it all at once. Meanwhile, they lay block pavers individually and by hand. It also takes a bit longer to install brick. Therefore, keep in mind that block paving is significantly more costly. It will set you back around £50 to £100 per square metre. Therefore, concrete is a more cost-effective option. However, brick has many advantages that can make up for that discrepancy.
Obtaining the Necessary Permits
If your driveway is small, up to 5m2 in size, you will not require a permit at all. Once it is bigger than that, concrete driveways require documentation because they are not permeable to fluids. As such, you will need to provide and document the drainage channels you have installed for the driveway. Permits are required to prevent flooding in populated areas.
If your driveway goes across the pavement, the council must approve the dropped kerbstones linking it to the road.
The bottom line is that concrete driveways are still the most cost-effective option out there. They offer a durable driveway at a minimal cost. While there are higher quality alternatives out there, such as brick and resin, concrete will be a better fit for most homeowners with a limited budget.