Lee Dunderdale of Bradstone spells out everything you need to know about block paving a drive, from planning, design and excavation through to the key aspects of installation, and finishing touches
For those who have embarked upon a self-build or renovation project, your focus will naturally centre on the house itself, and landscaping may fall low on the list of considerations at the early planning stages. But when the time does come to address landscaping, especially considering the time, energy and funds you will no doubt have invested into your project, you will assuredly want the approach you take to do full justice to the completed project.
The driveway is one of the most important parts of a house in terms of design. Get it wrong and the whole image of the front of a property becomes unbalanced. It’s important to opt for a driveway solution that is striking while complementing the existing architecture of the property. Block paving represents an extremely practical and durable solution that can also offer a multitude of design possibilities for homeowners to personalise their space.
Your driveway should be a perfect blend of flair and function, of desirability and durability, and ultimately create that perfect first impression for your home. And if you have reached this stage on your self-build/renovation journey, we’ve got all the hints and tips you’ll need to get you started.
You will need to draw up a plan that suits your own particular requirements. You will either be replacing your driveway, extending it, or potentially starting it from scratch. Consider whether you wish to completely landscape the front of your house for a low-maintenance outdoor space, or whether you wish to allocate zones for planting or turf.
When it comes to designing a driveway that requires a drainage solution, a fully permeable system should be installed to ensure any rain that lands on it simply drains away between the blocks, stopping surface water from collecting.
Importantly, this satisfies all the stringent legislation regarding front driveways. Once all these decisions have been made, you can decide on the type and colour of block you wish to use.
Both traditional and contemporary designs remain popular. For contemporary, there is an appetite for sleek lines, uniform sizes and smooth surfaces with sharp edges and modern touches such as LED light strips on the outer edge.
Colour is important – you do not want the driveway to clash with the house bricks. As a rule, we’d recommend opting for a complementary tone, as opposed to something that is either a perfect match for your brick, or a dramatic contrast. For example, pick out accents from your home exterior and implement that colour into your driveway, e.g. the window frames, a garage door or the roof tiles.
Dark, natural and muted colours are popular nowadays, particularly grey, which is an increasingly popular tone in interior and exterior design. Colour choice is driven by the look, style and age of the house itself as well as the surrounding landscape. The grey colourings bring a contemporary feel to outdoor spaces, creating a visual edge to your driveway.
With traditional paving, there is a preference towards textured surfaces with a ‘riven’ or weather-worn appearance. This helps to create a sense of real period charm and character. Traditional properties should opt for brown and deep orange hues, to add a rustic flair.
Don’t forget those additional design elements such as kerbs, which act as the perfecting finishing touch for block paving. Kerbs are a great way to complete the look of your drive and pathways and prevent vehicular overrun.
Depending on the size of the job, you may want to use a mini excavator or hire a JCB to excavate the existing driveway, as this will save you time, and a lot of back-breaking work.
Mark out the area that needs to be excavated and dig out to the desired level (which depends on your existing surfaces), while making sure that your proposed finished level is 150 mm below the damp proof course in the brick of any adjoining buildings.
If the excavated area appears to be flat, it will be necessary to create a slight slope to aid the dispersion of standing water. This should be constructed with 1:40 fall across the width of the drive, and a 1:80 fall along the length.
Using a concrete mixer, mix one part cement and six parts ballast to create the concrete foundation, which should be 100 mm deep. The kerb unit or edge restraint will sit on top of this at the required level. This should be done using a string line and spirit level.
Mortar the kerb units or edge restraints to the foundation using a trowel and rubber mallet. Once the kerbs are in position, haunch the back of the units so that the concrete reaches halfway up the rear of the kerb.
Lay MOT Type 1 Roadstone or Type 1 crushed concrete inside of the edge restraints, rake to the desired level in layers of 50 mm, then level and compact using a vibrating plate. The roadstone should be at least 160 mm thick after compaction. We’d recommend passing the vibrating plate over the area at least seven times to ensure it is thoroughly compacted.
Once this has been done, apply a layer of slightly damp sharp sand to a depth of 40 mm and compact with the vibrating plate. A second layer of sharp sand to a level of 20 mm should then follow on top of this. Using the string lines, screeding rails and straight edge, this second layer of sharp sand needs to be levelled to the correct falls.
Always begin laying block paving from the bottom of a slope, preferably starting from a right angle or a straight edge. Place the blocks on top of the laying course ensuring blocks are around 10-15 mm above the desired finished level.
Continue with your desired pattern while making sure that you are using blocks from between three to five packs at once in order to minimise any colour banding. When all the full blocks have been laid, you will need to cut a certain amount of blocks to fill the smaller gaps. This can be done by using either a block splitter or a diamond disc saw. A handy tip here is to avoid cutting a block to less than a third of its original size.
Once all of the blocks have been laid, sweep the drive thoroughly to make sure that there is no debris left on the blocks. Then apply kiln dried sand and sweep across the whole of the drive, making sure that this sand falls down between the joints of the blocks.
Having completed this, the drive needs compacting with the vibrating plate. We recommend a neoprene faced or rubber sole plate on vibrating plate compactors to reduce scuffing. You will then need to sweep more kiln dried sand over the drive and compact again. Keep doing this until all of the joints are full of sand.
Once this final task has been completed, the driveway is ready for use. However, make sure all work on surrounding areas that vehicles will pass over is also ready for use to prevent any staining or material transferring to your new driveway as a result.
Lee Dunderdale is product manager at Bradstone