Guide to hiring a pavement and driveway contractor

Page 1: Why hire a pro?
Page 2: Could I do it myself?
Page 3: What next?

Hannah Shanks - Editor

What is a Paving & Driveway Contractor?

They are the construction experts to call if you want to renew your driveway and paving. Also, they can be hired to lay garden pathways and other paving jobs.

Why hire one?

Although some of the smaller paving jobs can be tackled by the keen do-it-yourselfer, driveway paving is a large-scale project, for experienced professionals only. A contractor will have access to the specialised tools and heavy equipment needed, and also would be able to foresee any difficulties that might come up during the job. Also, a contractor will know all local council regulations.

Choosing the best paving material for your needs

Decorative vs. Durability: How do I want to use this driveway?
There are many paving materials to choose from, and the best is not necessarily the most expensive. Your choice should be determined by the use you plan on giving the paving, as well as price. A driveway for everyday, heavy traffic will require different materials than a simple decorative garden path.

A brief guide to paving

Some paving materials are quite low in initial cost but may need reinstalling often, whereas others may be expensive but will last the life of the property. Let's start from the bottom, using a block paving as an example.

An inside look

A VERY brief outline of all the layers and prep work.

Although we only see the surface, all paving is made up of layers, which give it stability and strength. We can't expand on the technicalities here, but a brief description is given, just so you have an idea of what the contractor will be doing to your driveway:

  • Digging: First, they will break the existing paving and dig the surface, shaving off a certain extent to accommodate the following layers.
  • Geo-sheet: After levelling the ground, they may install a geo-sheet, a man-made separation membrane, between the now bare earth and the next layer. This is important if the earth is soft.
  • Sub-base: The sub-base is the next layer they will put in. It is very important, as it is the main load-bearing layer. Usually, the sub-base will be a mixture of crushed rock and sand. Cement or tar is sometimes added.
  • Bedding Layer: A layer of sand for the paving blocks to settle on.
  • Paving Layer: The paving materials are laid in the pattern of our choice. The driveway is now starting to look like it should!
  • Sealing: Fine sand is then brushed over the paving material, to seal the joints. It is later compacted.

In addition to this work, additional features such as borders and kerbs may also be included in your design.

Some common paving materials

This is the part we see, so logically it's where we would like to focus our creativity. And there are so many possibilities! The first choice is either Man-made or Natural paving. In addition to tarmac, there is a great range of durable concrete-based materials available, some quite attractively patterned, but too many to mention here. Instead, here's a list some of the more commonly used Natural paving materials:

  • Bark: Cheap and readily available at most garden centres, shredded tree bark is not very durable, needing regular 'topping up'. Although it's certainly not the best material for a heavily used driveway, it is ideally suited for garden pathways because of its woody, natural look and for children's play areas because it is soft and can provide some protection in the event of a fall. Good for DIY projects.
  • Gravel: Available in several sizes and styles, gravel is also relatively cheap and suited for garden pathways and even driveways, if properly installed. Care must be taken to provide good drainage and a firm concrete foundation. Gravel paving may need occasional weeding in the warmer months.
  • Cubes: Variously known throughout the U.K. as 'setts' and even 'cobblestones' (although the latter name is better suited to rounded pebbles see below), these blocks of natural stone are available in a mind-boggling array of colours and finishes. 'Durable' is an understatement, as ancient Roman pavements of this material are still in regular use! Price depends on the type of stone, but it is invariably on the high side due to the high level of workmanship involved.
  • Flagstones or Flags: Flat natural stone, usually Slate, Granite and Yorkstone, this paving material is stunning when laid expertly, but it is very labour-intensive and thus expensive. As with setts, price increases if you choose imported stone. Besides the many stone types, some suppliers also offer a variety of textured finishes, a safety consideration if the pavement is to be used for walking. Some stone types are better suited to heavy vehicular traffic than others, so ask your contractor or supplier.
  • Cobblestones: Large, rounded river pebbles. Can be uncomfortable to walk on, so it is often used as a deterrent paving to discourage pedestrians. Moderately priced and virtually maintenance-free, cobblestones can be used in driveways, if carefully laid. Not really suited for garden pathways because they can be slippery, cobblestones can, however, make an attractive border for ponds and other garden features.

 
 


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