Block Party
Block Party

Having a driveway block-paved can finish off your garden perfectly, making an outdoor space the envy of the neighbourhood. However, it's not as easy as the professionals make it look, as Andy Welch explains...

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We all know how eye-catching a well paved driveway and path can be. It’s the sort of finishing touch that makes a house a home, or that bit of grass a well-loved garden.

It’s a pricey affair, considerably more expensive than tarmac, concrete or those tried and tested – not to mention boring - paving slabs, but there are definite advantages over cheaper hard-standing alternatives, aside from the obvious aesthetic appeal.

“Tarmac and concrete will crack in time,” says John Roberts, who has more than 27 years’ experience in driveway paving. His Newport-based company Greentop Landscapes & Design (www.greentoplandscapes.co.uk) specialise in block-paving driveways, paths and patios.

“You can’t repair tarmac and concrete properly, they just end up looking like patchwork quilts, but block paving can be maintained, repaired if necessary, and will last a lifetime. “You only have to look at the Roman roads that are still around today for proof of that,” John adds.

“Also, with the increasingly adverse weather conditions of the last few years, the ground is moving around more than ever before. Block paving allows for that, there’s a flexibility to it that you don’t get with other surfaces.”

Stylish Decisions

If you’re considering block paving for your driveway, there are numerous factors to take into consideration. What pattern do you go for? Herringbone, stretcher bond, 45
degree stack bond or basketweave are just four of the multitude of attractive layouts on offer.

What colour or size brick do you go for? There are lots available, from traditional red and purple hues, through to natural sandy colours and dark greys.

You can also be adventurous with different coloured fillings – that’s the sand between the blocks, like the grout between bathroom tiles. The right sand can set your driveway off a treat, making it look even more jealousy inducing.

You may also have to choose between permeable and non-permeable finishes. Depending on the geology of your area – if your house is built on especially clay-based ground, for example – you would need a nonpermeable solution, but it is best to check with a local expert before taking the plunge. There is a risk of flash-flooding if too much surface water runs off into the drainage system and sewerage, rather than returning to the water table as it should.

Planning permission from your local council should also, in most cases, be sought.

If you want to resurface any area over 5m square you will require planning permission, and this will also be affected by local geology and design. Your chosen company will be able to help and advise you with any queries you have, providing you choose the right firm, of course. Just as when you’re getting any work done on your home, ensure the tradesmen don’t wear Stetsons and have horses tethered up outside!

Aside from running Greentop, John has also worked with Trading Standards to develop a website providing fair and reasonable quotes. Go to www.quickpavingquotes.co.uk and type in the size of area you’d like paved, what material you’d like and you’ll get an estimate for the job. “Unfortunately, there are paving cowboys around,” says John.

“Some of my work is putting right what other people have done wrong,” he says. “I’m embarrassed to go along to houses sometimes and see what my supposed peers have done,
so it’s important to take care when choosing a paver.”

“Make sure your contractor is accredited to a governing body and qualified for the job. At the very, very least, make sure they have a good local reputation.”

“Next up, go and have a look at their past work, and if you can, even get references from old clients. To be on the safe side, don’t hand over too much money in advance in deposits either.”

Create the Perfect Finish

Easylay (www.easylaypaving.co.uk), made by Manchester-based Eco Composite Recycling (ECR), is an environmentally friendly surface made from recycled tyres, specially formulated resins and a range of different coloured aggregates depending on required finish.

It’s completely porous, taking all surface water back to the water table, durable and attractive to look at. “The environmental aspect is a huge selling point,” says Simon Bernard of ECR. “There are 48 million tyres disposed of each year in the UK alone, and there are only so many uses for those. It’s fantastic that they can now be used for surfacing.

“The blocks used in block paving aren’t porous, it’s just the filling in between that changes, but with Easylay we have a completely permeable surface that can take around 2,500 gallons of water per square metre per hour.

“It’s also very quick to install, around half the time of block paving,” adds Simon. “There’s nothing else like it on the market.”

 

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