Building and buying

Paving a driveway: material, costs and building instructions

Thomas Bott

There are several advantages to paving your driveway. It makes the journey by car to your property smoother and less dirty. However, the work involves a lot of effort, and mistakes can easily be made. Good planning is therefore particularly important. Find out here what you should consider, what materials are available, how best to go about paving a driveway and what costs are involved.

View of a curved driveway with lavender and other plants at the sides.
© Getty Images

In this article

Paving a driveway: obtain a building permit if necessary

Structural changes to a house and land are subject to certain rules. These differ from one municipality to another. Before you start planning your paved driveway, it’s worth consulting or visiting the relevant building authority. They will inform you of the applicable regulations.

You may even need a building permit for the work. This is the case if the property in question is a listed building, for example. If the driveway is completely new and you are creating an additional connection to a public road, permission will always be required from the building authority. There could also be pipes running under the ground. All these points must be clarified in advance.

Paving stones: select the right materials

Start thinking early on about what kind of paving stones you want to use. Your choice will have a major impact on the procedure and, of course, on the costs. The different types of paving stones are listed below:

  • Natural stone paving: it’s a long way from the quarry for customers who opt for natural stone paving. This type of paving is complex to produce, which drives up the costs. Cubes and stone slabs of different sizes are particularly common. The choice of color is limited in the case of natural stone – and always depends on the type of stone. Porphyry is reddish, marble is whitish and gneiss is grayish. The different types of stone can also be mixed as they are laid to create patterns.
  • Concrete block paving: this mixture of cement, aggregate and water can be poured into a variety of shapes. It is even possible to produce different colors by adding pigments. Consequently, there is a wide choice of concrete block paving – and the prices are relatively low. Grass pavers are particularly popular because they offer high stability and allow water to run off easily.
  • Clinker paving: this is a mixture of water and either clay or loam. Again, different shapes are available. After firing, the stones are usually reddish. Different shades of gray can also be produced depending on the mineral content. Clinker paving is usually somewhat more expensive than concrete block paving, but cheaper than natural stone paving.
  • Wood-block paving: wood is rarely used for driveways today. There are various reasons for this – but the most important is probably durability. Wood wears more quickly than stone and is less resistant to weather conditions. Although wood looks attractive and is not very expensive, stone or concrete is definitely more suitable
Close-up of grass pavers made of concrete, with weeds already gathering between them.

Grass pavers allow water to run off more easily, although weeds can also quickly find their way through the openings between the concrete blocks.

Preparation: draw up a plan and carry out the groundwork

A pen, paper and ruler are the first tools you should take to hand. It’s important to draw an exact plan of your future driveway and to enter all the dimensions. This will determine how much material you will require and which equipment will be necessary. The excavation work for a smaller driveway can even be done with a spade and shovel. For a larger area you will need a small excavator, which you can rent from a hardware store or garden center. Then calculate how many paving stones you will need for the whole project and each individual row. Don’t forget the joints. Two to five millimeters usually remain free between each stone.

Next, mark out the surface you have measured. You will need iron or wooden poles for the corners, and mason’s cord to connect the poles together. This should show where the future curbs will be located. Now you know exactly where the earthworks need to be carried out. Then remove about 30 to 50 centimeters of earth. In doing so, you should create the gradient for your future driveway. Strengthen the substrate a bit more using a vibrating plate, which you can also borrow from a DIY store or garden center.

A pallet of concrete paving stones has been placed on an area that has already been paved. An unfinished section of chippings can be seen alongside.

Measure out your planned driveway carefully so that you know exactly how many paving stones you will need.

Driveway: lay the base course and curbs

You can’t simply place stones on the bare ground. The paving stones must be protected from frost, prevented from sinking if possible, and should guarantee good water drainage. This is exactly what the base course is for. It is divided into a lower and an upper layer. At the bottom you pour in quarry stone to a height of approximately 20 centimeters. Gravel is one suitable material for this. You should divide the work into two steps if possible. Start with ten centimeters, compact the stones with the vibrating plate and then pour on the remaining ten centimeters. Finally, compact the surface again.

Before you continue with the upper base course, you should position the curbs. These serve as frames for the other layers. To fix them, pour some lean concrete, i.e. concrete with a relatively low cement content, onto the area where the stones are to be placed. Now lay them so that the top is level with the taut mason’s cord. To do this, hit the top of the stones with a rubber mallet. To fix them into place, use the concrete to build a support on both sides and smooth it down. Then wait until the concrete is solid. This may take a few days. In the meantime, you can install a gutter at the bottom of the slope of the driveway so that the water will not flow onto the property or the road, but into the sewerage system. The procedure is similar to that for laying the curbs.

Once the concrete for the curbs is dry, you can move on to the upper base layer, which consists of finer gravel or drainage concrete. Pour in the material in the same away as for the previous layer. Don’t forget to compact it again with the vibrating plate. In the end, the upper base layer should be about 15 centimeters deep.

Another layer, consisting of chippings and crushed sand, now comes on top of the second base layer. It’s important to ensure that this next layer is not too deep so that the paving stones are not left sticking out. You should therefore place metal pipes with a diameter of five centimeters parallel to each other on the base course. Now pour in the chippings and use a board to smooth over the chippings level with the top of the metal pipes. Measure the sides regularly to ensure that the stones will fit well afterwards.

Paving work: lay the paving stones

Now you are finally ready to actually lay the paving stones. That in itself is not too complicated. You simply place the stones in the desired pattern on the bed of chippings and knock them in with the rubber mallet. Make sure you keep the proper distances between the stones and try to stay as straight as possible. Ideally, the stones should protrude by about one centimeter, because they will sink in a little more when you use the vibrating plate.

Tip: always stand on the stones as you lay them, never on the chippings, which must be as even as possible.

Attention: do not start rows in the middle. Proceed systematically and position one stone at a time, otherwise holes will quickly appear in the pattern and you will have to cut extra stones to fill them.

Tip: if the stones don’t fit properly, you will have to cut them with a cutter.

An area that has already been covered with paving stones. The pattern has been left quite free, with joints of different sizes between the stones.

It’s up to you to decide which patterns and distances you want when laying the paving stones. However, you should be very precise when it comes to the height.

Finalize the driveway: smooth down the surface

The work is almost finished. Now it’s time to fill the joints between the stones. Use joint sand for this. Pour it generously over the entire driveway with a shovel. Then sweep the sand between the paving stones. Next, cover the entire area lengthwise and crosswise with the vibrating plate.

Stop and wait for a while again until the sand has settled down a bit. After one or two days, pour joint sand over the paving stones again and sweep it in. Then wait again before sweeping away the excess sand. Now your paving stones have been laid and you can use your new driveway.

Paving a driveway: the costs you will have to pay

As already described above, the choice of paving stones has a major impact on the costs. Simpler concrete or clinker paving is available from around 20 francs per square meter. For natural stone, you can expect a starting price of around 70 francs per square meter. There are some additional costs:

  • The necessary material or tools
  • Costs
  • Curbs
  • around 6 francs per meter
  • Quarry stone
  • around 10 francs per cubic meter
  • Chippings
  • around 5 francs per cubic meter
  • Lean concrete
  • around 7 francs per 25-kilo sack
  • Joint sand
  • around 7 francs per 20-kilo sack
  • Mini excavator
  • around 120 francs per day
  • Vibrating plate
  • around 70 francs per day
  • Angle grinder
  • around 65 francs per day

Other tools such as a shovel, broom or rubber mallet can be added as required. If you prefer to let a professional do the work, you will save yourself a lot of trouble and the purchase of tools that you may never need again. A specialist company will charge you an average of 230 francs per square meter for labor and materials. Of course, prices also vary considerably depending on the nature of the substrate and the choice of paving.

Conclusion: paving a driveway is a complex task

If you want to create a paved driveway and do it yourself, you should be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort. You will also need a certain amount of manual skill. Hire a professional if you prefer to save yourself the trouble. They will complete your project according to your wishes. The cost of the paving stones you lay on the driveway, on the other hand, will depend largely on the material. Complicated patterns and different colors can drive up prices even further.

Paving stones are much more visually appealing than a pure gravel driveway. And compared to smaller stones, paving stones do not get thrown up when you drive over them, which can damage the paintwork of your vehicle. A paved driveway is therefore also better for your car.

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