Practical Residential Paving

When it comes to permeable paving, there are numerous choices available. Whether gravel, crushed recyclable material (such as colored glass) or mulch, these all allow water to percolate through them but need to be contained, or they move. New sub-surface stabilizing products–such as interlocking PVC circles–make these friable materials stable enough to drive over or use a wheelchair on.

Mulch walks can be created from composting existing leaves, clippings, etc. Pine straw is excellent when utilized on slopes, and stays in place better than fine mulch. These products provide a natural look, reduce weed growth, and filter into the soil, improving its composition and water-retaining properties.

Consider the following categories:

Pervious Concrete

This product uses mostly gravel and a binding agent to hold it together. It is stable enough to drive on, and allows percolation through it. It can be colored by choice of aggregate, but typically it’s more utilitarian than aesthetically striking. It can be combined with microbial agents to clean the automobile-produced pollutants from the water, which can then be collected and reused.

Permeable Pavers

Like the concrete product above, these can be made to be completely pervious. They come in many shapes and colors. Another paver type is ribbed to create larger spaces between each paver, so water drains in the joints. These also are available in a number of colors and shapes.

Note: All pervious products require a different base composition than non-pervious ones.

The use of permeable paving depends on the existing soil quality and grade. If the ground is high and stable, then it is a viable alternative. To collect the water and reuse it for irrigation typically requires 2 feet in depth for storage.

Natural Stone

This category is almost limitless, as pavers are available in almost any shape and/or color. When considering stone for a vehicular application, the compressive strength of the material becomes important, as softer materials like sandstone will crack. Nothing less than 4,000 pounds per square inch (psi) should be used.

Interlocking concrete pavers are designed to withstand 8,000 psi. Travertine is a more formal choice, and is available in a number of tones ranging from almost pure white to gold to dark brown or chocolate. It can be cut into any size and recommended for vehicular use, at least 2-1/2 to 3 inches thick when set on a compacted sand base. It can be 1 to 1-1/2-inches thick when set on a concrete slab.

Pedestrian uses can be ¾ of an inch when set on a slab. No pavers larger than 12 x 12 inches are recommended for driveways as they are more prone to cracking. However, one frequently sees 2- x 2-foot or even 3- x 3-foot squares, separated by 3- to 4-inch wide strips or artificial or natural grass. The 6- x 12-inch brick shape makes an excellent border, or can be attractive in a 45-degree herringbone pattern.

Porphry granite is another popular alternative, as it is extremely hard and comes in colors ranging from red to tan to charcoal or black. It has been used for centuries as cobblestone for streets (3-1/2 to 4 inches x 3-1/2 to 4 inches x 3-1/2 to 4 inches thick), and as a random-shape flagstone for walkways.

Clay Brick Pavers

Often a popular choice, clay bricks have excellent compressive strength (approximately 14,000 psi), and have been around for centuries. Colors are typically in the red/tan/charcoal range, and are mostly made in the classic 4- x 8-inch brick shape. Recycling old bricks from metropolitan areas like “old Chicago” gives that antiquated, tumbled look; these have long been used in “Mediterranean”-style architectural projects.

Precast Concrete Pavers

Available in an almost unlimited range of colors and shapes, these have a compressive strength of more than 8,000 psi when used in the 2-3/8- to 3-1/8-inch thickness. Design is limited only by the imagination as the pavers can be used to create delightful patterns and shapes. Three colors can be combined in a single paver, providing a natural variety of colors.

The thicker pavers can be set on a 1-inch-thick bed of concrete screenings, set over a 6-inch compacted road rock base. Note: if using permeable pavers, these setting-bed dimensions change. The location of the project also changes the criteria as colder climates subject to frost-heaving require additional precautions. Consult a professional designer who can provide designs and suggest paving contractors.

Pedestrian Surfaces

One of my favorite mediums is wood decking, as it is easily customized to fit any condition. It is especially useful when accommodating grade changes, and can be built around large existing trees, creating a natural setting.

In the South, old standbys include pressure-treated pine, cypress, cedar, redwood and, more recently, exotic hardwoods from South and Central America.

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