Interlocking Driveways vs Asphalt Driveways vs Concrete Driveways
7 April 2023
Is an interlock paver driveway better than asphalt or concrete driveway? Each product has its pros and cons. Throughout this article we will break down each product and how it compares to the alternatives.
Interlocking driveways are considered to be a high-end solution to our everyday parking needs. Stone pavers are manufactured in a factory, made of concrete and are available in many different sizes, shapes, textures and colours. The different models can be mixed and matched using unlimited options for colour combinations and textures. This allows the designer, along with the homeowner, to create a truly unique design.
Popular driveways in the 1990’s and early 2000’s were often brown, red or pink and used smaller style interlocking bricks. Around 2005 the earthy more natural tones began to take over. Interlocking pavers started to increase in size and thickness. Designers had more options to work with and began integrating contrasting borders or accents into the driveways. Around 2015 the greys took over. Since then, the products lines exploded with options. Manufacturers started to introduce more and more variations of different greys into each product line as well as improved on some of the tones from earlier years.
Interlocking pavers have continuously increased in size and have become considerably thicker than they were 30 years ago. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, most interlocking pavers on the market were 6cm or 2.36” thick. Since then, they have gradually gotten thicker. Today, the standard for most residential parking applications is 8cm or 3.15” thick. This mainly relates to the increase in size of the products on the market. The larger the stone, the thicker it needs to be to avoid cracking. The larger thicker products also offer better weight distribution creating a more stable base for the today’s vehicles. With cars decreasing in popularity over the years, now the average household has a high probability of owing a SUV or Truck which weigh considerably more than a conventional car. This extra weight can be combated by installing a larger thicker product to more effectively distribute the vehicles weight.
There are 6 main manufacturers that distribute interlocking pavers in Milton, Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington. Best Way Stone, Techo Bloc, Permacon, Unilock, Oaks and Rinox. All of their products are manufactured in Canada and are built to withstand Canadian winters. Each manufacturer has technologies and techniques unique to their products. Even though they are just “concrete bricks”, a lot of thought has gone into the way each product is developed. Some manufacturers use a technique where they install a “face mix” which leaves really small aggregates on the surface of the stone allowing for a deep colour blend. Others offer products that go through a sealing process that enhances the colour and protects the interlocking stones from colour loss and deterioration.
The base depth for an interlock driveway in Milton, Ontario is 8” to 16” of compacted gravels. The thickness depends on many factors such as bedding soil composition, vehicle weights, paver thicknesses and traffic of the areas. At Enviro-Loc Interlocking Ltd., we recommend at least 10” of base material. A thicker coarse aggregate such as ¾” clear stone or ¾” crushed gravel should be used for the bottom 8” to 9”. This should be compacted in two layers of 4”-5” if new gravel is being used for the base. 1” to 2” of HPB (¼” stone chip) is installed on top of the base gravel directly beneath the interlocking stones.
Pre-existing asphalt driveways that were built to code in Ontario will usually have a minimum of 10” of crushed gravel as a base. We do not recommend removing this base material and replacing it unless there are existing issues that cause concern. Some contractors recommend removing this where it may lead to serious issues. If the contractor insists on taking out the existing gravel that has completely settled over several years and replace it with new gravel, you create the possibility of installation failure. The installer may miss an area with the compactor or may not compact thoroughly enough, leaving soft pockets in the base. Additionally, installations where all new gravel is used tend to settle. This settlement may range from 1/8” to 1” depending on the compaction and the gravel depth.
Also, the removal of the existing gravel to replace with the exact same gravel can carry a cost of $3 to $6 per square foot which is a completely unnecessary expense. Gravel does not have an expiry date, so you should refrain from removing the existing base unless there is major settling, sink holes or insufficient base material/depth. This can be checked by the contractor upon removal of the existing driveway.
The common causes for an interlocking driveway to fail are improper compaction, insufficient depth of base material or incorrect aggregates used. Over the years, contractors have begun to stray from the old school way of using limestone screening as their leveling layer. Limestone screening breaks down over time and retains a lot of water which freezes in the winter months and leads to heaving. HPB (High Performance Bedding) has been proven to be the optimal base material to use in all applications as the top layer of bedding. Another suitable leveling layer is sand although it does not carry the same drainage capabilities as HPB. Stay away from contractors who use limestone screening as this is sure to fail within the first 10 years.
Interlocking driveways require maintenance every few years. There are many factors that need to be taken into account to determine the exact duration. Annual inspections are the easiest way to monitor the health of your interlocking driveway. Polymeric sand is swept in between the joints of the pavers which locks them in place and prevents weed growth. This polymeric sand begins to deteriorate over the years and needs to be replaced. The average life span of polymeric sand on an interlocking driveway is 2 to 4 years. Replacement is messy but quite easy to accomplish. Click here if you would like to read more information on interlocking driveway maintenance. Contractors also offer maintenance services which range between $2 and $4 per square foot for a 600 square foot driveway.
Properly maintained interlocking driveways should last between 15 and 25 years before any major restoration work is required. Once the first life cycle ends and the driveway needs to be repaired, the stones can easily be lifted so the base can be adjusted and recompacted. The interlocking should be cleaned and all existing polymeric sand should be removed. Once completed, the interlocking can be re installed and new polymeric sand swept into the joints of the pavers. This process typically needs to be redone every 15 years or so, provided that regular maintenance is not being neglected.
Interlocking pavers can range in price from $3 per square foot to $15 per square foot for the material alone. The average price for a good quality popularly used paver is around $7 per square foot. There average cost for an interlocking driveway in Milton including all material, labour and disposal is $15,600. This is based on a 600 square foot driveway at $26 per square foot when using a $6 to 7 per square foot paver.
PROS of an interlock driveway
- Can be customized to offer a unique look
- Endless options for colours and material
- Can be repaired very easily and cost effectively
- Not affected by temperatures or changing seasons
- Most products are slip resistant
- Material lasts 40+ years
CONS of an interlock driveway
- Expensive material and labour
- Higher maintenance costs vs the alternative paving solutions
- Can grow weeds and shift if not properly maintained
- Needs major restoration every 15 to 20 years
Asphalt driveways are the most cost-effective option for residential and commercial parking applications. It typically costs around 6 times less than an interlocking driveway. The average cost for an asphalt driveway in Milton, Ontario including all material, labour and disposal is $2100 to $3600. This is based on a 600 square foot driveway at $3.5 per square foot to $6 per square foot. That being said, many asphalt companies have minimum project sizes that they will accept, so if your driveway is smaller, your square foot rate might work out to be much higher.
Asphalt driveways require an approximate base of 12” thick ¾” crushed gravel. The thickness of asphalt will depend on the future traffic, weight of the vehicles and company installing. Newly developed homes will typically have two 1.5” – 2” thick layers installed. The first layer has coarse aggregates to provide a solid base. There is usually a one-year gap between layers to allow for settling. The second layer has fine aggregates which allow for a cleaner finish and smoother surface. Re-surface applications are typically installed in one coat. This coat is usually 3” thick of hot asphalt and compacted down to a 2” final thickness. The base gravel will have settled over the years, which means there will be limited settling.
Asphalt driveways are made up of a mixture of aggregates, binder and filler and is poured and set on site. The dump trucks are loaded with a hot mix from an asphalt plant and deliver the asphalt directly to the area being paved. The hot asphalt is either scooped or dumped out of the truck and filled into a spreader. This machine will evenly distribute the asphalt onto the new driveway. The asphalt is then raked flat and compacted with a large roller machine. This machine releases water to ensure a smooth surface finish and prevents the asphalt from getting stuck onto the equipment. The edges and hard to reach areas are then compacted with a vibratory plate compactor.
Asphalt driveways do not offer any design or colour options. The aesthetic is very simple and plain. A newly paved asphalt driveway although simple does offer a very clean look. This sleek look is usually maintained for the first 5 years.
Asphalt driveways can be maintained to continue the fresh new look. The maintenance cost is very low. It is recommended to coat them with an asphalt sealer every 1 to 2 years to keep the asphalt looking fresh and prevent surface deterioration. As the years go on, the asphalt will begin to crack and they cracks should be filled prior to sealing the driveway. The average maintenance cost for a 600 square foot driveway is $200-$300 plus additional costs for filling cracks.
Asphalt driveways have a typical lifespan of 10 to 15 years. They look very good for the first 5 years beginning to change from black to grey as the years progress. The next 5 years the driveway will begin to crack, and ruts (sinkholes) may start to appear. After that the area will become very unsightly and the issues will continuously get worse. Unfortunately, outside the regular maintenance, there are very limited option when it comes to repairing an asphalt driveway. Once the surface begins to deteriorate, there is no possible solution. Either a portion or the full driveway will need to be removed completely and replaced with new asphalt. Repairing specific areas is not ideal as there are minimum costs to have a company do the work ultimately leaving a patchy look between the different areas.
PROS of an asphalt driveway
- Low cost for material and installation
- Low cost for maintenance
- Looks great for first 5 years
- Slip Resistant
CONS of an asphalt driveway
- No design or colours options
- Very weak surface which can be easily damaged
- Weakens further in the summer months due to heat
- Cannot be repaired
- Needs to be replaced every 10 to 15 years
- Same builder grade product provided on new build homes
Concrete driveways can range in pricing even more sporadically than interlocking. Due to the varying materials, concrete driveways can be half the cost of an interlocking driveway up to double the price depending on the finish of the concrete. Concrete can be finished in many different fashions offering a variety of textures, colours and appearances. The concrete finishes available are a smooth finish, brushed finish, exposed aggregate, and stamped.
Brushed concrete is the most basic form of concrete which carries the easiest installation method and lowest cost. Smooth concrete, much like brushed concrete, is slightly more difficult during the finishing phase. Exposed aggregate is a technique where chemicals are applied to the surface which allows the surface to be removed and the rocks below to become visible. Stamped concrete is a process where pads with embedded textures are pressed into the concrete altering the surface to resemble the texture of the pad. Both exposed concrete and stamped concrete driveways need to be covered with a protective concrete sealer application every 2 years to prevent surface deterioration from ice melters.
All of the above options can be coloured using integral colouring inside the concrete mix or adding release colour to the surface. Colour release is a process where colour is thrown on top of the concrete and either stamped or trowelled in. This has a high probability of flaking or peeling off over the years if not properly installed and protected. Integral colouring imbeds the colour into the concrete making it coloured from top to bottom and throughout. This colour will never wash or peel away; although, it not sealed, it may fade over the years.
Concrete driveways need to be maintained every two years to prevent surface deterioration. Maintenance is very easy and inexpensive to accomplish using a pressure washer and a concrete sealer. The concrete sealer that is applied can make the driveway very slippery. There are some options and methods on the market than can decrease how slippery the surface becomes.
A common misconception is that if you do not salt your driveway, there is no need to seal it. Even driveways that aren’t de-iced, still have vehicular traffic. The underbody of all cars in winter storms are covered with a slushy substance that is mixed with city road salt. This salt is very powerful and as it drips down onto the concrete over the course of many years, can lead to spot deterioration. Converting to safe ice melting products vs rock salts is a great start in protecting your driveway, but even these products can damage the concrete over long periods of time.
Concrete is composed of aggregates, sand and a cement mixture that turns extremely hard and strong once completely cured (dry). This is mixed in a concrete truck and poured on site. A typical concrete driveway should be at least 6” thick and have at least 6” of ¾” crushed gravel as a base. Concrete driveways should have 10M rebars installed through the center of the slab that are spaced no more than 2ft apart. Concrete, when installed properly, can last upwards of 40 years with little maintenance. The more decorative the concrete looks, the higher probability it will fail at an earlier stage. Stamped concrete driveways are known to fail closer to the 20-year mark even if maintained properly.
Being that concrete is a very strong surface, it is also very hard to remove. There are limited options when it comes to repairing concrete driveways. If there is only surface deterioration issue, the concrete can be cleaned and a resurfacer added. This is not a very effective solution as the resurfacers on the market today don’t last very long under the constant strain of vehicle use.
Concrete driveways also have a high tendency to crack. Hairline fractures are just surface cracks that don’t cause any structural issues within the concrete. Other than the offsetting look of a large crack extending across the driveway, it doesn’t require any formal repair. Larger cracks can cause major issues on a concrete driveway. As the crack grows, the concrete can split further apart and portions of it may sink or rise. This is nearly impossible to fix with maintaining the aesthetic of the driveway. A serious cost will be incurred when the concrete reaches a point that it needs to be removed. The cost to remove a 600 square foot concrete driveway is usually between $5000 and $7000.
Concrete driveways range drastically in price. Based on our findings, a 600 square foot driveway will cost; Brushed finish driveways can range from $6000 and $9000. Smooth finish driveways are usually $1 to $2 per square foot more than brushed finish. Exposed aggregate can range from $8000 to $12,000. Stamped concrete can range from $10,000 to $16,000. Special borders or designs and colours can increase the cost above and beyond the base price.
PROS of a concrete driveway
- Very strong and durable solution
- Installed correctly can last 40+ years
- Maintenance is easy and inexpensive
- Basic option is cost effective
- Basic option is slip resistant
- Decorative options are available in a variety of designs and colours
CONS of a concrete driveway
- Cannot be aesthetically repaired
- Basic option offers a very commercial look
- Decorative options can be very expensive
- Decorative options can be very slippery
- Issues arise in the winter from freezing and de-icing
- Very expensive to demolish and remove
At Enviro-Loc, we offer complimentary free consultations to all of our clients, allowing you to meet with our landscape design consultants and discuss your ideas, goals, and budget. During the consultation, we’ll provide you with detailed information about our interlocking designs, including the types of materials we use, the installation process, and the maintenance required to keep your new features looking their best.
If you’re ready to take the first step towards increasing your curb appeal, reach out to Enviro-Loc today. We’re available by phone at 289-270-6711 or by clicking here. We’re always happy to answer your questions, provide advice, and schedule a consultation at your convenience.
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