OUR GUIDE TO THE PERFECT STONE DRIVEWAY
The driveway is the first impression a visitor will get to a home or business landscape—so it’s important to get it right. We can help you choose the natural stone that meets your design spec for color, shape, and durability. And we’ll take care of the rest; including sourcing, manufacturing, and delivery.
DRIVEWAY LOOK AND FEEL
A driveway should be an integral part of one’s landscape and home, so starting with a good design is essential whether adding stone accents to an existing driveway or creating an entirely new granite cobblestone or plank driveway. Granite cobblestone driveways are timeless classics but we can up that game a little. How about limestone, basalt, or bluestone cobblestones quarried and cut to spec or going with cobblestones reclaimed from historic streets and plazas. The choice will have a profound effect on the look and overall feel of the driveway. A good design will consider all of the variables and help narrow the choices to materials that have the right look and feel and are appropriate for the functional requirements including climate.
Cobblestones and bricks are still the most popular choices for driveways but plank pavers and custom dimensional cut pavers are becoming very popular. Planks add a great look regardless of whether they are reclaimed or newly fabricated. Reclaimed materials, in general, exhibit the effects of time and wear and each stone is unique. The color variations of reclaimed stones yield a dramatic old world feel. Planks expand on that theme by exploiting their larger surface area. Modern styles may opt for dimensional cut pavers with tight joints and more uniform shape and color. Creative designs may contrast new and old stone in interesting ways including the use of radically different materials, like basalt cobblestones with granite accents, for instance. It’s definitely worth spending some time end effort getting the style right, especially if you want something unique. Irregularly shaped paving stones are another possibility, and these are available in sawn/worked and natural surfaces.
One of the most important considerations in paver choice is color. Grays own the driveway space but more and more we see variations on the gray theme. A gray limestone has a much different look and feel than a gray granite. The darker grays to blacks of basalt impart a much different feel than a lighter gray bluestone or granite.
Color uniformity is another consideration. One stone type can vary in color, even from the same quarry. So being familiar with the particular traits within each quarry is important. We can help you with that.
Of course, there is more to life than gray. Large sandstone and bluestone pavers come in a wide range of colors. Granite can come in dramatically different shades for example the pinks in Cape Neddick Full Color granite or the greens and purples in Mystic Mountain granite. Reclaimed European Sandstone and Porphyry Cobblestones show wonderful subtle hues of purples, blues, greens, and more. These colorful stones make striking driveway pavers.
We also source reclaimed red brick, a timeless classic in the Northeast, as well as brick from other parts of the US like the Midwest which come in a wider range of colors. Brick is always an option for a beautiful driveway that is more cost effective. Add some natural stone accents to the pattern or as an apron or border for a little visual relief.
It’s important to keep in mind that at least a little surface texture is desirable to keep the driveway from being slippery. But it’s also important to remember that different surface textures can alter the appearance of the stone and in some cases that change is dramatic. It’s always a good idea to view samples of a material in the desired surface texture before making the final selection. Most paving stones have slip resistant surfaces that are either natural or can be applied. For example, sandstone and brick have naturally gritty surfaces, while sawn granites might best be flamed to raise the crystal structure or grain. Not all stone responds well to flaming or thermal treatments however. In some cases it spalls and in other cases there is an unfortunate color shift. A number of surface treatments can be applied to stone that doesn’t respond well to thermal treatment; sandblasted, adzed, bush hammered and many more can create skid resistant surfaces.
Surface treatments may also be applied as design elements. For example, lined and adzed surfaces can provide a lot of visual interest. Bush hammering can be done with uniformity or randomly for unique surface patterns. The list goes on and on, there are so many interesting surface applications and different ways of applying them. You get the idea, we’re not talking about your standard manufactured paver products here. Many quarries have unique surfaces that can help make your project unique and this is part of our stone curation process.
Driveway pavers are typically scaled to the environment. Huge driveways and courtyards are naturals for plank pavers. Not only do planks look great but the larger surface area of each stone saves installation time. But we’ve all seen huge cobblestoned piazzas and courtyards, and they also work well. Your driveway design needs only to consider the scale of the pavers as it contributes to the overall design. One thing to keep in mind is that the larger the surface area of each paver, the thicker it should be. It’s simple physics—a nine square foot paver, one inch thick, is much easier to damage than one that is three inches thick.
Shape + Design Patterns
Every custom driveway design includes a paver shape and design pattern. From the smallest sized cobblestone cubes to oversized irregular flagstone pavers, the shape of the stone is a matter of personal preference. Once a shape is decided on, then consider the pattern it will be laid in. Longer shaped planks are very popular these days and they make dramatic driveways and patios. Check out our standard design patterns for pavers. Stone Curators has a whole library of them for you to use for free with your CAD programs. With design specs in hand we can produce almost anything your design calls for.
An important part of every driveway plan is the base or bed preparation. The plan takes into account the size and type of the final paving layer as well as the ground conditions upon which the driveway will be laid. A very wet soil or high water table requires a different plan than a desert landscape. If heat is to be supplied to the driveway it needs to be built into the base layer and the type of heat will guide the plan. Electric heating elements require a much different preparation than a geothermal heating solution. Storm water management (drainage) introduces another complex element that requires specialized expertise. The list goes on. We recommend a well-engineered plan.
The size of the stone pavers will also influence the base prep. For instance, brick pavers might be laid on a concrete slab (not ideal) but that would be entirely inappropriate for large irregular pavers that require a base to conform to their shape for stability and support and to compensate for variations in thickness. So the base substrate supports the stone paver layer and helps limit its movement while improving longevity.
To review, take these points into consideration prior to base installation:
- Thickness / size of final paving layer
- Existing ground conditions
- Drainage plan
- Heating requirement
- Grading of surface based on existing elements
- Engineered plan required
- Additional support elements – fabrics (woven / non-woven)
The following diagrams are examples of recommended base preparation for driveways:
Granite or Bluestone Pavers (Wet Set)
Reclaimed Jumbo Cobblestone (Dry Set)
As a general rule, the larger a paving stone’s surface area, the thicker it should be. When irregular forces are applied to large surfaces cracking or breaking can occur more easily, especially if base support is not consistent. Larger pieces of stone are also more likely to have mineral or crystal deposits that cause variations in the strength of the overall stone. The benefit of thicker stone is that it’s also heavier and less likely to move as easily under pressure. We like to spec stone thickness for driveways at two inches and greater. Taller or thicker smaller sized stones will also help control movement. Cobblestones, for instance, are much thicker or taller than their surface areas would normally require. Cobble thickness allows for mortars, sand, or aggregates to sit between them, and because these are packed, they provide stability.
Driveways in cold climates require what we call freeze-thaw resistance. Stone that absorbs higher percentages of water is likely to spall or crack when frozen. As this process can occur many times in an average winter it can compromise the strength and aesthetics of the driveway. A natural stone driveway is a significant investment, therefore the right stone is extremely important. As simple examples, granite, porphyry, and basalts without voids are safe. With sandstone and limestone care should be taken to utilize those that are on the denser end of the scale. We can help with choosing the right stone for any climate.
Heated driveways require a higher level of planning and preparation. Heat transfer efficiency becomes a major component. Overly thick stone could take far too long to heat, but if too thin, a new set of issues could emerge. Experience in heating driveways is essential.
We consider natural stone to be the best choice for driveways. Natural stone has one big advantage over brick and other manufactured pavers. It’s durable, lasting up to—well, centuries! And its color will be retained over time even as surfaces become worn and weathered. Natural stone also tends to be less porous and will be less likely to stain. You can’t go wrong with a natural stone driveway for beauty and durability.
MATERIALS WE LOVE
Reclaimed stone is available in many different shapes, sizes and colors, but the qualities that set it apart most are its weathering and wear. We really like the look of these weathered and worn stone surfaces—they are unique and distinctive with an old world feel. Almost all reclaimed stone exhibits weathering or staining of some kind, depending on how and where it was used. Many reclaimed stones also exhibit signs of wear from decades or centuries of use as pavers. Our Reclaimed Footworn Granite Plank Pavers from China, come to mind but there are other product types available as well. We source reclaimed basalt, porphyry and sandstone pavers, as well as other less common stones. We can have gauged pavers cut from the faces of large blocks and curbstone or even cobblestones. If you like the look of old stone then reclaimed is the way to go. You won’t regret it.
Reclaimed granite cobblestones are a New England staple. Their beautiful worn and weathered surfaces are just part of the story. They were quarried from many different parts of New England so the granite grain and colors vary as does the wear and weathering. But that’s just the beginning. We reclaim bluestone, sandstone and porphyry cobblestones from Europe as well as colorful reclaimed Swedish granite cobblestones. These reclaimed cobblestones are available with their original worn surfaces or sawn flat if the design demands. Let’s not forget the different sizes available. The sizes and shapes of reclaimed cobbles vary widely from small 4×4 surfaced cobbles to our 80-pound reclaimed road pavers. The other variables still apply.
Newly fabricated cobblestones are also still being manufactured by quarries all over the world. The stone types, sizes, shapes, colors, and surfaces can all be defined by the driveway design. This makes for uniquely beautiful cobblestone installations. There is no limit to what can be done using this ancient paving technique.
Of course, cobblestones are not the only stone being manufactured for paving applications. Gauged pavers can be made from any appropriately hard stone. Newly fabricated planks, squares, rectangles, and more can be specified. Again, the size, shape, color, surface, and stone type are all part of the design decisions for the new driveway. The choices are almost limitless.
Who doesn’t like a brick driveway? It’s classic. Colors are mostly brick red but there are some variations even within the same products. We also have reclaimed brick that shows some wear and has softer edges.
Natural stone driveways done right can present a great example of design, engineering, and beautiful stone. We can help you get the best stone for your project plan. We travel the world visiting quarries, stone fabricators and reclamation sites in search of the right stone, and then bring it back to you.
Connect with us today, we’d love to help you find the right stone for your project.