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Permeable Paving for Driveways: Is it the Best? [Pros & Cons]

People are always looking for ways to make their homes more eco-friendly. One of the easiest ways to do this is by installing permeable paving for your driveway.

This type of paving allows water to drain through it, which keeps rainwater from running off into the street and causing flooding. It also helps groundwater recharge, which is excellent for the environment. Plus, you don’t need council approval for permeable driveways.

During our 15 years in the landscaping trade, we’ve often been asked about the benefits of permeable pavement and driveway surfaces. Is block paving permeable? Are driveway permeable pavers expensive to install? There’s often a list of pros and cons that come with these answers, or at least a little explaining to do, but we’ve amassed a fair amount of knowledge during our time.

From front gardens to flag paving, opting for a permeable sub-base and surface material provides many benefits for the homeowner and the environment in general. These materials protect the ground and soil beneath the installation and help excessive rain safely drain away from your front garden, concrete and asphalt areas.

So, let’s look at the permeable driveway options available and help you decide which ones are best for your project.

If you’re interested in installing permeable paving for your driveway, keep reading to see what is permeable paving for driveways, the benefits porous material have, and a few options to choose from.

What Is a Permeable Surface?

You can define permeable as a material or membrane that allows liquids to pass through it. Permeable surfaces generally refer to outdoor installations made from porous materials that allow water to soak into a loose aggregate sub-base and drainage system beneath.

Driveways and block paving installations made from permeable materials allow for rainwater harvesting and sustainable urban drainage systems, as well as preventing runoff water from pooling and causing damage to your driveway surface.

A permeable surface is essential for a flat driveway. It can even allow homeowners to freely remove and re-install their driveway or block paving without applying for planning permission. A permeable driveway is ideal for areas that see significant rainfall and flooding and they eliminate the risk of standing water from damaging your driveway.

Naturally permeable outdoor spaces include grass lawn and open soil, though these materials are not suited to bearing weight or heavy traffic. Permeable paving is an excellent addition to a rain garden or other lawn area, designed to be eco-conscious and suited to rainwater harvesting.

The Problems with Impermeable Driveway Options

Impermeable surfaces, built from non-porous driveway material, can cause several problems and often require more maintenance than permeable surfaces.

Non-permeable surfaces will hold water and rain until warmer temperatures allow for evaporation. This can result in permanent puddles, dangerous ice and stagnant water, all of which can damage your driveway or paved area and pose a risk of injury.

Installing a non-permeable driveway will require planning permission from the council, which can often be a long and tedious process. Opting for a permeable pavement or driveway surface with an adequate drainage system completely removes this necessity.

Impermeable surfaces are also much harder to clean, as any cleaning agents you use will be unable to drain away. This can result in oil, chemicals and dirty water plaguing your driveway and causing an unsightly mess.

Another primary concern with non-permeable surfaces is the increased risk of subsidence that can cause significant structural damage to patios, driveways and even your home and garden. With little to no water able to drain into the ground below, the soil beneath your pavement can shrink, resulting in an increased risk of cracks and splits forming on the surface above.

Non-permeable block paving and driveways can even contribute to global warming. A non-permeable area will retain heat for longer, resulting in the heat island effect, where lingering heat from the day persists into the cooler night and results in warmer temperatures and heat pollution.

Types of Permeable Driveways and their Advantages or Disadvantages

So, permeable surfaces are generally considered to be beneficial to any outdoor installation, but what permeable driveway options are there? And what are their advantages and disadvantages? Let’s take a look at the best permeable driveway materials.

Are Resin Driveways Permeable?

Resin-bound driveways are permeable, but a resin bonded surface is not. Resin-bound surfacing is made from a blend of loose aggregate in which every piece has been coated with a clear polyurethane resin.

In contrast, resin bonded surfacing is made by sprinkling loose aggregate onto a coat of resin. It is not permeable, must be laid on a non-porous asphalt or concrete base and will require the installation of an open soakaway (a large hole designed to soak up excess water) to adequately remove any rainwater from the driveway.

A resin-bound surface has many benefits, including a smooth finish and no loose gravel, resulting in redistribution. It produces a weed and frost resistant surface and requires very little maintenance.

Gravel Driveways

Installing a loose aggregate gravel driveway is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to ensure that your driveway surface is permeable. A gravel driveway complies with modern, sustainable urban drainage systems and produces a natural, porous surface that requires little maintenance or cleaning.

The large gaps present between each individual piece of gravel create a natural drainage system that allows rainwater to safely make its way into the soil and ground beneath your driveway surface.

The downsides of gravel driveways come mainly from the gradual loss of gravel over time; as pedestrians and vehicles on the surface redistribute the aggregate, they can also be a pain for parents with children’s buggies! However, this can be avoided to a certain degree by installing plastic grids within your gravel driveway to hold some of the aggregate in place.

This video shows how to install gravel grids

Is Block Paving Porous?

Unless sealed with an impermeable sealant, block paving is a superb permeable driveway option. The sand present in the gaps between the blocks allows water to soak into the soil and ground beneath.

Provided your block paving has been installed with an adequate sub-base of permeable aggregate, block paving allows for drainage systems that protect driveways and patios from excessive rain and flooding.

If laid with a weed mesh beneath the blocks and sealed, block paving can be incredibly durable and relatively easy to maintain. Just be cautious of using a pressure washer on your block paving and be sure to keep the blocks clean.

Advantages of Permeable Block Paving

Permeable paving blocks are much more visually appealing than a plain concrete drive, but they also provide more surface area for rainwater to soak into the sub-base and the ground beneath, thanks to the gaps between the blocks.

The blocks are relatively easy to clean, provided that they’re properly sealed. The interlocking nature of these permeable driveway pavers allows for a high load-bearing strength when used as a driveway surfacing material.

Is Tarmac Porous?

Tarmac is not a porous pavement or driveway material. Some specifically designed asphalts can be used as permeable surfaces for driveways, but standard tarmac cannot be used for permeable pavement or driveway installations.

Imprinted Concrete

Imprinted concrete is not an option when looking for permeable driveway material. Because imprinted concrete consists of a single layer of material over a solid foundation, it doesn’t allow for water drainage without a designated open soakaway.

There is nowhere for any water to drain into the ground beneath this material, so it can’t be used as a permeable surface. Steeper driveways finished in imprinted concrete will still provide adequate drainage, as the slope will allow water to wash away naturally thanks to gravity.

Benefits of a Permeable Driveway

Generally speaking, the benefits of installing a permeable driveway far outweigh any negatives. The natural drainage prevents puddles and stagnant water and allows rainwater to filter into the ground to remove pollutants and impurities.

In areas that see excessive rainfall, permeable driveways can reduce the risk of flooding and protect your neighbourhood! A porous outdoor structure prevents the heat island effect of artificially warming the environment and, for the same reason, is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to finish an outdoor space.

Last Word

Permeable paving is an environmentally friendly way to create a surface for your driveway. It allows water and air to pass through, which reduces flooding around the home. There are many different types of permeable driveway surfaces that you can choose from, such as gravel, porous concrete pavers or stone flags.

Which you choose depends on what will work best with your budget or fit in with the design aesthetic of your property.

The good news is you won’t require planning permission, which means you will save money and can get on with the job quickly. We hope this post has helped you decide which materials will work best for porous driveways.