Picking a driveway type is a matter of looks, functionality and cost. Besides deciding how the look of the driveway fits into your overall landscaping, it is important to evaluate several things. Review costs of the different types of driveways, how each of the materials in these options stands up to the environment in your area and the planned uses of the driveway. There are multiple options available to choose from, each with their distinct advantages and disadvantages.
The most basic form of driveway is a dirt driveway. The advantage of a dirt driveway is that it is easy to make and can often be fashioned entirely from the dirt on your property. This makes the dirt driveway one of the least expensive varieties. Because it is not one solid object, such as a paved driveway, frost heaves cannot crack it. As it is unprotected, it is very vulnerable to erosion. In addition, not all types of dirt make good driveways, with clay and sand being particularly unsuitable, according to soil science resources at Texas A&M University.
The next simplest type of driveway is a gravel driveway. A gravel driveway builds on top of a dirt driveway. Begin with dirt if you like and still upgrade to gravel later. Two inches of gravel compacted into a dirt surface increases the strength and durability of your driveway. It is still vulnerable to erosion, however. Though you may be able to use on-site materials, you may have to purchase your gravel, especially if your driveway is large.
In a different category, you'll find paved driveways. The standard paving options are asphalt and concrete. Both are made of stone and sand. Concrete is bound together with Portland cement and asphalt uses asphalt cement. When crude oil prices are low, asphalt can be cheaper than concrete. Asphalt can be relatively easy to install, but asphalt moves when it is hot, so the underlayment of dirt and gravel must be specially strengthened and drained. Asphalt driveways also stain the floors in your home. Because both types use special materials and equipment, they will be more expensive than gravel or dirt driveways. Because both are built on gravel, you can test a gravel driveway first before committing to a paved one.
There are some speciality driveway options available to you as well. A tar and chip driveway, made by squeezing asphalt cement onto gravel and then covering the surface with stone chips is one option. Tim Carter, of "Ask the Builder," claims that is as durable as iron. Another speciality driveway is the cobblestone driveway. Granite cobblestones are the most durable type of driveway paving material. Because they are not one solid object, they can flex as the ground moves, and so are resistant to cracking. Arrange them into elegant and fancy designs, but this is the most expensive type of driveway.