Homes set far off the street afford more privacy than the standard suburban lot. The distance from the road reduces noise and deters door-to-door solicitors. However, a deep lot with a home set far back from the front property edge requires a long driveway. When picking the best material for your long driveway, carefully consider your options. Compare initial installation costs as well as the cost to maintain the driveway and the anticipated life of your driveway.
For our Long Island climate, these are the best materials for long driveways.
Asphalt is a very popular material for driveways of all lengths. Asphalt driveways are created from a mixture of aggregate and binder. The most common aggregates are pebbles and sand, and the most common binder is bitumen. Bitumen is the black, tar-like material that gives asphalt its distinctive blacktop look.
On Long Island, our soil goes through a freeze and thaw cycle throughout the winter. This is particularly hard on paving surfaces. As the groundwater freezes, it can expand up to 9% in volume. This causes swelling and heaving. Because asphalt is flexible, it is forgiving. Asphalt paving moves with the soil and won’t damage as easily as other materials in a freeze and thaw cycle.
Shoveling a long driveway by hand after each snowstorm isn’t very practical. It’s common for truck-mounted plows to clear long driveways in winter. Smooth surface asphalt is well-suited for mechanical plowing. However, if the asphalt is cracked or riddled with holes, a plow can do more harm than good. It’s always a good idea to inspect your asphalt driveway each year before winter and make sure all cracks and holes are filled.
Long asphalt driveways can also be safely cleared with a snowblower.
Here’s a video of a truck-mounted plow clearing a long driveway.
Asphalt is one of the best materials for long driveways. It is economical to install and requires minimal maintenance. Sealcoating the asphalt every few years and filling cracks and holes as they appear are the only maintenance you’ll need to be performed. When the driveway needs to be replaced, asphalt is recyclable in many communities.
In winter, asphalt can be treated with rock salt and plowed. You can also shovel by hand (not very practical for a long driveway) or use a snowblower.
Even with proper maintenance, an asphalt driveway will need to eventually be resurfaced. An asphalt driveway will last about 15 years. That’s longer than other paving materials but a shorter life than concrete.
Concrete is also one of the best materials for long driveways on Long Island. Concrete is incredibly strong and durable.
Pouring concrete for a long driveway may be done in sections to prevent cracking. While asphalt is flexible and able to withstand freeze and thaw cycles, concrete is more rigid. The use of expansion joints between poured concrete segments provides room for the concrete to move without cracking.
Concrete may be dyed, stained, stamped, or stenciled to create a decorative finish. Once cured, concrete driveways must be waterproofed every few years. Other than the occasional waterproofing, concrete needs no other maintenance.
In winter, the smooth concrete surface is perfect for clearing with plows or snow blowers. However, rock salt will degrade concrete, and its use is not recommended.
A properly maintained driveway can last up to 30 years. It only needs occasional waterproofing for maintenance. It can be resurfaced if you decide you want a different look. Long concrete driveways can be plowed with truck-mounted equipment without fear of damage.
Concrete is an expensive material for building a long driveway. It is important that the substrate be properly prepared before the concrete is poured. Even then, concrete can crack. Large driveways are usually poured in sections with expansion joints separating the sections. These joints provide a perfect place for weeds to sprout.
If your driveway is lined with trees, concrete might not be the best material as the tree roots will eventually crack the driveway.
Gravel is one of the best materials for long driveways if budget is your primary concern. A gravel driveway consists of small pebbles spread onto the prepared driveway bed. A gravel driveway can be installed in very little time.
Gravel doesn’t provide a smooth surface like asphalt or concrete. It can be plowed mechanically but plowing damages the surface. A gravel driveway isn’t easy to shovel by hand either. But you can use a snowblower on a gravel driveway without fear of damaging the gravel surface.
Gravel driveways do require maintenance to replenish the aggregate that washes away or gets picked up in tire treads. They do not stop weed growth, so keeping vegetation down can be a problem.
Gravel is one of the best materials if your budget is tight. It is one of the least expensive options for paving a long driveway. It provides a rustic look that goes well with many architectural styles.
A gravel driveway may cost less, but it has a shorter lifespan than an asphalt or concrete driveway. You will need to replenish the gravel every few years. Controlling vegetation through chemical or mechanical methods is an ongoing task.
What is the Best Material for Your Long Driveway?
Picking the best materials for your long driveway requires careful consideration of the factors that are most important to you.
Is the cost to install more important than the ongoing cost to maintain?
Will you be responsible for snow removal or outsource that maintenance? How important is it to keep your driveway clear in winter?
In addition to asphalt, concrete, and gravel there are other paving options available. Review PALERMO PAVING’S guide to 5 Types of Driveway Surfaces & What You Should Know About Each to get more information about paving materials.
If you have questions about paving products, contact PALERMO PAVING online or call (631)286-8739 to learn more.