Driveway Materials: Compare Before You Choose

Jessica Merz/flickrThe four most popular driveway materials today are concrete, asphalt, gravel, and pavers. How do you decide on the best one for your home? Sizing them all up may seem as baffling as comparing apples to oranges, but don’t panic. Our detailed guide to each type of driveway material will simplify your choice.


Appearance: Normally, concrete is plain gray. However, it can be finished with a huge selection of colors and textures. Adding attractive aggregate is another way to make your concrete driveway pop.

Durability: 25-50 years.

Climate-resistance: Concrete can be cracked by frost heave and damaged by salt-based deicers.

Curing time: Wait 7 days before driving or parking cars on your new concrete driveway; 30 days for heavier vehicles.

Cost: About $4 per square foot for basic concrete. To add patterns or color, $10 to $50 per sq. ft.

Maintenance: Pressure wash as needed. Scrub oil stains with a brush and commercial degreaser. Seal every 3-5 years, more frequently if exposed to sodium chloride or magnesium chloride deicers.

Repair: Fill small cracks as a DIY project. Larger cracks require the services of a concrete professional. Resurfacing is an option if the concrete is very worn. For serious cracking, pros recommend replacement, rather than repair.


Appearance: A standard asphalt driveway has a flat black surface. It’s possible, though, to imprint it with patterns and UV-stable colors, either at the time of installation or up to several years later.

Durability: Approximately 20 years with moderate maintenance.

Climate-resistance: Asphalt’s flexibility makes it resistant to frost heave. It is also resistant to damage from salt and chemical deicers. Asphalt, in standard black, tends to absorb the sun’s heat, which is good for melting snow off your drive in winter but can get awfully hot – and even melt -- in the summertime.

Curing time: Wait 1 day before using a new asphalt driveway installation.

Cost: $3 to $5 per square foot.

Maintenance: Asphalt may be swept, hosed down, or pressure washed to remove dirt. Seal to protect the surface against weather and fluids every 2-3 years.  

Repair: When you need to repair just a small area, apply an asphalt crack sealer or cold patch. For larger fixes, simply overlay an additional layer atop the original asphalt in a process called “recapping.”


Appearance: Types of gravel driveway range in appearance from plain gray gravel to elegant and colorful varieties of crushed stone, such as granite or marble.

Durability: 100 years or more with scrupulous maintenance.

Climate-resistance: Freeze-thaw cycles are not a problem for this driveway material but in an area with harsh winters, snow removal can be a problem.

Curing time: Use immediately after installation.

Cost: $1 to $3 per square foot. Usually the cheapest in terms of labor, since it’s simplest to install. Price of materials varies depending on what type of gravel or crushed stone you choose.

Maintenance: Weeds can grow easily and must be removed. You might want to add a binder for dust control. Refresh your gravel driveway every 1-5 years by adding to the top layer.

Repair: Repair is simple -- just spread more gravel.


Appearance: An interlocking paver driveway offers abundant curb appeal. There are several paver materials – concrete, brick, clay, and natural stone (“flagstone”).

Durability: 20-25 years, or longer for natural stone

Climate-resistance: A paver driveway stands up well to temperature changes and deicers. Eco-friendly permeable pavers allow rainwater to reabsorb into the ground.

Curing time: Use immediately after installation.

Cost: Starts at $5 per square foot. Depending on which paver you choose, cost may rise to over $50 per sq. ft.

Maintenance: Sweep or hose down. Seal a paver driveway annually or biannually against moisture and stains. (FRINGE BENEFIT: the sealant gives your driveway a nice new-looking shine.) The sand between the pavers may need weeding and occasional ant control, unless you use polymeric sand.

Repair: If a few pavers are damaged or badly stained, it’s a simple matter to replace them – assuming that you ordered some spares at the time of installation. Otherwise, you will have to look for the best match.

Read more about cost to install a driveway.

Laura Firszt writes for

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