We live in an asphalt and concrete jungle. And much as we try to dress up our front yards with grass and other greenery, it seems that the harsh surface of our driveways often stands out as the most prominent feature of many homes and apartment buildings.
If you've been in the market for a new driveway lately, you probably know already that the choices nowadays are a bit mind-numbing. Add to that the fact that for most people, driveways are a pretty mundane topic. But, read on, because a new driveway may indeed be the path to enhancing the value of your property.
"If you're getting ready to sell a home, a new driveway often adds to 'curb appeal' and it can make your home much more striking," said Bill Burgess, president of Pacific Pavers Inc., a driveway and patio contractor with offices in Woodland Hills and Fountain Valley.
Burgess' clients--primarily homeowners in the more affluent parts of the Valley and Ventura County--have opted for ripping out their old concrete or asphalt driveways and replacing them with European-style paving stones set into a bed of sand and rock and arranged in a variety of symmetrical patterns. These concrete pavers run about $4 to $7 a square foot, installed, and they come in a variety of shapes and colors. There are also some pavers with joints that allow grass to grow and produce a less monolithic-looking driveway.
An average 1,000-square-foot driveway can cost $4,000 to $7,000 so it's not necessarily the best investment for more moderately priced homes, Burgess conceded. "It may be overkill if you have a cheaper home," he said.
There are plenty of other options out there, however, not to mention plenty of dissent among contractors when it comes to picking the best, longest-lasting, most attractive and cost-effective driveway.
"Most of the people who are in the driveway business are shysters, charged Larry Greenspan, president of S&S; Paving Inc. in Calabasas. "Most of them tell a good story, but they don't care about the quality of their work," he said. The first thing prospective customers should do is to contact the Contractors State Licensing Board to be sure that the contractor is in good standing and has a general contracting license, or a so-called C-12 license for grading and paving. It's also important to check the contractor isn't just picking illegal workers off of street corners early in the morning. And, the contractor should offer proof of liability insurance. Finally, he added, customers should get several written estimates and ask to see some of the contractor's other recent work.
Greenspan has spent the past 23 years installing asphalt driveways, which he admits have fallen out of favor with fancier homeowners. He's convinced, though, that asphalt is the best material for a driveway. "Oil and grease stains won't show up on asphalt," he said, and when the driveway starts looking haggard, it's easy to lay down a so-called slurry seal to make it look new again. When the driveway starts to show some cracks, it's fairly easy to patch or resurface it altogether. A well-installed two-to-three-inch asphalt driveway should last about 10 to 15 years, Greenspan said. And, he added, "a clean, good-looking driveway makes a big difference for many home buyers." The cost is roughly $2.65 a square foot.
But Jeff Steele, owner of Reseda-based Artisan Concrete Construction, doesn't like asphalt at all. Besides being unattractive, he says it doesn't last nearly as long as concrete. For only about 25% more, he says, homeowners can have a concrete driveway--and concrete, he said, can last indefinitely. Maybe, but people I've met with a concrete driveway say that isn't quite true.
Artisan Concrete charges about $3.50 a square foot to put in a concrete driveway--but with a twist. These driveways feature stamped concrete that turns a regular bed of concrete into the look of cobblestones or brick. Also known as ornamental concrete, rubber molds are used on-site to stamp the concrete into a variety of shapes and sizes. Colors are also added to the mix.
If you want to spend more, you can have a contractor lay a concrete foundation and then cover the driveway with bricks. This will usually cost about $10 a square foot. Flagstone can cost anywhere from $10 to $18 a square foot. If your budget isn't that generous, you can put in a traditional concrete driveway and add a brick border for about $7 to $8 a running foot.
If you're wondering whether you'll get all this money back when it comes time to sell, that's anybody's guess. Steele is convinced that "it makes a big impression on prospective home buyers."
Time will tell.