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Buying an Asphalt or Block Driveway: Important Tips and Tricks to Remember

Constructing or replacing an asphalt or block driveway is normally an arduous and expensive undertaking, but it is a great way to add character to your home. Still, because of the economic and time commitment involved, be sure to read through the following tips and tricks to help you when constructing or replacing a driveway, to help make the process as easy as possible and to help insure that you are satisfied with the finished product.

The first thing you should do is to always ask a driveway contractor to visit, survey and measure the site so that they can give you an accurate and detailed quote with information on what the work entails and what the price will be for each task. You should always ask a builder/contractor to see previous work and talk to previous clients about their level of satisfaction with the product and the company to help you in your decision making process as in many cases, price is not everything. You may also want to ask about the employees. Good questions include:

  • How did they behave around the home.
  • Did they show respect and consideration for others including the neighbours?
  • Did they clean up at the end of each day?
A contractor should dig out and remove soil, roots and other waste and treat this area with a weed killer. He should also help to insure that the final surface will not cover any airbricks or water tap / meter traps and that the surface will be at least 6" below the Damp Course so that it does not interfere with any garage doors or gates that you may have.

When asphalt is being used to build the driveway, check that it will be laid hot. Sometimes the builder will try to use "fluxed", "cut-back" or "deferred" methods, however these techniques use an oil to soften the asphalt to make it easier to lay, but often results in a soft surface that can be easily damaged, particularly in warm weather.
After you get each quote, make sure that they all include the following information:

  • Details about how any earth or soft ground will be removed before the construction materials are laid.
  • An accurate description of the thickness and other features of the materials used.
  • Full price is quoted for construction and the removal of waste. (Removing waste/soil yourself can be very expensive)
  • Time needed to complete task

Typical Construction Materials Used

Asphalt is the most popular material used to build driveways and is the industry standard term for hot-mixed mixtures of aggregate (stone) and bitumen (the binding agent). Asphalt may also be referred to as tarmac, bitmac, blacktop, and bitumen macadam. The Asphalt driveway features 150mm thickness of sound well compacted granular sub-base/hardcore, 60mm compacted thickness of 20mm dense or open graded binder course (base course), and mixtures specified in British Standard 4987 "Coated macadam (Asphalt concrete) for roads and other paved areas".

Block Paving
Block paving or brickweave is also a quite commonly-used paving technique. Here, small rectangular bricks are placed onto a level sand bed. These blocks will be placed in a set pattern to form the surface.
Block paving features 150mm of sound well compacted granular sub-base/hardcore and 50mm sharp sand for bedding the block paving, and when used for domestic purposes, is usually 50mm thick brick. Make sure engineering bricks are not being used, as they are not suitable for use in block paving. Fine silica is perfect to fill in spaces between blocks.

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*Based on a independently audited survey submitted to 3216 customers. The survey ran from January 2011 until April 2011 with a 70% return rate.

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