Whoever said kitchens and baths sell homes failed to credit one of the most underrated house upgrades: a freshly paved driveway. Driveways don’t come in gorgeous marble or grace the pages of home design magazines for their beauty. But putting in a flawless stretch of driveway pavement is like giving your house a red-carpet entrance.
Paved driveways also offer the benefits of reduced maintenance in the winter, enhanced curb appeal, and a clean car. Of the approximate 75 million driveways in the U.S., 90% are either asphalt or concrete. However, as the owner of a gravel, dirt, or damaged driveway, you likely have concerns over the cost of this project and need to know: “Does a paved driveway add value to your home?”
ROI of paving your driveway
The average cost to pave a driveway nationally is $4,707, according to estimates from HomeAdvisor. That’s no small chunk of change. But top-selling Indianapolis real estate agent Morris Lucas is bullish on the value of paving your driveway — especially in the Midwest or anywhere with extreme weather.
“In our area of the country, a paved, well-maintained driveway could add $10,000 to $20,000 to the value of a property,” Lucas says. In some markets, he adds, “a black top paved driveway that has fresh coating will actually sell the home. A damaged driveway can definitely turn someone away because it hasn’t been well taken care of.”
Lucas elaborates that unpaved driveways in urban or suburban areas will draw negative attention for being out of place, hard to maintain, and hazardous. In addition, freezing temperatures take a toll on both asphalt and concrete. Expanding water creates cracks while the application of salt causes crumbling and corrosion.
When the driveway starts to break up and grass and weeds sprout through cracks, uneven pavement creates a safety concern. Home inspectors will be required to document any crumbling and cracking concrete, and buyers may in turn ask for a repair credit to remedy the issue. By paving your damaged driveway, you’re getting ahead of these inspection issues.
Other problems with unpaved driveways include:
- They’re work to maintain: Gravel driveways need to be regraded once a year or more based on use and climate.
- Snow is your enemy: They’re nearly impossible to plow in the winter, says Lucas, which can be a big hassle for snowy climates.
- It’s always dusty: You’ll track any dirt or dust into the home with your shoes when you park your car in the driveway.
- No high-heels: Uneven ground is harder to walk on, and can make entering and exiting the car a challenge, especially for aging homeowners.
- Your car suffers: Parking on uneven gravel or dirt can warp a car’s tires in some temperatures. Plus, the dirt and dust of an unpaved driveway dirties a car fast.
How driveways impact the appraisal
We know that a flawless driveway can make a great impression on buyers. But how does an appraiser consider it in their calculations of value?
On the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report used for most appraisals, there is a box where the appraiser will mark whether a house has a driveway and specify the type of driveway material used. According to Jamie Owen, an Ohio appraiser and host of the podcast Home Value Stories, the context of the neighborhood matters a lot when weighing the value of a paved driveway.
“If you have an unpaved driveway in a neighborhood where most of the homes have paved or concrete driveways, I do think it affects the value,” explains Owen. If you’re in a rural area with few homes nearby, your tidy new concrete drive is less critical.
What’s the best paved material to use on a driveway?
Choosing a paving material will come down to your climate, budget, and general design preferences as a homeowner. In addition to price, you’ll need to consider how much maintenance you’re prepared to sign up for, in addition to which materials are more DIY-friendly if you’re taking this project on yourself.
Poured concrete is one of the most popular driveway paving materials. To install concrete, you start with a solid gravel foundation, then pour the concrete in slabs to keep the surface from cracking with changes in weather. If you install and maintain a concrete driveway properly, it can last 25-50 years.
Price: $8-$18 per sq ft
- The reasonable cost per square foot makes concrete a more affordable paved driveway material than brick or cobblestone.
- Lasts about 50%-60% longer than asphalt.
- Concrete driveways can withstand up to approximately 8,000 lbs.
- Absorbs less UV radiation, remaining cooler on hot days.
- You’ll need to reseal the concrete every one to three years.
- Some homeowners don’t love the drab gray appearance, though there are colored concrete varieties.
- Leaking oils and car fluids will easily stain the material.
As another highly popular paving material, asphalt is often more affordable than concrete. It typically lasts between 15-20 years, and only needs maintenance every 3-5 years. You can extend the lifespan of asphalt with proper grading to prevent water from pooling on the surface and causing damage. Because of all the prep work involved, installing an asphalt driveway might not be a DIY-option for beginners.
Price: $7-$13 per sq ft
- Asphalt is the go-to paving material for colder climates. Heavy road salt won’t deteriorate asphalt as it does concrete, and asphalt is less likely to crack during freeze and thaw periods as a result.
- Some asphalt is more permeable than others, meaning water can drain through easily. Asphalt can also be ground up and recycled, sometimes making it a more sustainable option than other paving materials.
- The smooth and seamless appearance of asphalt is often considered more appealing than other paving materials, and asphalt comes in many finishes and color tints.
- Asphalt only needs to be maintained every 3-5 years, but it then requires resealing, which can take up to three days.
- If asphalt isn’t laid properly, it will crack.
- Dark top asphalt heats up quickly in the sun, which can make it painful to walk on or play on during the summer.
The price of pavers can vary dramatically in cost based on the materials chosen. You can pave your driveway with brick, cobblestone, concrete, or stone. The labor intensive process can create a one-of-a-kind look for your driveway, but the extra labor continues on long after initial installation.
Price: $10-$50 per sq ft
- With a variety of pavers to choose from in an array of colors and finishes, you can create a bespoke patterned driveway that effortlessly compliments your home and boosts curb appeal.
- It’s easy to replace stained, cracked, or damaged pavers because you only need to replace a single brick or stone.
- Depending on the material you choose, a paved driveway can long outlast other materials. The average paver driveway will last 30-50 years, and more durable materials, like cobblestone, will likely last 75 years or more.
- Pavers will crack or shift with wear, which means ongoing monitoring and maintenance.
- Depending on the pavers used, this installation can be dramatically more expensive than alternatives.
- Weeds, roots, and grasses can grow through the cracks, which can mean additional day-to-day maintenance for the homeowner.
A driveway “paved” with grass can look organic and serene, but might require a green thumb to keep your curb appeal in good shape. To create a grass driveway, you’ll use plastic or concrete pavers that interlock, but have gaps filled with soil and seed for grass to grow through.
Price: $10-$15 per sq ft
- Because grass and soil are by nature porous, grass driveways drain well.
- A grass driveway doesn’t raise surrounding temperatures like other paving materials will. You might be able to save on cooling costs in the summer, and reduce carbon emissions.
- Depending on the pattern you choose, a grass driveway can blend into your lawn, while still being able to properly handle the weight of a car parking on it.
- During peak growing season, you might need to mow the grass pavers at least once a week to maintain its visual appeal.
- Grass driveways last only 10-15 years with regular upkeep and maintenance.
- Because they’re bumpy and more organic than other pavers, navigating a grass driveway by foot can be a challenge for some homeowners and the material isn’t technically ADA compliant.
Tar and chip
Often called chip-and-seal or liquid asphalt and stone, a tar and chip driveway might look like asphalt paving, but it’s something else entirely. It starts with a gravel foundation, then hot asphalt is poured on top. Loose stones are poured on top of the asphalt and then raked in to create the surface.
Price: $1-$5 per sq ft
- The cost per square foot is more affordable than asphalt or concrete.
- Tar and chip has the appearance of gravel, but it’s more durable.
- The material is low maintenance with a variety of options to choose from.
- Tar and chip driveways are best suited for low-traffic areas because under high speed and usage, chips can fly from the surface and damage the car.
- The lifespan for a tar-and-chip driveway is closer to 10 years, even with regular maintenance.
- Similar to gravel, tar-and-chip driveways can’t be plowed without causing damage to the surface.
Tips to maximize the value of your paved driveway
If you’re going through the trouble of paving your driveway, follow these tips to make the most of this new addition:
- Hire a reputable professional to handle the install. Scout out a contractor with direct experience in installing your driveway material of choice. Each material comes with its own quirks and installation requirements, so don’t rely on an asphalt pro to lay down pavers properly.
- Stay in line with the neighborhood. If 8/10 homes in your development have concrete driveways, go with concrete. You won’t win any creativity points for your ornate cobblestone when it looks out of place on the block.
- Keep it clean. Whether your driveway requires the occasional pressure wash or brooming, make sure to clean it on a regular basis to avoid stains and overgrowth.
- Light it up. Line the driveway with outdoor solar pathway lights to draw the eye to the pristine pavement, even when it’s too dark to see detail.
- Add pavers to expand parking. If you share your driveway with the home next door, you might consider adding a small parking spot on the side made of pavers, suggests Lucas. It can mean less work than extending the driveway, and feels like more of a flex space than traditional asphalt or concrete.
Go ahead and pave that driveway
With the exception of homeowners who live in very remote and rural areas where gravel driveways are the norm, very few people who decide to pave their driveway will regret that they made this investment.
Your driveway may not be the most exciting property upgrade of all time, but it certainly serves a critical function and receives a lot of use day to day. Whether you plan to sell your home in five days or five years, homebuyers will appreciate a hazard-free, mess-free entrance to the home. By boosting curb appeal as a bonus, a newly paved driveway makes your home more marketable in an instant.
Header Image Source: (Zachary Keimig / Unsplash)