Introduction

a newly installed permeable-paver driveway
Photo: William Wright
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Q: I need to have my driveway redone. Is there a surface more environmentally friendly than asphalt or concrete?
Lisa Matthews, Madison, N.J.

Troy Johnson of Outdoor Escapes replies: The best way to green up a driveway is to install permeable pavers, which allow water to drain down through the gaps between them and into a bed of crushed stone. From there, it seeps gently into the soil. Contrast that with a typical driveway, where water picks up oil and other chemicals as it washes into the street, overloading storm drains, polluting waterways, and increasing the chances of flooding from runoff.

The pavers are made of brick, stone, or, like here, concrete, but they'll work only if laid over a properly installed base. For a job of this scale, hire a pro with permeable-paver experience; smaller projects, like a path or patio, are fair game for DIYers. Either way, regular maintenance is a must: Plan on sweeping or vacuuming the joints at least once a year to prevent them from becoming clogged with leaves and debris and acting just like your old driveway.

Shown: This driveway can absorb at least 10 inches of rain per hour, about twice the intensity of the heaviest 100-year downpour in the U.S.
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    Tools List

    • backhoe
      Backhoe
    • trenching shovel
      Shovel
    • iron rake
      Rake
    • plate compactor
      Plate compactor (rented)
    • circular saw
      Circular saw with blade for cutting concrete
    • mason's line
      Mason's line
    • garden stakes
      Wood stakes
    • steel pipe (2-inch diameter)
      2-inch-diameter steel pipe
    • 2x4
      8-foot-2x4 for screeding

    Shopping List

    Washed crushed stone ASTM No. 2, No. 57, and No. 8 aggregate

    Permeable pavers

    Concrete or hard-plastic edging to hold pavers in place