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Driveways That Drain Away

Porous alternatives to asphalt divert rainwater runoff from overworked sewers—and look nicer

<p>The Gravelpave2 paving system, about $3 per square foot; <a href="" target="_blank">Invisible Structures.</a></p>

The Gravelpave2 paving system, about $3 per square foot; Invisible Structures.

Gravel and other porous materials are rarely the first choice for driveways, which is unfortunate as they have definite benefits over concrete or asphalt. Some of them last years longer, and most channel contaminants such as oil into the earth beneath the driveway, where microbes slowly break them down. Just excavate the old parking pad, put down a level base layer of gravel to help excess water filter down to the soil, and you're ready to install one of these:

Gravel Grids:

For the capable DIYer, there are snap-together recycled plastic and polyethylene grids, which when installed on top of the base layer hold in place an additional 1 to 2 inches of decorative gravel in any color and last 25 years. Invisible Structure's Gravelpave2 is about $3 per square foot; Alcoa's Geoweb costs about $5 a square foot. Professional installation hikes the price to a bit more than you'd pay for poured asphalt or concrete.

Pervious Concrete:

Want to stick with a familiar look? Since it's made with little or no sand, the pervious version of concrete has air pockets that permit drainage of 4 inches of water per minute. Installation isn't DIY, since the stuff requires special tamping and rolling, but any certified ready-mix concrete contractor can do it. Beware: Pervious concrete can clog with dirt and other sediment, so be ready to run the leaf blower every so often.

Porous Pavers:

Interlocking concrete pavers, such as those from Oldcastle Architectural are stronger and even more earthquake-resistant than a poured slab of concrete. In one DIY weekend, you could have an attractive, patterned parking pad for about $2 to $5 a square foot.