Is DIY Paving Possible or Should You Hire a Paving Contractor?


A paved driveway gives your home a neater appearance and helps to create curb appeal. It is also easier to maintain in the winter months and can be safer for walking and playing on. In order to save money on this project homeowners wonder whether DIY paving is possible. Can this project be handled well by an amateur with limited access to the necessary equipment? Or is it wiser to hire a paving contractor and get this job done right?

The answer depends on a variety of factors and may not be the same for you as it is for your neighbor.

What Type of Paving Will You Choose?

The type of paving being installed on your driveway will likely determine whether DIY is an option. Some types can be installed with care by homeowners, provided they can create a solid enough base underneath. Any sort of paving stone or interlock brick can be laid in your pattern of choice.

You will need access to tools and equipment such as a packer or roller (to make the sand base level and smooth) and saws with stone cutting blades (to properly fit in those edges and corner pieces). Larger stones are somewhat easier and involve less time fitting, but smaller stones are also more flexible and easy to carry by hand.

Some homeowners may attempt to pour a concrete driveway on their own, using homemade forms and basic techniques. This can work for a shorter one-car driveway, but may get complicated and require a higher level of skill on larger areas.

If you are planning on a stamped concrete driveway or want to color the concrete on a traditional style, it's best to hire a paving contractor. Anyone who regularly deals with stamped concrete will tell you that this project is very tricky and requires impeccable timing, a steady hand and knowledge of different factors that affect your concrete.

Asphalt driveways may seem to be the simplest driveway solution, but without the necessary equipment homeowners should not attempt a DIY asphalt paving job. They are likely to end up with a substandard product that will deteriorate quickly.

Another thing to consider with asphalt driveways is the relatively low cost of having pros complete the job. Asphalt is the most affordable option for a paved driveway and the hassle and hard work saved is well worth the price to hire a paving contractor.

What Is Involved With Paving a Driveway?

The most important thing to remember when paving a driveway is the base. Excavation depths will vary depending on the product, but you can expect to dig down between 6” and 8” for most of the popular methods of paving.

This depth is difficult for the average DIY enthusiast to pull off over the entire driveway area. That depth needs to be consistent throughout the space and sufficient drainage will need to be factored in. Often the sub-grade, or exposed soil after the excavation, is compacted into a slope with a drain installed at the lowest point. You may be able to simply slope to one side or towards the street drains, but be sure that the water is flowing away from your home and foundation - otherwise you are looking at serious repairs in the future.

The sub-grade surface will need to be compacted, preferably with special equipment. You may be able to rent a compacter at your local industrial equipment rental location.

Next the base is laid, most often a generous layer of gravel. The amount of gravel depends on the type of paving being used. This layer is again compacted to reduce the water content and prevent settling, which can leave your newly paved driveway a complete mess. Gravel helps to facilitate drainage when water comes from above (through cracks and gaps in the paving) or below (from the water table). It is an essential part of paving no matter what type is used.

You can install a thinner layer of gravel under your paved footpaths, as the weight applied to these surfaces is much less than those found on your driveway. Somewhere around 4” will suffice on a footpath, while at least 6” should be used with pavers, concrete and asphalt.

A bedding course is required when installing pavers. Sand is the most commonly used bedding and will also work to fill the gaps between the pavers. Contractors have the equipment necessary to bring massive loads of sand onto your property, while homeowners will likely have to pay for special delivery or borrow the trucks to cart it in.

After the paving material has been laid there are various finishing processes, again depending on the type of paving. Stone pavers will need to be compacted using a mechanical plate compactor (possibly available at the rental shop). Asphalt and concrete both need to be raked afterward to ensure a smooth finish. Stamped concrete and other specialty finishes need to be sealed in order to protect the pattern and/or color.

DIY enthusiasts may feel confident in their skills, but they should first consider whether or not they have access to the heavy equipment necessary for this project. Excavation equipment, compactors, dump trucks, rakes and other tools will be needed for a paving job, not to mention the ability to safely and effectively operate them. Take the rental costs into account when comparing DIY and contractor costs to make a more informed decision.

DIY paving is possible in certain situations, although you can't go wrong when hiring an experienced paving contractor. A properly installed paved driveway will add value to your home and last for years with minimal maintenance. Consider whether your own efforts will produce a driveway of this quality. And if you decide to hire a paving contractor, be sure to choose carefully and check the firm's references well.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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