Ultimate Guide to Block Paving Driveways

Block paving is still the UK’s most popular driveway surfacing product. Whilst alternative decorative paving products such as pattern imprinted concrete and resin have also gained in popularity, overall, this has had little impact on demand for blocks!

Modern manufacturing means subtle colour blends are achievable. In addition to this, a wide variation of block sizes, gives a greater range of patterns.

More on Modern Block Paving.

 

 

Old Style Block Paving Patterns

clay-pavers-sand

Old style clay pavers

Herringbone pattern

Stretcher Bond Pattern  

Basketweave Pattern

Herringbone style is the most popular older block paving pattern you will see. This pattern creates strong bonds due to the  interlocking of blocks. They are set at either 45 degrees or 90 degrees.

Stretcher bond is the simplest pattern and is also known as ‘half bond’ or ‘running bond’. In this pattern joints are offset by half the width of the block.

The Basketweave block paving pattern is more suitable for areas that are not being used for cars.

Two blocks are laid next to each other vertically, then another two blocks are laid horizontally next to the first two blocks.

 

An Older Style Herringbone Block Paving Driveway

Block Paving – Contemporary

To remain competitive with competition from abroad large UK based block paving manufacturers have extended both their ranges blocks, colour blends and decorative effects.

Some manufacturers provide ‘mixed set packs‘ which means there may be less wastage as there will be a variety of sizes and less cuts needed. Having different sizes can also provide unique variations and distinct styles. As well as these designs, various features can also be added such as borders, circles and other shapes.

 

The Landscaping and Electric Gate are additional Features that Compliment this Fabulous Block Paving Driveway

Another block paving manufacturer that have really grown in the UK market are Tobermore. Please the video we made below that provides a brief introduction to one of Tobermore’s Tegula block paving range.

 

Competition is healthy within the block paving manufacturing market and other manufacturers such as Brett, Cemex and Bradstone also have different ranges of blocks from budget to high end.

Permeable Block Paving is also becoming popular especially in urban areas. This type of driveway surface is compliant with Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) regulations. This means that a different kind of sub base is laid and the blocks have gaps between them that allow surface water to drain away.

 

Permeable Block Paving with Metal Edging

Careful Landscaping can really enhance block paving driveway installations

Block Paving Colours

There are plenty of colour blends to choose from. Colours can either provide a strong contrast against a house or that effortlessly blend in. When thinking about the choice of colours a good starting place is to look at the existing style of your house and colours of any brickwork. It’s also a good idea to look around locally for inspiration to find a colour of block that you like.

 

A ‘Shade of Grey’ Block Paving 

Block Paving Prices

Prices vary depending on the type of block, quality of manufacture, region and of quantity needed for an installation.

A driveway with standard sized blocks in a simple pattern will cost less than mixed packs of block paving or those that provide a permeable surface.

You’ll find wide variations on paving prices. Unscrupulous companies/installers may use the cheapest imported low quality blocks and use illegal workers to save on labour costs. At the other end of the spectrum some blocks may price up at around £70-£100 SQM (plus labour costs).

 


Block Paving – Choosing An Installer

As with all driveway surfacing products care should be taken when choosing and installer/contractor.

 

  • Before getting a quotation make sure you measure up yourself and identify the types of blocks you are interested in. Ensure that you do some homework on the different manufacturers of block paving.

 

  •  View previous installations. These must be genuine installations carried out by the block paving contractor/installer. It’s also best to view jobs that have been installed at different times. I.E. not only looking at recent installations…but also installations from some years ago.

 

  • It’s best to agree a ‘scope of works‘ in writing. This needs to specify depths of excavation for the preparation of sub base, type of sub base material, specify drainage (if any) and details of the type of block (including manufacturer) and method of payment (and frequency if paying in stages).

 

  • Ensure that any adjustments to levels are documented in the ‘scope of works.‘ This needs to include a diagram of surface water drainage and if levels are being adjusted it’s necessary to specify gradients. If any existing drains or manhole covers are being raised or lifted…this needs to be in the ‘scope of works.

 

  • Establish what type of machinery will be used on your property during the installation process. It’s common in all sub base preparations that diggers will be used. These range from micro diggers to larger machines. Any operators of such machines need to have the appropriate qualifications to use such machines.

 

  • Ensure appropriate insurances are in place and check with your own insurance company regarding coverage for contractors working on your property.

Block Paving Manufacturing

To many people block paving manufacturing is about as exciting as looking at a brick wall.

But to us it is exciting! And we’re going to share a bit of that enthusiasm and excitement with you.

Concrete blocks come in many shapes, sizes and colours.

For designers this is great!

Imagine a world where only grey concrete blocks existed and imagine further that they were all the same size.

The range of shapes, size and colour enable a variety of patterns to be created. However, the modern driveway trend seems to be of slight contrasts between colours rather than drastic colour changes that were once popular. This may be attributable to block size or purely consumer choice of conformity of fitting in, rather than standing out.

Block Paving Manufacturing – How are they so durable? (Psst: It’s all in the mix)

Raw materials – Aggregate, Cement, Water, Colouring and Admixtures

The admixtures are chemicals that are used to increase concrete strength and reduce efflorescence (blocks turning whitish) after curing (more on curing below.)

Like any manufacturing process high quality controls ensure consistency.

What would be the point of having different strengths or colour blends of of blocks?

Consistency is key. Quality is the ultimate (or should be) objective and this can be effected by altering the mix or using cheaper raw materials. Take note manufacturers in pursuit of the £ as lowering quality will have more than an adverse PR effect in today’s modern digitally enabled consumer world!

Block Paving Manufacturing – How is consistency is achieved?

Modern computerised mixing systems ensure the right proportions of the raw materials are mixed at the right time. This mixtures are added to molds and the larger the end size block the lower the number of blocks produced from one mold. So depending on the size of the mold that the mixture is put into; will determine the size of the batch.

 

Block paving manufacturing – Strength and Durability

High strength is enhanced by vibrating molds. This has the effect of binding materials at almost a molecular level. To us, this is an amazing part of the manufacturing process. This ensures block paving will be able to withstand extreme compression, and this is important.

Think about it, for a moment.

Some block paving surfaces take extreme pressure on just a few blocks. Regardless of how blocks are layed each block must be able to take many thousands of pounds per square inche (PSI.)

 

Block paving Manufacturing – Curing

Curing is the process of drying out. Blocks can either be cured in a room which confines heat or blocks are simply cured in the open. The method used is relative to the type of production machine used. More on machinery another time.

Curing Key Objective: Retaining heat from hydration and ensuring minimal water loss. This makes stronger blocks.

Block Paving Manufacturing  – What can Effect the Colour of Concrete Blocks?

Without getting chemical about it just think of high school or secondary school chemistry lessons. Remember organic and inorganic compounds?

Remember chemistry?

Remember school?

Remember being a child?

Thought not!

Anyway, in terms of block paving organic compounds produce the brighter colours but, and it’s a big BUT…the organic nature of these compounds means that UV will penetrate. This leads to fading blocks (which is not good.) On the other hand, inorganic compounds are more resilient to fading (this is good.)

Increasingly, some block manufacturing processes use natural granite to create a sparkly effect – which is nice! Everybody likes sparkle don’t they?

Back to colour…

The intensity of colour is going to be affected by the colour of cement used and ratio of mixes and the curing process. So hats off to those engineering bods that manufacture block paving in such a variety of blends and to such levels of consistency! Pastel pink and lemon on the horizon?

Block Paving Manufacturing – High Traffic Area (no high visibility vest though!)

Have you ever noticed that some older block paving driveways have faded strips where vehicles have been parking year after year in the same spot? Thought so. This is down to the top layer of colour rubbing off the blocks.

There are of course concrete blocks available that are manufactured for high wear and if high traffic is anticipated, these are a must.

The manufacturing process can reduce the effect of wear by using different sizes of aggregate layered into each block. Logically a larger aggregate on the top layer will take longer to wear. So as long as adequate colour pigmentation is added at the point of manufacture the effects of wear can be reduced.

Amazing, eh?

Exciting Block Paving Manufacturing Take Aways

  • Block paving is great!
  • Modern Block paving designs use less colour contrast and more subtle blends….and finer particle combinations of materials such as granite….for the extra sparkle
  • Cheap scrimping on block manufacturing raw materials causes public relations headaches for block manufacturers and dissatisfaction amongst consumers
  • Avoid cheap block paving or pay twice‘, is a Driveway Wise Saying – One to remember

 


Some popular Block Paving Manufacturers include:

BRETT

Tobermore

Thakeham

Marshalls

There are many others…too many to add! What have your experiences been like with the manufacturers?

Welcome to our Driveway Paving Guide!

We’ve put this driveway paving guide together to help customers make the right choice from the many paving surface options available.

Long gone are the days where a driveway simply performed a functional purpose….like, er…….somewhere to put the car.

Increasingly, many home owners are aware of the real value a great looking driveway can bring.

Just take a look at these examples of driveways without that love and care below:

This unhappy house needs the driveway sorted out

Now take a look at the stunning example below, of well designed driveways that enhance both the appearance and value of the properties.

Modern style block paving makes all the difference

With the case made, it’s difficult to understand why so many homeowners don’t take the steps necessary to improve the look of their home.

Driveway Paving Guide…..here are some (but not all) reasons for not improving:

  1. Affordability.
  2. It’s just a driveway.
  3. I don’t care what the outside of the house looks like.
  4. Who cares what the neighbours think?

So let’s take a look at these reasons…one by one.

1. Affordability

If you are borrowed up to the hilt…click away now.

BUT…

If you do have some savings or can get finance of some sort….investing in the appearance of the outside of your home is a no brainer.

 A rough idea of driveway costs…….

Keep in mind that if you’re getting a price quotation of less than £70 per square metre then you could fall into the trap of ‘pay cheap pay twice‘.

This isn’t just a saying in the driveway industry!

Lets face it, you’ll always find somebody to quote the cheapest price but please remember; for driveway installations this presents some real dangers!

Cheap prices equal cost cutting. In turn this may mean:

  • Unsuitable material usage for sub base preparation – leading to a structurally unsound base….sinkage…cracking.
  • Illegal dumping of waste from your property.
  • Cheap materials – weak blocks, poor quality resin, cheap colouring materials that will fade, incorrect surface thickness.
  • Use of illegal workers – Paying people on the cheap is illegal. Using illegal workers is….illegal. Full Stop.

If it’s all about the cheapest price and a quick fix…go ahead. But be WARNED, you’ll get what you pay for. Increasingly councils are monitoring home improvements so the consequences of those ‘all cash’ deals may need to be accounted for…..be wary.

2. It’s just a driveway.

As you can see from the pictures above the first thing anybody sees is your driveway. Besides….you see it everyday. Pretending that a driveway isn’t important is just a poor excuse for not upgrading. Time to move with the times.

3. I don’t care what the outside of my house looks like.

Really? This is closely linked to number 2. Do you care what you look like when you meet new people? Do you care what impression you make? A driveway is often viewed as an extension of your home….is it warm and inviting? Clean and enticing? Shabby and in disrepair?

You need to care about how it looks so that you feel good about your home….and yourself.

4. Who cares what the neighbours think?

Validation from others is important to most of us. Without slavishly trying to ‘keep up with the Jonses‘ or just ‘showing off’,  it’s important for good neighbourly relations and community spirit to take care of the look of your home…and this includes your driveway.

Some people judge books by covers and people on the TV by how they look…..likewise many people judge a house by its driveway. Some don’t judge and some still won’t care….but many do!

Driveway Paving Guide – Find a Contractor/Installer that makes a difference

So, with those non-starting excuses demolished….how do you ensure you get a driveway that stands out, lasts for many years…offers great value for money and most important of all…………..Increases the Value of Your Home.

 

Block paving installation

Block paving installation can be as straight forward as laying blocks purchased from a DIY store to complex block paving installations over many levels with a variety of individual designs.

Block paving installation – What Look do you Want?

How does the area look now? Why don’t you like it?  Grass? An existing driveway? If so what type? Concrete? Blocks? Tarmac?

Is the intention to replace the existing surface or extend?

Is it just the driveway or is there other features such as walls and bedding areas to consider? How does water drain?

Do you require low maintenance? Off road parking? Commercial vehicle parking or just domestic use vehicle/s?

Think about the existing brickwork and style of your house.

This will help you decide which type (size, colour and style) of block to choose for your block paving installation.

Preparation Before Sub Base for Block Paving Installation

If you are simply replacing an existing area, without extending, dig out the area to a depth of 200mm. Pay attention to any areas where puddles have been a problem.

Establish where the damp proof course is and keep in mind that the finish level (top of blocks) should be 150mm below the damp proof course.

The area will either be falling (sloping) off one way or another or be completely flat. If the surface is not falling (sloping) look to level the surface so that it does fall.

If a natural fall for surface water is absent – install a soak away and drainage channels.

The Sub Base of a Block Paving Installation

Lay and compact Type 1 MOT (aggregate) or use recycled crushed concrete for sub base layer.

Lay 75mm and compact. Then lay another 75mm and compact. Start around the edges and work your way into the middle.

Ensure the sub base is free of bumps and there are no visible dips.

Take time to get the sub base right, everything else relies on it!

Permeable block paving such as Marshall’s Priora range should be installed by a professional as a suitable sub – base for permeable block paving is required.

Driveway Edging Ideas

Edging Restraints in a Block Paving Installation

  • Use edge restraints to provide support for a block paving installation.
  • Set these in by making a strong mix cement and ballast and lay along edges and place edging restraints on top.
  • Ensure the right levels are in place by using a level and a string line. Haunch up either side of the restraints but allow room for block laying.
  • Use a mallet or handle of a club hammer to tap into place, but remember if you tap too hard you may have to resit and add more cement and ballast underneath.

Block Paving Installation – the Blocks

  • Spread damp sand to a depth of 50mm and compact.
  • Add  further 20mm of sand on top. Use a string line and attach to edging stones to ensure the correct falls and levels.
  • If the driveway area is on a slope start from the bottom right hand corner from a straight edge.
  • Blocks should sit approximately 15mm above the desired finish level to enable you to compact them down at the finish.
  • Cut blocks with a diamond saw at the edges to get them to fit.

Once all the blocks are set apply kiln dried sand and sweep across the whole of the drive, making sure that this sand falls down between the joints of the blocks.

The driveway will then need to be compacted, again! Use a rubble sole plate on the compacter to stop the newly laid blocks getting scuffed.

Sweep more kiln dried sand over the drive and compact, again!

Keep doing this until all of the joints are full of sand.