Installing the perfect driveway

A well-built driveway is obviously a necessity from a practical standpoint but, as you know, it’s also an important design feature. There’s nothing that takes the shine off a nice car quite like seeing it sitting in the middle of a potholed, dated driveway.

It should be no secret that a driveway makeover can make an enormous difference to an outdoor space and significantly raise the value of a property. In fact, time and time again, houses with more kerb appeal sell for tens of thousands of pounds more than identical properties with less pleasing exteriors. And yet driveways are not always something clients give much attention to. Design elements that appear to have more scope for creativity, such as garden landscaping or decorative fencing, tend to be given priority. That’s why your practical expertise and eye for a good match between driveway and building are so indispensable.

  • 1. Match up

    As you’ll have found, sometimes clients will come to you with a fully formed idea for their driveway, but in many cases, they’ll need lots of guidance from you, since they’re simply unlikely to know the range of options available. But that’s where your experience comes in. For you, it’s going to be easy enough to look at a garden and house, pick a driveway style and finish that will match well with the existing design then move on to the installation.

    Once you’ve measured the area, noted down any obstacles and decided on the gradient and fall needed for efficient drainage, you should usually be able to suggest a few different approaches. Let your clients know how many great driveway paving options that are out there that can totally alter the look of the outdoor space.

    If you haven’t worked with them before, Millstone’s driveway setts are worth considering. They make for a neat, professional finish and tend to be great client-pleasers. Watch Stonemarket’s video about their setts.

  • 2. Popular driveway surfaces

    Below are just a few options you could talk through with your client:


    Gravel is a relatively cost-effective and straightforward driveway solution, and it also makes drainage less complex than some other options. If you go for gravel, we recommend looking into ACO GroundGuard, a lightweight gravel and grass stabilisation system that also promotes effective drainage. As an alternative, our Core Gravel grid system offers similar benefits.



    Many people hoping for a more elegant, upscale look for their driveway opt for brick. Of course, the finished effect will always depend on the kind of bricks you choose, but in general this is a great look that particularly suits older properties.

    Crushed stone

    Some consider this a more stylish alternative to gravel, and the greater range of colour choices appeals to many clients.


    A cobblestone driveway installed well can look beautiful, but as you’ll be all too aware, this is neither the easiest nor the cheapest option.


    This is another style that obviously requires a bit of extra time and expense to install, but done right, it tends to be a real client-pleaser. Going for pavers also means having a wide range of choices of colour and style.

  • 3. Prepare your tools

    With a plan in place, you’ll have started thinking about the tools you’ll be using for the job. Since most of the tools used for driveway paving and installation are obviously fairly fundamental and are the same ones used for jobs like patio installation, you’ll have them already. But in case there are some you need to replace, here’s a quick checklist of basic items you’ll probably want to hand:

  • 4. Dig in

    After you’ve cleared away any plants, roots or topsoil in the way, you’ll be ready to get started on laying the sub-base. If the driveway is a commercial one that’s going to see a lot of use you’ll probably be using a Type 1 MoT sub-base, but obviously a lot will depend on your client’s budget. For residential projects, you might opt for ballast or crusher run.

    Next up is the bedding or laying course, and again you’ll have chosen the type of material based on the purpose of the driveway. With a sandstone driveway, you might go for a moist sharp sand and cement mix, whereas for concrete paving you’ll probably choose unbound sharp sand.

    With the laying course in place, you’ll be ready to move onto putting down the driveway paving itself. When you’ve laid all the full paving blocks and filled in the sides with blocks cut with your block splitter, you’ll move onto using your plate compactor to push everything down into place.

    You’ll need to leave the plate compactor to hand, as you’ll want it again when it comes to pushing the sand for the jointing into position.

  • 5. Drainage solutions

    You’ll already know the best drainage system for the driveway type you’re working on, but in case you need to pick up any extra bits and pieces, here’s a handy reminder of some of the key supplies and tools you’ll need for each.

    Plastic drainage channel

    If you’re installing a pre-made plastic drainage channel, you’ll need concrete to secure it alongside the edge of your driveway. Fill the recesses on each section of channel with waterproof sealant. A panel saw might also come in handy for dividing your channel into sections. You’ll also need to mix up a dry mortar for the gap between the channel and the paving.

    With everything in place, you can move onto that satisfying final step of laying down the metal grate on top to neatly finish everything off.

    Concrete drainage channel

    As you know, the most important aspect of building a decent concrete drainage channel lies in the work you put in rather than in the supplies you use. But there are still some things you can buy to ensure the best outcome. High quality concrete is recommended and getting the right guttering will ensure your finished channel has the ideal shape.

    As with all jobs involving concrete, you’ll make lots of use of various floats and trowels. And if you’ve been thinking of getting a new spirit level, starting work on a drainage channel offers as good a reason as any.

    ACO’s rain drain channel is simple and works well with many driveway layouts. See what it looks like in action with this ACO Channel Drainage video.

    Land drain

    An underground drainage system might require planning permission, but once you’ve got the go-ahead, you can get started on your excavation. You’ll need plenty of plywood and timber to keep things in place during the digging of the trench, as well as geotextile fabric and clean aggregate to line the trench once it’s dug. The most important part, though, is getting your hands on some good quality plastic drainage pipe.

    For an easy-to-install soakaway that covers all your drainage bases, we recommend looking into the Aco StormBrixx. This system is affordable and straightforward. Like all soakaways, it needs to be installed at least five metres from any building to comply with regulations, so this is a good option for clients who have a little bit more outdoor space.

    Do make sure your client knows that, according to the latest legislation, no planning permission is needed for any driveway that uses a porous/permeable surface such as gravel and therefore doesn’t require underground drainage. In many cases, knowing this will swing their decision about what surface material to use.


  • What permission is required for a driveway?

    If you’re building a large driveway that’s built from impermeable paving, you may require planning permission. Make sure your client is aware of this before they settle on their landscaping designs.

    According to the latest drainage regulations, gravel driveways generally do not require planning permission.

  • What types of drainage can I use for a driveway installation?

    When installing a new driveway for your client, you’ll come across three main types of drainage systems:

    • Plastic drainage channel
    • Concrete drainage channel
    • Land drain system
  • What options of driveway surfaces are there for the client?

    There are five options your client can consider for their driveway surface.

    • Gravel
    • Brick
    • Crushed stone
    • Cobblestones
    • Pavers

    Learn more about each driveway surface above.