Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Permeable Pavers vs Blacktop aka Asphalt driveways - Thinking Green - an alternative driveway solution

Almost every day I talk to people and inevitably the A-word comes up:
"I'm thinking of putting in an Asphalt Driveway...
"I've got an Asphalt Driveway and I want to get rid of it"
"How does EcoGrid compare to an Asphalt Driveway?"
"My wife/husband wants a blacktop driveway but I like gravel..."
"This stuff is more expensive than getting an asphalt driveway, right?"

So lets take a look at some basic information.

What is Asphalt:
Wiki has this to say - asphalt aka blacktop aka bitumen - "asphalt (or asphalt cement) is the carefully refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils." bitumen is used as a binder (5+%) in the making of asphalt. Again, wiki gives us some insite as to what that means. "Most bitumens contain sulfur and several heavy metals such as nickel, vanadium, lead, chromium, mercury and also arsenic, selenium and other toxic elements."

Not anything that really should be used in the vast quantities that it is, imho. From an Eco-perspective, this really isn't a great choice. But realistically, most people will go with the familiar and not think too deeply about what products are best for the environment.

For many people it comes down to price. What will save them money. That is why I get so many calls that want to talk about blacktop vs grid. So lets put aside the environment for a minute.

What does it cost????????

Now as much as I'd love to say a sq/ft of EcoGrid is XYZ price - I'm not going to do that - because as sure as faith what will happen is someone will say "according to your blog you wrote the price is XYZ and I don't care if that was 4 years ago!!! It's on the NET!" Prices go up and down, yes down. But mostly they go up. :) So you can go to http://www.terrafirmenterprises.com/ and contact them for the latest price.

How does it compare in PRICE to EcoGrid????

Well first of all, I don't know what the local prices of an asphalt driveway might be. Believe it or not the costs really vary from company to company and across the country. Call up a local company and find out. Then send us an email at TerraFirm and we'll give you a quote. Or call 1-866-934-7572 and leave a message.

Now here's the trick....

So when you call up Yer-local-asphalt guy and ask him he'll say, "oh its XY price". And then you go to the EcoGrid site and ask and maybe I'll call you and say its ABC price. And then you think ABC is more than XY. Or about the same. ... and that's as far as most people think.

Here's where the hidden price costs you money - and why pinching a penny means you're losing your pounds:

1. Asphalt needs drains. And curbs. And likely its going to need ditches. That price is not going to be included when you call up the company. Its likely that the longer your drive, the higher the price. And having spent a few hours on the phone with many people - there are more and more cities requiring drainage for parking lots... especially for small parking lots. And drains are expensive to install. And maintain. And if its not done right there's silt and muck to worry about when the drains clog up.

2. Now that you've priced the asphalt with the drains, and curbing and perhaps decided to dig the gutters yourself (or decided you'll skip those - which can lead to long term problems)... What's next? So you've got your blacktop laid down. Don't forget you can't drive on your new asphalt driveway for a few days. So first there is the PITA factor.
Six months is what it takes to cure before you should seal it. And yes... you should seal it.

- so factor in sealant in your costing factor. And wait... before you seal it you need to clean it (at least if you plan on doing it right). You shouldn't just wash it off... you actually should buy specialty cleaners. That's another cost. Here's some info on sealing your blacktop chosen from a random site. Plan on doing it every 2-3 yrs.

3. If its a new blacktop driveway or parking area you should also factor in the costs of the gravel underbase. Ideally it will need to be around 10 inches plus deep. Of course that depends on your soil etc. That's a lot of gravel and excavation... but really you want this chunk of blacktop to last.

So now you have an idea of what your real costs are - at least a ballpark - then you should look at what a grid system costs:

1 . No drains needed. You can either stagger the grid for curves and/or cut it to shape.

2. If you go with gravel - you might need to brush out the gravel - and after a few years perhaps top it up. You won't need anything near the costs of topping up a non-grid gravel driveway because the grid stops it from compacting and scattering all over.

3. If you go with grass - well you'll have to cut the grass. And water it. And for a while, just like a brand new lawn, you will have to reseed bare patches. Some landscapers suggest you over-seed for the first year or two so that weeds don't get established. Since you've done some ground prep to lay the gravel - there's less chance for weeds anyway.


Asphalt cracks. If its not done right then it sinks in spots, cracks and starts falling apart. I'm sure most work out okay, but I've walked across many a parking lot full of cracks, water pools and missing chunks (especially around drains). Don't ask me about repairs to an asphalt drive - but I'm suspecting they need a lot more patching and maintenance.

EcoGrid won't crack or splinter. The EcoGrid is environmentally neutral in accordance with DIN 38412 UV and frost resistant too. If you need to pull up a section you can... sure its a bit difficult because its tabbed together but it won't be the huge project that repairing an equal section of asphalt can be. Plus you don't need to be an expert to install or pull up a section. (one of the few reasons I can think of "repairing" would be if you actually need to change your design - ie: expand or make it into a gravel driveway ... or turn a section into grass).

All in All... after all this info...


and you know what... EcoGrid is the best engineered permeable paver and soil stabilization product available today. And that's why i'm doing this. Because i honestly believe its a good, simple way to help people find a good way to make a great choice.


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