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A driveway is often an integral part of the private residence. Outside of big cities and large developments of apartments or condominiums, nearly every private home in most developed countries has a driveway. Paving the driveway is a popular improvement for many homeowners and a wide variety of surfaces are available including gravel, concrete, asphalt, macadam, and various pavers like bricks, cobblestones, and paver blocks.
The simplest and cheapest method for paving driveways is loose stone. Loose stone driveways have several drawbacks; these types of surfaces will need periodic grading and additional stone to maintain a level surface. Weeds can also be a problem and snow-throwing machines can struggle to properly clear a stone driveway.
Concrete is by far the most common material for paving driveways, as it is relatively cheap and extremely durable. It can be quickly poured in relatively large slabs. A fairly large driveway may be installed in a single day, although concrete needs a minimum of 24 hours to cure before driving a car on it. Concrete is sometimes susceptible to cracking in areas where winters are severe.
Asphalt is another very popular material for paving driveways. Properly called asphalt concrete, this material is also relatively inexpensive, can be put down quickly, and is ready for use within 24 hours. The mixture of loose stone bound with the petroleum distillate asphalt is similar to concrete. The main drawback for asphalt is that it is not as hard as concrete and can deform and crack if the underlying ground settles or buckles. Asphalt driveways also absorb heat very well and can become very hot in direct sunlight.
Tar macadam was a once widespread surface used for roads, runways, and paving driveways. It is no longer as common as asphalt or concrete, but still retains some popularity. Tar macadam differs from asphalt concrete, which it closely resembles, in that the binding agent is a mixture of tar, pitch, and portland cement rather than asphalt. Surfaces made from this material are made up of layers of stones of uniform sizes, larger on the bottom and gradually decreasing toward the surface. Tar macadam may be colored by the addition of pigments to the top layer.
Using pavers for paving driveways is increasingly popular, especially in more expensive home markets. Interlocking paving blocks, bricks, or cobblestones can create a very distinctive and stylish look for a driveway but can be very expensive. These surfaces also require great skill in installation to ensure that they remain level from one brick or paver to the next. This is especially difficult when the driveway itself is not level over its entire length.