What to Avoid when Paving

Several different household surfaces are suitable for paving. On a typical property, these are usually the driveway, the front walk and the patio area. If you decide to pave any of these areas, you have some choices to make, including paving materials and size considerations.

Like any larger home improvement project, paving brings its own individual set of potential mistakes. Some of these mistakes can be dangerous, while others are simply irritating. Either way, they're all things you would rather avoid.

Here, we'll take a closer look at some of the most commonly made paving mistakes. Even better, we'll give you some tips on avoiding these annoying errors.

Poor Planning

If you're creating a driveway for a brand new house or tearing up and replacing an existing path or patio, proper planning is essential. Simply sitting down and creating a solid design, by yourself or with a professional designer, will save you tons of wasted time and money.

Far too many homeowners make the mistake of rushing when it comes to paving. They fail to consider that, unlike something like a small plant; a paved area is a relatively permanent outdoor feature. It will be seen by guests and neighbors, not to mention viewed every day by each member of your household. If you plan properly, your new paved area can be a great addition to your home, providing years of reliable service. However, if you rush through the planning process, you might end up with an eyesore that makes you wish you'd taken just a bit more time.

Consider usage when planning, as well as the overall size and appearance of your home. There's no sense trying to cram an oversize, circular driveway in front of a moderately sized house. Even if you can obtain a permit for the work and somehow fit this large project onto your property, it will look extremely odd. To avoid this mistake, simply follow the natural lines of your house and property. In addition, take into account the number of vehicles that will regularly be using the driveway. Play for larger, rarely-used vehicles as well, if you plan on keeping them in the driveway for any length of time. Don't make the mistake of trying to accommodate guests' vehicles, even if you entertain frequently. You'll only be spending more money than is necessary, and your huge driveway will sit unused for large portions of time. When it comes to parties, your guests will be just fine parked on the street.

Planning a walk or patio is a bit less involved, simply because the size is generally much smaller. However, usage needs to be considered on these projects as well. If members of your household, or regular guests, who rely on canes or walkers, accommodating these needs is a very considerate and useful touch. Consider those with balance issues, as well, if working on slanted ground.

Patios should also follow the lines of your house and yard. This is true in sizing as well as in materials. Regardless of which individual project you're planning, simply planning it will avoid one of the biggest potential paving mistakes.

Sacrificing Quality for Cost

In these uncertain economic times, it often seems like a smart idea to cut corners wherever possible. However, this is actually a mistake when it comes to something as large and permanent as a paving project.

Nearly every paving material, from concrete to tar-and-chip mixtures, comes in different degrees of quality and price. The most expensive product is not always the best; there's no reason to purchase the priciest brand simply because it seems like it must be the highest quality available. However, it's not always a good idea to purchase the cheapest material you can find, either.

Consult a local contractor, even if you're tackling your paving project on a DIY basis. Most will speak with you, in person or over the phone, for a very reasonable fee. Some will even provide this consultation for free. A contractor who is familiar with your local area and climate will have invaluable insight into choosing the best product. They will likely have “favorite” brands which they regularly use, and these brands are usually a good bet. In most cases, they will be middle-ground in terms of price, but they will stand the test of time just as well as their costlier alternatives.

If you're hiring a contractor for your project, the same rules apply. The most expensive bid you receive is generally not the one to choose. However, an ultra-low bid should raise some red flags. Ask exactly how the contractor plans to meet that low bid. Often, the answers are a bit disturbing. In some cases, a contractor will scrimp and cut corners when it comes to material quality and skilled laborers.

Other times, the contractor will ignore permits, licenses, insurance and other essential details in order to present a low bid. Operating without these essentials is simply a bad idea. Not only will injured workers be left with no treatment options, but their medical bills could fall on your shoulders, since the injury occurred on your property. Operating without permits can result in the city issuing fines or, in extreme cases, requiring that you tear up and replace your drive or walkway. In addition, operating without a license is illegal in some areas, and a sign of a lack of professionalism even in areas where a license isn't required by law.

Another very scary possibility is that your “budget” contractor is simply dishonest. These contractors often present very low bids, then demand a deposit before any work is done. Often, after collecting that deposit, the contractor simply disappears! Remember to get a written contract from any worker, and set up a payment plan based on work progressing at a reasonable rate.

As you can see, there are many potential mistakes to be made when trying to plan a budget paving project. There's nothing wrong with saving money, but ensure that you're not sacrificing quality in the process.

Choosing the Wrong Materials

Concrete, asphalt, tar-and-chip mixtures, gravel and pre-made pavers are the most common materials used when paving. Your particular project and the needs of your household should be your guide when choosing between these materials.


Usually the least expensive of all paving materials, concrete is used to create many residential driveways, walks and paths. This material is extremely durable, and can retain its new appearance and integrity for years with very simple maintenance.

Due to the way concrete is mixed and poured, hiring professionals is a must. The heavy machinery poses severe hazards for those who haven't been trained in proper usage. In addition, the average DIY handyman simply doesn't have the knowledge required to mix concrete properly. Many details must be taken into account, including climate and desired finished appearance. Finishing the concrete is also a job best left to the professionals, as a mistake during this part of the job can leave you with a permanently sloped driveway.

If you decide to use concrete for your paving project, don't' make the mistake of trying to DIY. Far too many homeowners attempt this, only to find that they can't rent the machinery. You'll be stopped before you can even begin, so save yourself some trouble and hire pros from the beginning.


Poured, mixed and finished in relatively the same manner as concrete, asphalt is a separate material. In recent years, asphalt has become more popular as homeowners realized that the maintenance and upkeep required are much easier and less expensive. Ask a professional whether asphalt or concrete is the best choice for your project and your climate.

Tar and Chip

Not often the first option in homeowners' minds, a tar and chip driveway can be a very attractive and durable alternative to asphalt or concrete. The name says it all...small chips or stones (or sometimes concrete) are mixed into tar, and then spread over the surface to be paved. This mixture drives to a finish which is somewhat resilient, offering varying degrees of traction. In very cold climates where winter ice hazards are a concern, a tar and chip driveway can be a great safety investment. Just be sure to avoid the mistake of too-large chips, which can poke holes in tires, trip people and eventually need to be sanded down.


For various aesthetic and safety reasons, many homeowners choose gravel for their driveways or walkways. A gravel patio is not a good idea. Before you invest in a gravel driveway, be sure to take precautions against the elements. If you simply layer gravel on top of dirt, your driveway will become a muddy, swampy mess each time it rains. Ask a local contractor what your options are for accommodating the local climate.


Pavers are pre-made pieces of concrete, asphalt, brick or other durable materials. Pavers can be several square feet in size, or they can be as small as your hand. The desired final look of your drive, pathway or patio should guide your sizing decision. Pavers offer the most options for creativity, since different colors and textures can be combined for some truly stunning effects.

Installing pavers is a popular DIY project, but a professional should still be consulted on several issues. Climate and the ground beneath the area to be paved should all be taken into consideration, as should the proper way to seal and maintain your paving project once it's installed.

Easily Avoided Errors

It's fairly obvious that the most common paving mistakes are extremely easy to avoid. Plan your project thoughtfully and take every component into consideration. Hire very carefully, avoiding bids which are too high or too low. Choose your materials wisely, based on desired appearance and usage. Don't' be afraid to consult a pro when you reach a decision you don't feel qualified to make on your own. By avoiding the most common paving mistakes, you'll end up with a beautiful new driveway, path or patio, and you'll save yourself from excess costs and excess worry.

Posted by: Diane
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area. Read real customer reviews, browse photos and compare credentials.

Find your home service pro
comments powered by Disqus

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.

Get quotes from top-rated contractors