Driveway for a 1950s house: Paving blocks… concrete paving… gravel… asphalt?

driveway ideasWhat kind of driveway material is appropriate for a midcentury home? Pavers? Concrete? Pea gravel? Asphalt? Reader Jane does not like the pinky-gray brick paving blocks added at some point as the driveway of her 1958 home, and welcomes our ideas and suggestions. I have some immediate reactions and thoughts… but I have not researched this topic… Readers, what do you think? Read on for Jane’s complete question and story…

Jane writes:

I searched your site for any info on driveways… but I think it is a topic you have yet to cover! My midcentury home has been unfortunately renovated with a pinky-grey interlocking brick. I [*h*-word edited by pam] interlocking brick. With a passion. Looking up ways to cover it seems to result in no answers – apparently, everyone on the internet wants to put this in, not cover it or take it out!

Wondering if you have any thoughts on midcentury driveways — I think concrete looks best… but maybe pea gravel would be a cheap way to cover up the interlock… I dunno. I was thinking to maybe post a pic of my Midcentury Don Mills (Ontario) house exterior and have some of your readers weigh in on cool midcentury driveway ideas.

Forgive the lawn, it’s Canadian winter, everything is dead at the moment.

I just got a quote from my family contractor, he said 8 to 10 THOUSAND dollars just to rip out the interlock and put in plain concrete. Ay caramba! Now I know I need some more options! I wonder what else would look good with this house.

Dumping pea gravel over the interlock is looking like the cheapest option… but can you roll giant recycling bins over that stuff? Will it get all over the road? So many questions!

Can you just pave over interlock? I’m guessing the experts will say no…

I also asked Jane for more info on what got her into this lovely home. She responded:

I have always had a fetish for Mid Century houses. Didn’t grow up in one, but I had friends who did. I swore one day when I could afford one, I’d buy one! We bought the house in 2010 after a very loooong search – they say no one leaves Don Mills, except in a hearse. People all moved in in the late 50s when it was built, then loved it so much, they never moved out. So housing stock is hard to come by. Don Mills is the only area in Toronto (within commuting distance to my job) that has these types of homes. First modern planned community in Canada. Lots of great MCM houses. And a great place to live.

Anyway, after 10 months of searching, we found this one. Unfortunately it had fallen prey to some ‘flippers’ who bought it in 2008, put in some cheap Home Depot/Ikea updates, then resold in 2010. I’m in the process of trying to undo all that they did, such as putting fake wood floor over perfectly good linoleum (arrrgh!), painting over wood panelling (gasp!), ripping out kitchen (silent weeping), etc.

I have pics of what the original house looked like in ’58 – but doing before and afters will wait for another time, when I am happy with my interior (but will I ever be happy?) haha.

By the way, the grey in the front was picked from that palette of Eichler colours you posted ages ago – Chelsea Grey. Thanks for that – they have been very useful. I’m picking some more from that set for my fence.

Cheers, Jane

Thanks, Jane, for all this information. This is a good one. Readers: Read more about historic midcentury Don Mills at Jane’s blog, Don Mills: Rediscovering the Suburban Dream.

And now: Let’s hear your ideas… I’m gonna hang back, read your ideas, think about ‘em, and pop in later with an opinion and ideas…

What materials are appropriate for the driveway of a midcentury home?
What should Jane do?

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Comments

  1. Karen says

    Thanks so much for this post! I am in Florida and have a concrete drive that has heaved from tree roots. I think Hollywood is the style for me :)

  2. Francesca says

    I’m in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it category.’ I’d REALLY have to hate something to spend $13 000 on a cosmetic fix. But if you do decide to go for something else, here’s another vote for anything but gravel. It is horrible to have to shovel snow over gravel and makes a huge mess come spring.

  3. Tamara says

    My MCM home has a concrete ribbon driveway filled with quartze pebble set in cement. We therefore don’t have the unsightly issue of our tires missing their mark and compacting the lawn strip. Works really well and I love it with our home. Having said that, I also think your driveway is great. I wouldn’t change it, driveways are expensive to replace.

  4. Rocket Doc says

    My 1952 house has crushed limestone pebbles, although some of the same-era neighbors have larger crushed limestone chips, concrete, asphalt, or brick. Pavers in this pattern is just a cheaper substitution for what would formerly have been brick. Use concrete stain to to change the color to something you like better.

    Or you can pry out some of the pavers randomly or in a pattern and plant moss or traffic-tolerant ground cover (garden centers usually have a selection of these) in the resulting holes–also something that was done in the period. Driveways were often about the materials that were available locally, regardless of the architectural period.

  5. gsciencechick says

    I’ve seen crushed granite on DIY network, but I have no idea on cost, how it holds up, and if it’s period appropriate.

    Asphalt is not eco-friendly and still expensive.

    I would love the pavers!

  6. pamela says

    I think your driveway is fantastic and would trade it for my concrete driveway any time and any day! I would not add any crusher fines or gravel as you will end up tracking them into your garage and then house. You will also have ruts where you drive over time and will spill over into the lawn area. I would not remove and replace as what you have is far superior to concrete.

    There are many benefits to having a interlocking paver drive – it allows stormwater to seep into the spaces between, whereas concrete is impervious and runs off causing increased flooding.

  7. Just another Pam says

    Short of trying listing it for free on Kijiji if someone would take it away, Jane, I’m in the leave well enough alone group. If it could be stained, bonus, but gravel and our winters…nasty….and concrete doesn’t really love our winters either. It all becomes a maintenance nightmare. If you have asphalt put over it I wonder if you’d have heaving problems.

    The little house I bought has a very expensive concrete that looks like stone side yard and path and stairs and, sigh, a need for maintenance every spring after the freeze thaw cycle is over. (Please let it be soon!) I’m lucky, I suppose, as it could always be decked over but that will have it’s own complications because it’s not smooth.

    While I wouldn’t choose that kind of driveway either it does look nice with your house so maybe different plantings and trees could make it less of a bother to you?

  8. Just another Pam says

    P.S. Jane, the photos of the Don are unbelievable…..OK, believable but they did have to be seen to be believable.

  9. nina462 says

    I’m agree with the no pebble – it wreaks havoc on the snow blower and is a pain to shovel snow off of. This I know, because I have an asphalt/partial dirt-pebble driveway and I live in MI.

    But guess what I’m getting for my birthday, in April? A whole new asphalt driveway – right down to the street :) No more dirt/pebbles at the bottom and my asphalt will be smooth with tree root divits to trip over! (I have the original asphalt on my 65 ranch – some on the street have concrete).

  10. says

    HI Pam-
    Pavers, absolutely not! I never see them in a vintage home. If going vintage, I would recommend aggregate concrete which is very common in this era. Stamped concrete in a large geometric pattern in another treatment that I have seen.
    However, if going more contemporary or “green” one can do a porous surface to better handle water runoff, and if done properly it will also do very nicely and perhaps enhance your karma at the same time.
    Best,
    Kathryn Madison

  11. pam kueber says

    Hey Jane, I just want to let you know — I have some more research on this under way… There’s a slight hold up. Stay tuned!

  12. says

    1. Not sure why people keep saying “railroad ties”. Railroad ties are huge, 1’X1′ tar-soaked pieces of wood. The sides of this driveway are concrete.

    2. Putting pea-gravel on top of pavers would be a nightmare. What is going to keep the gravel there? Nothing. It will wash off into the street, leap the curb and end up in your lawn, the vehicles will move it off to the side as they go in and out… gravel only works over dirt surfaces, where it can sink in and get a foothold.

    3. People are suggesting yanking out the concrete edging on this driveway. I would make darn sure first that they are not crucial to keeping the pavers in place! With the weight of vehicles moving back and forth over the pavers, I doubt they’d stay in place just floating in the dirt, so those side walls may be very important!

    4. I watched the stain video… am I the only one to notice the end result was ghastly? All that work for a blotchy, two-toned mess. When the salesperson in the video has to remind you eight thousand times about how important it is to avoid the nozzle dripping stain on the surface, you just know that thing is going to leak and spit all over your driveway.

    My take on this whole project is this: The driveway looks fine – it’s the landscaping that’s making this place look tired. Leave the driveway alone and concentrate on the lawn and plants. And I’m not talking about “it’s winter” – I know it’s winter. I’m talking about the layout, the motley assortment of scrubby evergreens (needs variation), and the shape and size of the shrubbery. The driveway looks in beautiful shape, don’t mess with it. Get that yard taken care of – that’s something that can be done one thing at a time, as you can afford it.

    • pam kueber says

      READ what I wrote. I started calling them railroad ties because that’s what they look like – of course they are concrete. READ I point out that you need to consult with a pro before pulling out the railroad ties. *coffee no breakfast yet*. Yes, I don’t like the two-tone either. Just use one-tone.

  13. Neil says

    If it’s something that could be done economically, I think the present driveway would look a lot better if the pavers were all running parallel to the direction of the driveway. I think that would give it a less colonial vibe. It would look even better if they could be placed in a grid pattern, rather than offset rows, but I expect that might destabilize the surface… or maybe not. In mid-century houses, I’ve seen that arrangement used a lot on walls… perhaps because they were made of cement block(?)… but also in the placement of rectangular tile work. The color of the pavers looks more grey on my monitor than pinky, so I don’t see that as a problem. Maybe they look worse in person. Since they’re already there, and are, in fact, pretty practical, it would seem a shame to discard them before trying to utilize them if at all possible. But I certainly understand wanting the driveway to look appropriate for the period. In my opinion, though, painting them would be a bad idea. MAYBE if they can be stained evenly. MAYBE. Good luck.

  14. says

    I did my MCM driveway with pavers. The great part about them, 1) ease of finding them 2) cost 3) you can make patterns! Don’t know how to post pics here but…
    Regardless, I would encourage everyone to think about the drive as an integral component to the entry sequence. The walkway from the drive should be incorporated with it. It’s exterior space and needs to respond as such!
    cheers!

  15. Ken Burkard says

    What if you we’re to cut squares in the drive pull out the bricks and replace those sections with concrete that was dyed to match the color of your brick on the house. then take the bricks you pulled out and use them on the sidewalks creating the same pattern of the drive to create continuity?
    It would be my guess the pattern that you chose could be created to match patterns that were seen a lot in the 50’s. Work with what you have, save time and money to be used elsewhere in areas that need it worse.

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