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

What 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?

  1. hillary says:

    I think the pavers look nice actually. They probably increase your property value if you ever sell. Putting in asphalt or gravel on top would decrease the value of your home. I wouldn’t do it considering they are pretty inoffensive and in good shape. I’d invest some money in nice midcentury landscaping instead, if you want to upgrade your curb appeal. And FWIW, my midcentury house has an original interlocking brick walkway to the door, and an original interlocking brick patio in the back yard, so the style is not totally un-period even if the materials are more modern.

  2. Jacy says:

    Okay, here’s a twist to what everyone has been saying. Yes, I understand you don’t like the pavers, but honestly, I don’t think it is the pavers that are the problem. The brickwork is fantastic, but it’s the edging of the driveway I have a BIG issue with. The EDGING of your driveway is demanding all the attention away from the house.

    WIth it being a RAISED, STRAIGT edging, the driveway is requiring everyone’s attention.

    Solution: Before removing the entire driveway, please remove the edging first. Then take step back and take a look. Just that little bit of work will completely change the look of the driveway as well as the house. The geometric pattern of the driveway fits with the “Geometric 50’s”. So, start small before you spend all that money on something you might hate in the end.

    1. Sarah V says:

      Our front walkway is made up of similar pink pavers, and those raised straight bits along the edges are what keeps the pavers from all seperating out – I should know because ours doesn’t have the side rails! If you take them out as Jacy suggested you’ll need to replace it with something (wooden pre-treated ties maybe?)

    2. Jean says:

      The side strips are indeed what are holding the pavers in place. My mason husband always uses some sort off retaining “strip” to hold the pavers or brick from moving. I think the driveway itself is lovely, but do not think it matches the home’s vintage. A straight pattern may have worked better that the herringbone.

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

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