Driveways aren't exactly known for their good looks: Concrete ones love oil stains, gravel can be impossible to keep smooth, and grassy lawns can quickly become muddy messes. But one material is pushing the whole concept forward: Permeable tile pavers, the next level up in parking design that incorporate a little of each, and so much more. It’s a drivable surface with stormwater drainage incorporated, and, best of all, grassy green good looks. Find out how they can drive up your home’s curb appeal and all the logistics you need to think through before calling your landscaper to install them.
Where to Use Them
Permeable pavers can guard against flood damage by allowing rainwater to infiltrate the ground. 'Within driveways, we often use block pavers with a significant material thickness. The added thickness is essential for areas trafficked by cars and trucks. These blocks can be made of granite Belgian block cobbles or a prefabricated concrete aggregate block. Blocks are set on a gravel base, spaced evenly, and set with open joints that are then swept with a sand mixture to allow stormwater to percolate through,' explains landscape designer Douglas Clark. Think about putting them wherever water tends to collect.
If you don't have a driveway but love the idea of a concrete-meets-greenery hybrid, beauty a space by the patio. This outdoor space by Melbourne, Australia–based Hecker Guthrie proves that grass pavers can do more than driveways. They also make great terraces and walkways.
Why They're a Good Idea
Not only are they good for flood-prevention, but they're also super environmentally friendly. 'Pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate the ground, rather than sheeting off your property, and carrying away any pollutants and debris it encounters along with it,' Clark tells us. But they need proper drainage for optimal results.
To install grass pavers, you need to add a base layer of compacted gravel underneath. “You can’t just put them on top of mud,” says New York–based landscape architect Edmund D. Hollander of Hollander Design. This is because it won't drain properly, and can become a flooding nightmare. He also says that 'use level is important to keep in mind. You have to use them in areas that don’t get a huge amount of automated traffic, like occasional country drives, as the turning of tires will tear out grass and you can end up with mud rather than grass in the joints.'
What to Plant
Instead of sprinkling on grass seeds, Hollander suggests planting cut-to-fit sod between the joints in your pavers: “Sod will establish more quickly and prevent any weeds from taking root,” he explains. Hollander also tells us that you can use all sorts of things between the joints in a terrace area. Creeping thyme (also known as wooly thyme) works well in sunny areas while something like Mazus grass is great in a shady area.
Creative Ways to Beautify Them
Add Fragrance: Not sold on moss and grass? Plant thyme instead—it smells amazing when you step on it! Of course, it depends on your region and the climate, with more choices available if you're a sunny place. But feel free to research and get creative with a natural air freshener for your yard and driveway.
Pick a Pattern: From checkered grids to basket-weave designs, paver options are endless.'Classic running bonds or chevron paving patterns always win when using Belgian block cobbles,' says Clark. Adding that 'keeping your patterns clean, organized and consistent allows for clear and timeless gestures. The scale of these patterns should be kept at the 'human scale' and should feel comfortable and not overwhelming.'
Frame It With Plants: Hollander says the best way lay your pavers to accomodate a garden is to have two strips for the tires to drive over and an a garden in the middle. Bay Area designer Dan Carlson of Wigglestem Gardens combined succulents and herbs for this low-to-the-ground garden tucked into a permeable-paver driveway. Or you could do it the opposite way and lay two strips of gravel with a grass paver in the middle.