The Drive

This could be a long post…

We resurfaced our drive at home in 2009 because the old one was crumbling. Having investigated the various options available we decided on a block paving one. The main advantage to us was that we could do it in sections because we had to leave the drive useable as much as possible for the bungalow behind us. We talked to the owners of the bungalow and they agreed that a joint resurface would be a good idea.

Our part of the drive was 3 metres by 30 metres, with a  section off one end about 10 metres by 10 metres. In addition to that we had a path at the front, a side access to the garage and path edgings at the rear.

Just to complicate things the drive was slightly curved along its length, had a downwards pitch near one end and the 10 x 10 part was sloping upwards from the rest of the drive to the garage.

We finished up with two lorry loads of blocks stored on our front lawn, several one tonne bags of sand and two wackers  to flatten the sand.

Equipment Preparations:

We bought the wackers from a friend because  it was better than renting them. We also had a cement mixer to use, I repaired a bearing in exchange for Using it.

I used string lines and levels for layout but also a laser level to be accurate.

Having researched drive construction courtesy of a superb site called ‘The Brew Cabin’ I knew that the drive under the blocks would need the sand to be really compacted and very flat. The thing I needed was a big scraper capable of removing sand to a pre- determined level below the finished block top surface so I made one –

On the smaller areas of block I made wooden scrapers shaped to the correct profile, these ran on temporary rails set into the sand.

In addition to the above we had a solid wood four wheel trolley to move the blocks, and a big grinder to cut the new blocks and also to cut away part of the old concrete drive in front of my garage to blend the new blocks to the l requirementlevel of the entrance.

Layout Preparations:

I needed to lay parallel lines of blocks along the drive to establish the finished width and height.

I needed to separate the sloping part from the main drive and also retain the blocks on the slope.

I needed to remove most of the downward pitch on the main drive.

I needed to provide drainage where the drive met the road -a legal requirement.

I needed to leave access into a manhole on the drive.

I wanted to use an ‘offset herringbone’ pattern where one block ran along the drive and the next block was at 90 degrees to the first. This minimised the cutting required and meant that most of the blocks only had to be cut in half.

The Build:

After deciding not to use the builder who was constructing the rest of the drive on the next door bungalow, my wife and myself decided to do it ourself with the aid of a friend. Bear in mind that we were in our early sixties at this time, I was still working and none of us had ever done this sort of thing on that scale!

The first part was to establish the width of the drive along the whole length and layout the lines and levels accordingly.

Having established the drive lines I established the same for the square section up to the garage. This included marking and cutting out about a metre of the old drive in front of the garage. This part was ten metres long and steel reinforced!

The drain position and level was established and set.

The downward pitch required either lots of cement or some other way of lifting the drive at that point. I decided to make an angle iron iron frame to accommodate the blocks. This frame was made to fit a line of different coloured blocks and used to mark the end of our part of the drive. The frame was securely bolted to the original drive.

The next step was to lay a long piece of steel angle along the base of the square section to retain the blocks on the slope. This was drilled and bolted to the original drive.’

Lines of blocks were laid lengthways in cement along the drive to give the correct width and height. I had originally measured the required width and translated this into the nearest whole number of blocks. This measurement was used to lay out the side blocks.

The sides of the square section were laid next in the same manner as for the main drive. While I was working in this area I laid a new row of blocks under the garage door to minimise draughts inside.

While the sides were setting I drew out and fabricated the scraper for the sand. This had to scrape the sand down enough so that the top of the blocks were 2 – 3mm above the side block levels, the blocks were later consolidated using the wacker. Pins and rollers at the sides were used to run the scraper along the side blocks. A handle and side guides were used to keep the scraper straight.

A manhole cover designed to hold blocks was cemented in the correct position on the drive and levelled across.

Between the drive sides was filled with sand and scraped roughly level by hand. The sand was compacted using eight passes of the wacker and then scraped level. Sand was used to fill any low parts, compacted again and scraped again.

When the sand had weathered for a few days I sprayed the top lightly with water and then we started laying blocks. This was a very easy although tedious job. We laid the whole of the drive first apart from any blocks needing cutting. These were cut and assembled in position as a separate operation.

The square area was laid in a similar manner, apart from using temporary sides because of the width.

The different coloured blocks were laid in the frame. The frame area had also been filled with sand, compacted and levelled.

After all the blocks had been laid we went over the whole area several times with the wacker using a rubber mat to prevent damage until the drive was level with the edges.

We left this for a few days until we had a spell of settled warm weather then filled the gaps in between the blocks with dried fine sand, this held the blocks together better and helped prevent weeds.

The Drain:

We were required to have a drain between our drive and the road so we laid a line of covered plastic drain channel in place. In the garden next to the drive we dug a soak away and filled it with gravel. These were connected by pipe and the soak away covered over.

The Result:

After eight years constant use the drive remains level with only a couple of slight ‘dips’ that are so small as not to be worth re-doing yet. The worst area of settlement appears to be at the entrance to the garage and even that is minor. The top sand needs to be topped up but that needs a spell of fine dry weather. There appears to be more than normal amounts of growth in some joints, but that is in the more sheltered areas and is not a problem in summer.


The Downsides:

We laid this drive in a long hot summer and moved a total of 140 Tonnes of blocks, sand etc because of logistical requirements. Unfortunately this only resulted in us losing approximately 1 Kg of weight, although we did at least feel lots fitter!


Author: trebor

I am a retired engineer who likes to keep busy with various projects. I am married with two grown up children and live in Yorkshire the north of England and have lived in my present house since 1978.

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