Belgian Block and Pavers – Dressing Up an Asphalt Driveway

My asphalt driveway was assaulted.

I was hoping for the best, but we had construction trucks in and out several times during a pretty significant renovation project, and at some point the asphalt started to crack a bit on some edge areas — and then just continued to crumble. It wasn’t pretty. Arguably the driveway wasn’t of highest quality from the get-go, but now it simply had to be repaired.

When something like this happens, there are always a couple of options. You can focus on the specific repairs, of course, striving to bring things back to their original state. But another option is to take it one-step-further: try to turn the repair into an improvement… and make it look like the whole effort was part of your plan all along!

Originally, I had a pretty standard-looking asphalt driveway as pictured just below. It was perfectly functional, and it was about 12 years old when this photo was taken. The damage was done to the edge on the left and also to the edge up at the top leading into the yard — in both cases this was due to huge trucks rolling from the asphalt onto the grass.

Original Driveway

I met with a local mason who I had worked with on many other projects – great guy. And we talked about what might be feasible.

My Goal: Asphalt Repair & Hardscape Driveway Edging

I wanted to save the driveway without having to replace it in total. Plus – I wanted to have it look nicer than it did originally. If we could pull this off at a lower cost than re-asphalting, it would be the ideal scenario: achieving a repair that *looked* like an intentional improvement. The plan was going to be to salvage the driveway as best we could by surgically removing the damaged asphalt edges – and replacing with some combination of Belgian block and/or pavers.

Hardscape Design Ideas and Considerations

1) Grading is always a key concern with outdoor projects – and this project was no exception. The edge of the driveway farthest away from the house had been a destination for water over the years as the driveway was properly graded to take water away from the house. However it hadn’t been properly graded to carry all of this water down to the street – and this was part of the reason one of the most damaged areas was so fragile. The asphalt had been getting passively undermined for years.

With that understood, we knew we had to be as careful as possible with the edge farthest from the house. Not only did we need to *try* to remediate the grading there, but the edge we added needed to be rock solid.

2) Due to the above, we opted to use Belgian block set into concrete (not stone dust) along the left and right sides of the driveway. This border would be inherently stronger than asphalt and would add a very significant rigid support to the driveway overall. Incidentally, these would also serve as “bumpers” for anyone who might to occasionally drive onto the lawn! (Using pavers here would look nice for a little while, but wouldn’t provide any structural support at all.)

3) For purely aesthetic reasons, we would set these Belgian block edges on a nice angle, not vertically upright. You may have seen this before; it’s a really nice look – there are pictures below.

4) At the top of the driveway at the entry to the yard – we would use a paver apron set in stone dust. Could we have used Belgian block here as well? Definitely. But pavers are cheaper – and there was no need for the same structural consideration. Furthermore, my mason felt strongly that the contrast between the paver apron and the Belgian block edges would make things “pop” even more.

5) For additional aesthetics, I also wanted to do a matching paver apron going into the garage, and my mason suggested he would add a third little one coming in from the street as well because he thought that would tie together comprehensively. Some people have vision for this type of work; I know that he does and this wasn’t an upsell – he just mentioned he was going to do it as well because it would look really nice. Can’t beat that, right?

Construction Photos:

Belgian Block Landscape Edging & Driveway Pavers

So, the work now gets underway…

Stone dust is delivered – this will be used as the base for all the apron areas.

Stone Dust

The damaged asphalt areas are removed and areas are cut/dug for the aprons as well as the Belgian block edges.

Top Paver Apron Preparation

Garage Paver Apron Preparation

Belgian Block Edge Preparation

The paver aprons are now installed on the stone dust base, and the Belgian block is set into concrete. The block will not be “jointed” until they set for a couple of days, so you’ll still see spaces between each of the stones.

Garage Paver Apron

Bottom Paver Apron Preparation

Top Paver Apron Completed

Once the blocks are jointed – you end up with the more “connected” look you would expect. In the picture that follows, you can see this – and also note the white flags. When inserting Belgian block on an angle as we’ve done here, you need to anticipate impact to the adjacent lawn areas: they must be elevated. The white flags denote sprinklers which also needed to be lifted to accommodate the new higher elevation.

Angled Belgian Block Edge

Curved and Angled Belgian Block Edge

Driveway with Pavers and Angled Belgian Block

My Asphalt Driveway – In The End…

Well, this project turned out to be a good news/bad news story.

The good news is that I have these beautiful aprons now and a rock solid (and really striking) Belgian block border on each side of the driveway as you’ve seen.

The bad news is that the asphalt driveway couldn’t actually be salvaged.

The damaged edges were just a symptom of a much bigger problem; the driveway was actually on the brink of falling apart in total. You should normally expect to get about 20 years out of an asphalt driveway but due to the water run-off issue and some surface tree roots, we were pretty much at end-of-life here. Once the crew started cutting, it became very clear.

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So…  I’m going to have to redo the asphalt (as well) anyway. You win some and you lose some.

I’ll next need to engage an asphalt company. Will be a lot more money than I ever planned to spend in aggregate, but on the upside – I’ll end up with the nicest driveway on the block.

Not sure I’ll let anyone drive on it, though.

Part 2: For the full “Asphalt Replacement” effort – Check out Paving an Asphalt Driveway.

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Comments

  1. Really glad you like the site, Tom, and thanks for your question.

    I had the same problem at the beginning. I knew what I wanted, but I had a hard time finding information about it. I think the slow-rising Belgian block have a beautiful aesthetic – and they’re really practical as well. (They keep people from driving on my lawn without destroying [or scuffing] tire sidewalls like vertically positioned Belgian block can.)

    The asphalt-touching *edge* of the Belgian block should be pretty much at asphalt-level, of course, and the back-end (toward the lawn) is raised to your desired angle. This dictates the depth and length of the trench. There’s one nice trench shot in the article body above. I had a contractor do this – by the way; I didn’t do this myself. But I oversaw and specified the design.

    One other thought you might want to consider if you’re going to do this yourself:

    If I were undertaking this myself, I’d start with an area in my backyard and 3-4 blocks and do a test there first. Full blown. It’s hard to imagine an easy “redo” with this project, and if your concrete dries without your stones positioned “just so” once solidified – best this happens on a “test” area (which you’ll later rip out) than on your real driveway.

    Best of luck to you!
    Mark recently posted..Trim Work Design Tips: From Casing to Crown Molding

  2. Hello Mark,

    First off, thank you for the great website! It is very informative and helpful to me as a fellow DIYer.

    I’m in the process of redoing my driveway as it is shot beyond repair and I love what you did with yours. I’m planning on doing the same with mine and following your advice of curbing first and then having the contractor come in with the asphalt. I’d like to lay the Belgian block edging on an angle as you did but for some reason I can’t find any information on laying Belgian block in this manner except for your website. I know it’s not as popular as vertical installation but it’s weird how nobody else has posted details on the angled installation.

    My question for you is related to the depth of the concrete base and manner of laying the Belgian block on an angle into the concrete. I’ve seen how the vertical installation calls for sinking the Belgian block a few inches into a concrete base and then troweling some concrete on the outside of the curbing at a 45 degree angle to the same height as the asphalt on the other side in order to hold up the Belgian block. However, laying the block on a 30 degree angle is a different story and I’m not sure how deep to make the concrete base for that and whether to sink the entire block into the concrete so that the outside edge will have concrete coming up the side or just laying it onto the concrete base without sinking the outer edge into the concrete. Also, is the trench dug with a flat bottom or is the bottom of the trench angled at the same angle as the block is to be laid?

    Thanks in advance for your time and help!

    Regards,
    Tom

  3. Looks very nice, I would have suggested doing the apron with granite blocks as well.

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