Here is an email from a reader that I thought I would share:
Dear Johanne: Something that bugs me about some old houses is what people do with garages and driveways. I understand the need for a garage but it is pretty rare that folks give much thought to making it fit with their house. Certainly when garages were first made they were much smaller since cars were smaller. They seemed like just a large shed just big enough to cover the car. Now we use garages for storage and shop space so the old buildings often don’t cover all the things we want a garage to do. Still, there must be some folks who have managed to solve this problem in an attractive, balanced way.
I stumbled upon an idea for my driveway. There is an old driveway design called a ribbon driveway that, once I stumbled on some pictures of, I thought “Well of course! I’ve seen that before.” It’s just a simple strip of grass between two strips of concrete but it solves several problems.
First of all, it’s cheaperthan a full width poured concrete or asphalt slab. Secondly, it’s cooler to walk on and shouldn’t track in grit as a gravel drive does. Thirdly, it’s cooler yet to look at. The few I’ve seen just make me smile.
Lastly, it’s cooler because it’s ‘green’. I’m not really on the ‘green’ band wagon because a lot of what is called green isn’t green at all. But this really is green in that it addresses water retention and runoff, heat generated in cities by hard surfaces and decreases the use of materials manufactured by heavy industry. I located some of the specifications for this type of driveway though code specs may be different regionally. Generally then, each ‘ribbon’ should be two feet wide, three ft wide if it will also be used as a sidewalk, with 3 ft width of grass in between. Concrete should be 5 inches thick, reinforced with 6 inch square welded wire mesh, contraction joints 10ft apart. This is for a single car width driveway and obviously, concrete in Canada would have some other considerations such as air entrainment and so on.
Johanne’s note: The image of the house above shows how a driveway can work seamlessly with the home. Of course given that this house was built in the latter 1930’s cars were more common – at least for those who could afford the gas during the Depression. This garage was originally placed just as you see it.