Your driveway opens up your home to the world and is one of the first things that visitors see. So it’s top of many homeowners’ to do list when it comes to smartening up the exterior of their property to make the right impression.

But when it comes to choosing a driveway specialist to add style to their drives or bring a bit of sanity back to their crazy paving, it’s surprising how many people are led up the garden path. In fact, recent cases have seen people fleeced out of tens of thousands of pounds for driveway work that was shabby at best or non-existent at worst.

However, though the driveway industry can attract bad press, the majority of legitimate driveway installers are professionals who will do an outstanding job at a fair price that adds style and value to your property.

What they do

Driveway specialists are professionals in hard landscaping who design and install drives, paths and access routes in domestic situations.

You can call on them to help with:

  • Building footpaths and driveways
  • Installing and maintaining patios
  • Walling and railings
  • Disabled access
  • Ground clearance and excavation
  • Land drainage and play areas

What they charge

Any good driveway specialist will tell you that the bulk of the cost of installing a quality outdoor paved area like a driveway is in preparation and labour.  Which means that scrimping on materials may not save as much as you think and could affect the longevity and durability of the work.

The cost of a driveway, patio or paving project will vary according to size but as a rough guide, the average cost to pave a standard 55m2 drive way should be between £4,000 and £4,500.

This will take roughly four days and lots of variables affect the price such as manhole covers on the drive, what finish you want, how much needs clearing and size and complexity of shape.

What to ask

When you’re selecting a driveway installer, don’t forget to ask a few sensible questions to make sure you’re choosing the best firms for the job. The following questions could save you time and money further down the road:

  • Do you have a business address or fixed address that you operate from?
  • Is your work guaranteed?
  • Are you insured?
  • Do you have references from / can I speak to any recent customers?

Try and avoid tradespeople who turn up uninvited, offer you cash deals and unrealistic special offers or have pushy sales techniques. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!

Trades to trust

TrustMark is the Government-endorsed scheme for trades in and around the home. Registered firms with their accreditation go thorough vetting and on-site inspections to ensure they are raising industry standards. This accreditation gives customers reassurance of quality and protection from rogue traders.

Many major manufacturers of paving materials also provide their own accreditation schemes to give you extra peace of mind such as the Marshalls Register and Bradstone Assured. Look out for these logos on a driveway professional’s website or van for added peace of mind.

The law

If the surface to be covered is more than five square metres you need to receive planning permission for laying traditional, impermeable driveways that do not control rainwater running off onto roads. This applies to new driveways, drive extensions or drive replacements.

You don’t need planning permission if the surface to be covered is less than five square metres or if the new surface is permeable or porous or if a traditional surface is laid and the rainwater is directed to a lawn or border to drain naturally or if it is directed to a soakaway via a drainage channel.

Any other work such as fences, walls and gates or a dropped kerb may require planning permission. There are also different rules for patios and driveways that are not part of a front garden.

If you are making a new access into the garden across the footpath, you will need to obtain permission from the local council to drop the kerbs and the pavement may need strengthening. This is to protect any services buried in the ground such as water pipes. Read more here.

Ready to hire?

Got their number?

Only deal with firms who can give you a landline number and address. Be wary of driveway installers who can only provide a mobile number.

3 is the magic number

As always, try and get three quotes from three different driveway specialists to ensure you pay a fair price for the job. Make sure they are in writing and include a full breakdown of costs.

Certification and references

Don’t be shy about asking for any relevant certification, proof of public liability insurance and references or photos from previous jobs. If the driveway specialist is trustworthy and competent, they’ll be pleased (and proud) to show you both. But be wary of photos which may not be work the company has actually undertaken!