Permeable Pavers: Patios, Walkways, and Driveways Made of Porous Pavement

To help reduce surface runoff, consider using permeable pavers — porous pavement — instead of old-fashioned concrete.

| April/May 2009

  • dandriveway
    Green building expert Dan Chiras provides information and recommendations on energy-saving and eco-friendly projects in this ongoing department, “Green Home Improvement.”
  • pavers
    Permeable pavers are used to create attractive driveways that support the weight of vehicles.
  • permeable pavers
    Rain and melting snow can drain through the spaces between permeable pavers (porous pavement) to replenish groundwater.
  • gravel
    A gravel driveway made with the Gravelpave2 system allows water to filter through the gravel.
  • opencell
    The open-cell concrete grid of this driveway protects roots from compaction, which would eventually kill the grass.
  • pervious concrete
    Pervious concrete reduces the problem of storm water runoff from driveways.

  • dandriveway
  • pavers
  • permeable pavers
  • gravel
  • opencell
  • pervious concrete

Although concrete lasts a long time — creating durable patios, driveways, roads, and foundations for houses — the production of concrete takes a lot of energy. And that’s not the only problem with concrete: Whenever the ground is covered with it, rain doesn’t seep into the soil. As the rain accumulates and water starts flowing off the concrete, it can create problems. But porous pavement materials are now available to provide a solid base and still allow water to seep through.

Benefits of Permeable Pavers

Groundwater is a source of drinking water for many people. It also nourishes deep-rooted plants and trees. Replenished by rain and melting snow, groundwater has become an endangered resource, partly because of the impermeable materials used in new developments in and around cities and towns. Roofs, roadways and runways, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, patios, and tennis courts prevent surface water from seeping into the ground.

These impervious surfaces often divert water into storm sewers and then into streams. The rush of water may result in costly and sometimes life-threatening floods. Surface runoff also carries toxic pollutants, such as chemicals and oil from paved roadways and parking lots, into rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, where it pollutes drinking water supplies and harms wildlife.

Another problem caused by so much paving is the buildup of heat in and around cities and towns. Asphalt and concrete absorb sunlight and convert it to heat. The buildup of extra heat around cities and towns is known as the “heat island effect.”

Next time you build a patio, walkway, parking space, or driveway, you can address these problems by installing permeable materials, some of which allow grass to grow in them. Many attractive options will permit water to drain into the ground. Some even reduce heat accumulation around buildings.

What Are Your Options?

For patios or walkways, consider installing permeable concrete pavers. The pavers are solid, but if they’re spaced correctly, water drains between them. Pavers are placed over a bed of sand or gravel, which filters water before it percolates into the soil. Permeable pavers are made from concrete or cut stone and are available in several styles. (For tips on installation, see Picture-perfect Paths & Patios.)

5/19/2019 2:01:50 PM

Permeable pavers were once the cheap, simple solution to making a paved driveway or path when pouring concrete would be cost-prohibitive. The last site I checked had 24" x 24" permeable pavers for $8 eaThe search continues...

7/28/2017 10:34:45 AM

How do these things hold up to snow blowers, snow shovels, snow plowing on a four wheeler?

6/13/2016 11:56:49 AM

I had heard that there was a semipervious paving system made from discarded automobile tires. Have you heard of this?


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