Driveway Overhaul.

It’s been a while since I actually posted anything about the house,so I thought this rainy Saturday morning might lend itself to doing just that.

If you have followed this blog you probably know that one of the things we have struggled with since moving in is the driveway situation. We love the idea of using Stabiligrid, and the positive impact it has on the environment, but at the end of the day it simply turned out to be an impractical solution for us. So after a very long winter, and a very, very wet 2009, we pulled the trigger on removing the existing Stabiligrid drive and replacing it with concrete.

Replacing the driveway is something that Kristy and I have struggled with since we moved in. When done right and maintained the Stabiligrid created a seamless plane that helped to enhance the illusion that the house floated in this field of green.  And we didn’t want to do anything to alter the original vision of the architect in terms of sighting the house. Another concern was the change in environmental impact that switching from the Stabiligrid to concrete might have. Originally we looked into using a pervious concrete  like Xaripave which allows the same amount of runoff to pass through the concrete and back into the ground below. Unfortunately it became to cost prohibitive based on the size of our drive. at 13 by 95 feet, we were looking at close to 22 thousand dollars for tear out, and pervious concrete thick enough to with stand  the daily traffic of our cars.

So what was the final solution? We caved and went with standard concrete. After shoveling a collective 44 plus inches of snow this winter, and taking a long hard look at the situation, solid concrete seemed like the most cost effect, durable solution for the climate, and the house.

The new driveway as seen from the front door.

At first we were both hesitant, afraid that the look of the home would be irreparably changed for the worst, and I have to admit when the crew removed the Stabiligrid and dropped in 4 tons  of gravel I was a bit worried. Here we are though a week later and the driveway is done. I have to admit it looks really nice. The drive actually adds a sense of completion to the structure, creating a sense of completeness that in some ways was lacking with Stabiligrid. I think this is because, since September of last year, the drive has been void of grass and really a washed out mud plane running from the garage to the street.

The Stabiligrid Mud Pit about mid January

So the next steps as spring rolls forward to summer, is to begin the landscaping plan, and hopefully by fall have a finished yard. I’m thinking it all begins next week, because as I look out at the yard I can tell it is going to need the first mowing fairly soon.

The new driveway looking back at the house from the street.

No Joy in Mudville

This week was the first time since December 24th that I saw my complete driveway. Finally all the snow pack melted away, even though it was only an inch or so thick on the actual drive itself. If you are familiar with my house, then you probably know my driveway is made from a system called Stabiligrid. Essentially Stabiligrid is a system of interlocking 12 inch by 12 inch plastic tiles. Each tile is made up of a set of hollow squares which are back filled with dirt and allow grass to grow. While it is after used as a driveway, the drive way set up usually involves backfilling with gravel, or some other substance that allows for water to pass through, but doesn’t turn into a mud pit when saturated with run off.

This is the issue with my drive. When it was first installed it had a lush green look. The grass was beautiful, and there was a nice contrast between the longer grass in the yard and the shorter grass on the drive. After almost 3 years of traffic though, the grass is pretty much dead, and the drive is either a muddy swamp, or a dirt filled slab. Neither are attractive or practical in Kansas City. I’m not bagging on the Stabiligrid system, I just don’t think it is right for this climate. In all reality our drive probably should have been filled with gravel and void of grass, but such is life. So after a very wet summer, fall, and now winter, I am getting bids on alternate solutions for the drive.

First up, poured concrete. While not the most environmentally friendly solution, it is the least expensive. And it still isn’t cheap. I’m looking at spending about 8 grand for a traditional concrete drive. For Pervious concrete pavement I’ll probably end up spending 4 thousand more. It’s still to early to tell what the final solution will be, but I know by the end of summer the Stabiligrid will probably be gone.

A Few Obsevations About the New House and Snow

The field in a blanket of white

The butterfly chair covered in snow on the back deckToday was the first snow day of the season here in KC. It was also the first snow day for me in the new house, and I have a couple of observations I'd like to talk about.

First, I’d like to say that at 6:00 AM when I was walking the dogs, it was really, really nice. The house seemed to float above this white plane, sitting silently above the ground standing out against the dark dawn sky. Standing in the middle of the field to the South of the house, the world was silenced by the muffling snow fall and the inch or so we had on the ground. The dogs were in heaven, running around like crazed puppies making the whole experience in the new neighborhood feel great. I have to say I am kind of looking forward to what it will be like when we actually get a significant snow fall this season. And with that, I turn to observation number two.

OK, I’m not sure what the Studio 804 people were thinking when they designed the house. Our entry is a 5 degree ramp that sits on the North side of the house. There is no hand railing, and there are no steps. Just a long gentle sloping ramp that runs 25 feet to the front door. The wood runs lengthwise down the entire surface. When the ramp is wet, it can be slick, when it is covered with snow or frost it can be treacherous. Since the ramp is on the North side of the home it is in the shade, 365 days a year. Seriously, every single day. It never sees direct sunlight, and because of this there is no way for the snow to melt. Because there is no hand rail, you have nothing to hang on to when you try and walk down the thing, so let me just say that this morning when I was walking out to the garage to head to work, I could have used the ramp as a ski jump.

The entry ramp, post brooming in an attempt to clear it.

The issue is this, chemical snow melt is bad for the environment and eats the wood. Salt is no better, and sand is the kind of thing that sticks to your shoes and will destroy the bamboo flooring. I would shovel, but I don’t want to thrash the wood decking, and using a broom on wet snow pack is well… rather futile. So I am now thinking about how I am going to tackle this problem later in the season, when we get our annual Kansas City ice storm, followed by an 8 inch snow.

I am holding comments on the Stabiligrid driveway for now. This morning it was a sloppy muddy mess, but it was still drivable. I am wondering how I am going to shovel it off though? At least a large portion of it gets direct sunlight exposure so much of it will melt off. Or so I hope.

Anyway, enough complaining, the snow has put me into the holiday spirit, or at least jump started my holiday mood. And while I am not a huge fan of cold weather, I have to say the field and woods that surround the house looked really nice covered in a thin blanket of white this morning. One of my favorite things was when I walked around the house and the light from the 4 windows created these perfect warm squares on the white ground in the dark morning light. It just looked amazing.

Xeripave, Stabiligrid, and a Workable Driveway Solution


Storm water runoff and control is a large aspect of green building, especially on new construction with LEED certified credits that are provided for reducing impervious cover, increasing on-site filtration, and reducing pollution from storm water runoff.  I’ve found a company that has been  making news with their LEED certified paver system, Xeripave.  This might just be the solution that I have been looking for to replace the driveway Stabiligrid system. The pavers run about 8 dollars a square foot so doing the entire driveway would be a bit cost prohibitive, running us about 5ooo dollars for the whole surface. What Xeripave has suggested is running tire lines down the center of the creating a solid surface for the cars to travel on and allowing the stabiligrid to reside in 3 sections. This helps to maintain the look of the house on the lot, and still offers a very eco-friendly solution.

Xeripave makes permeable pavers in various colors that have a flow through rate of up to 1.5 gallons per second per square foot. These pavers can be used in conjunction with other materials, such as brick and concrete or Stabiligrid.  They come in custom colors and sizes can be landscaped into the existing yard space, Standard sizes are 11.81″ x 11.81″ x 1.97″ or 15.75″ x 15.75″ x 1.97″.

Xeripave Permeable Pavers are safe, non-slip, and strong enough for moderate traffic, low speed areas.  In addition, due to the high permeability rate, I won’t need to cover the entire hardscape with the material.  With this system I would still be able to capture all of the runoff with something like 12-15% coverage, and not significantly alter the exterior look of the home and the lot.