Converting front gardens to driveways

Converting front gardens to driveways really started in the 1970s when motoring began to take off and most families had a car, sometimes two. Fast forward to the 21st century and there are very few town properties that haven’t converted their front garden unless they are exceptionally large and already have a driveway that accommodates three or four cars.

New driveway costs in more detail

Material Small, One Car, 11.5m² Small, Two Cars, 25m² Average, 50m² Large, 100m²
Tarmac £625-£775 £1,100-£1,450 £2,100-£3,100 £4,000-£6,000
Gravel £475-£1,050 £850-£2,000 £1,700-£4,600 £3,200-£9,000
Resin £750-£950 £1,400-£2,000 £2,500-£4,000 £5,000-£8,250
Concrete £800-£1,200 £1,450-£2,050 £3,000-£4,100 £6,500-£8,750
Concrete Imprint £900-£1,350 £1,600-£2,500 £3,200-£5,000 £7,000-£10,000
Paving/Brick £1,000-£1,500+ £2,100-£3,300+ £4,200-£6,600+ £8,400-£13,000+

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Factors to take into account when planning a new driveway

  • Do you have enough width? You may need to get rid of a front boundary wall or possibly some trees to have enough space for your car to enter and exit the driveway safely
  • How many cars do you want to park? Cars parked adjacent to one another will need enough width for the doors to be fully opened, a factor often overlooked when measuring up
  • Cheaper materials can take longer to install depending on type. Brick pavers are very popular at the moment, and quite economical when it comes to price but, hand laying bricks is incredibly labour intensive
  • Do you want to keep any space for a garden area, flower beds or planters?
  • If you want lighting, then cabling needs to be installed and hidden before the top layer goes down
  • Do you have people in the family who may struggle with certain types of surfaces like gravel which can be unstable? This applies to those with mobility issues or elderly relatives. Pushing a buggy or wheelchair over gravel isn’t much fun either
  • Are your vehicles heavier than the average family car? You might have a large 4×4, a caravan or motorhome you want to permanently park or a boat on a trailer. Choose a driveway material that will support the extra weight, not all will, and heavy vehicles can leave marks and indents. This also applies to large work vans which may be laden with tools and equipment
  • Are you likely to see an increase in car ownership in the years to come? Always have a driveway that accommodates the right number of vehicles for the size of house

Factors affecting the cost of converting a front garden into a driveway

  • Cost of excavation to remove garden to create a base
  • Skip hire to dispose of topsoil
  • Materials for sub-base
  • Choice of driveway material
  • Any additional drainage requirements
  • Geotextile or weed membrane to avoid the growth of unwanted plants
  • Equipment hire like a mini digger
  • Lighting
  • Kerb stones
  • Planning permission application fee if relevant
  • Dropped kerb application fee, between £100 and £250
  • Street work licensing fee, around £430
  • Site access which if difficult can impact on time taken and the labour cost
  • Tree removal for visibility which requires both planning permission and can be expensive
  • Where you live in the UK. This type of work is always more costly in towns and cities compared to rural areas and London and the Southeast invariably have higher labour charges

The advantages of a front driveway

  • You can easily park several vehicles without the need to rely on street parking outside your house
  • Cars are more secure from theft and on street damage like broken wing mirrors or scratches and dents
  • You can store larger/heavier vehicles, leisure vehicles like caravans, motorhomes or boats or work vans
  • You can fit a charge point and charge an electric vehicle adjacent to the house or garage
  • Store things that you may not have space for elsewhere like logs and winter fuel
  • You can work on vehicles without needing to do it in the road
  • Lose all that endless garden maintenance
  • Re-create the effect of the front garden by using pots and planters so introduce greenery and colour without all the work

Disadvantages of converting your front garden to driveway

There are not many disadvantages at all as off-road parking is generally considered a boon for everyone and most households have several cars. Some people bemoan the loss of greenery and colour but strategic raised beds or planters and hanging baskets can mitigate the impact.

It can take a bit of getting used to, having the cars right outside the window when you are used to them on the street.

Make sure you research the project thoroughly as there is a surprising amount involved if you need to take trees out and drop kerbs. What can start off as a straightforward idea can end up being complicated and expensive.

Planning permission

In most cases, you do not require planning permission to convert your front garden into a driveway as long as you are using permeable or porous material which allows the rainwater to soak through into the soil below.

Sometimes you will require planning permission. If you are turning your front garden into a driveway over five square metres in size and not using a permeable material, then you will need to apply for planning permission. The fee is around £206, and the application takes on average eight weeks from start to finish, assuming there are no objections.

Local councils are quite sensitive to surface water run-off in urban areas. This is because in most towns and cities, there is very little land which is not covered by roadways or buildings and the run-off can overload drainage systems and lead to flooding in severe weather. Look for driveway materials which are described as ‘SuDS compliant’ SuDS stands for Sustainable Urban Drainage System. Permeable surfaces on driveways encourage excess water to flow back into the ground. There are lots to choose from including concrete block paving, porous asphalt, gravel or resin.

Dropped kerbs

Now that you will want to access the area in front of your house with a car or cars, you will need a dropped kerb which is basically a gap in the pavement to allow traffic to pass. Whether your driveway is SuDS compliant or not, you will require planning permission for a dropped kerb. If you don’t comply, then there are some really hefty fines, up to £1,000.

The planning permission fee for a dropped kerb is anywhere from £100-£250 but there can also be other fees like street work licences which average around £430 per project. Some local councils will allow you to choose your own contractor for a dropped kerb whereas others have a list of pre-approved contractors, and you will need to choose from one of those. The pavement and kerb may need strengthening to protect any services buried underground like water pipes or street furniture.

Not all planning permission for a dropped kerb is granted. If you live in a conservation area, on a corner or if the proposed dropped kerb is on a busy road or opposite a bus stop then permission may be denied.

Listed buildings

If your house is listed and/or in a conservation area, then you will need to comply with the listing’s regulations which apply not just to the property but the land around it. Any driveway must be in keeping with the style and age of the house and, if you live in a conservation area, the properties around it. There may be restrictions on the type of material you can use and the design.

You may have to get rid of a front boundary wall or trees to create an entrance and exit point for the driveway. In a conservation area, you are allowed to remove the front garden boundary wall as long as it is less than a metre high. If it is higher, then you will need to apply to the council. Mature trees may also require consent before they are removed.

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How to minimise the cost of converting a front garden into a driveway

  • Choose a permeable driveway material which avoids the requirement for additional drainage and the cost of planning permission
  • Consult an expert about the exit and entrance point to minimise your expenses in terms of the dropped kerb and any tree removal
  • Remove the garden yourself leaving the contractor with just bare earth to start work on. You will need to factor in the cost of hiring a skip and you may also need other equipment to do the job like a mini digger
  • Do the work in stages so put in the main surface then add in the features later on like kerb lighting and gates. If the area is very big then you can add a hard surface in stages too. Just make sure you choose a material which you can match if you plan to add more surface a few years’ later. If you need to apply for planning permission, then only apply for consent for the area you plan to do now. Planning permission does have an expiry date on it so you will need to re-apply to extend the driveway later on anyway
  • Minimise the requirement for a sub-base. Some surfaces will lay directly onto soil, but you do need to discuss this with your driveway installer

Choosing the right driveway surface

Consider the size, number and weight of the vehicles you want to park. Are you more concerned about practicality and longevity rather than appearance? Some driveways are much higher maintenance than others.

Non-porous surfaces can cause problems both with planning permission and your own property – no-one wants to get flooded, particularly if you live in an area that is high risk in terms of geography and ecosystem.

Finding the right contractor

If you are open minded or undecided about the type of driveway surface you want, then you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a driveway contractor. Ask friends or family members for a recommendation. If that doesn’t throw up any names, then you could consider posting on a community or neighbourhood group on social media. Just be aware that everyone likes to jump on these recommendation posts and give their opinion and you might receive a lot of names and numbers from people you don’t actually know or who may not have even used the person they are recommending to install a driveway.

Online trader platforms are becoming increasingly popular these days. Just key in a few details like your contact number, approximate location and the size of driveway you are looking for and wait for the quotes to roll into your inbox. If you haven’t measured your front garden, then give a rough idea of the dimensions in terms of car numbers.

Always consider at least three quotes particularly if you are not sure about the right driveway material. Ask each contractor to come out for a site inspection and to measure up. Here are some useful questions you can ask them.

  • What driveway material would you recommend for my property and budget?
  • Is there anything missing from this quote like equipment hire?
  • Do I need a sub-base?
  • How long will it take you to remove the front garden?
  • Do you see any problems with site access?
  • How long will it take to install the driveway?
  • How long before I can walk on it and drive on it to park?
  • How long have you been in business for?
  • Have you installed this type of driveway material before?
  • Do you have any customers who will give you a reference?
  • Are you correctly licensed and insured?
  • Do you offer any guarantees and warranties for the workmanship and the materials?
  • Do you belong to any trade associations?

Checkout this time lapse video of a front garden being converted into a driveway:

In most cases, you do not require planning permission to convert your front garden into a driveway as long as you are using permeable or porous material which allows the rainwater to soak through into the soil below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I convert all of my front garden to driveway?

This is a matter for each individual householder and comes down to budget, the requirement for parking or vehicle storage and personal preference. Some homeowners will lose all of the garden and are relieved to no longer have the maintenance but if this is a bit barren for you, then you can plan some raised beds or borders in the driveway design or just use hanging baskets or potted shrubs to introduce some greenery and colour. Bear in mind that if you are using a non-porous driveway material which does not allow rainwater to filter through then you may require a drainage system to ensure excess water does not flow into the public drain. Normally, these drainage systems discharge to a lawn or flower bed. Discuss this with your driveway contractor.

Will turning the front garden into a driveway increase the value of my property?

Any estate agent will answer this in the affirmative, yes it will and by how much depends upon what parking is likely locally. Most good driveways will increase a home’s value by between 5%-10% but if you add a really professional installation which has great kerb appeal plus local parking is very limited, then this uplift could be as high as 20%.

How can I soften the look for a large paved area?

It can be quite a contrast going from a garden with lawns and flowers to a stark paved area even if it does look very appealing. Use planters and pots to introduce greenery and colour. These are portable so can be moved around to suit your needs. Hanging baskets or hay racks with flowers can also brighten and soften a large, paved area. Using colour in the driveway material will break up that uniform look. This might be coloured bricks or dye stamped concrete, designed to look like brick or slate.

How long does it take to convert a front garden into a driveway?

Allow a couple of weeks but it could be longer if you have a large front garden and mature trees which need specialist removal. Some driveway materials like concrete need to be allowed to cure so it may look dry, but you often can’t drive on concrete for a month or two. Factor this into your planning.

Paul Robinson
Hi I'm Paul. After years in the mathematical field, I went on to help rescue a flooring and driveways company and spent 10 years building the company. I’m a property expert with extensive driveway and home improvement industry knowledge.
Mike Alexander

I’m Mike – writer and part-time home improvement expert at Refurbb. Since owning and refurbishing my own property in 2018, I’ve since been developing rental properties, writing about my home improvement endeavours, sharing what I’ve learned and connecting readers to reputable tradespeople in the UK. I’m also head of marketing and technical at Raindancer Ltd

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