For those of you out there searching to find out how steep a paved driveway can truly be, you found the right article.

Just because your house is located on a steep hill does not mean you need fear using your driveway because it was installed improperly.  If you do live somewhere and are dealing with the possibility that your driveway is too steep to pave, or you are questioning the grade, it’s important to know exactly how steep a paved driveway can be.

How Steep Can a Paved Driveway Be?

It’s common-place for most experienced and reputable paving contractors to easily pave driveways’ with a 12%-15% slope. In extreme circumstances, with the proper architect\design firm, you may be able to find a very skilled company to pave up to a 25% angle which translates to: 25 feet of rise over 100 feet of driveway. Anything over 25% will have to be surfaced with some other material than asphalt.

According to the American Concrete Pavement Association, if your driveway’s angle is over 15%, it’s important that you are talking with a reputable company; one who knows the    ”in’s and out’s” of your local building code requirements and who is knowledgeable in how to design and engineer a driveway that will survive the tests of time and nature.

Those driveway’s with 15% angle or more, require more complex designs, and in some cases, asphalt cannot be applied if the grade is too steep, due to the compactors not being able to safely and effectively operate. So make sure when you are searching for the right contractor, you verify some of their work; ensuring they have done similar jobs and the work has held up.

Depending on where you live, once you have gone through all the proper steps and selected the right paving company, you should have a keen idea as to what your driveway approach will be like. If the slope is too steep to have a driveway directly to the home, it’s good to get several companies to bid on the job of designing and paving your driveway. Meeting with several different companies will give you a better picture of all the work that will be performed to get the driveway to your desired specifications.  

A reputable paving contractor will have an engineer or design architect that they recommend, who can design the ideal driveway to your home, taking into account all the important factors, to have a job done-right.

Depending on your budget, there are many different options you can choose to off-set the grade of your driveway. If the approach is too steep in a straight line, many companies choose to design driveways that twist and curve up the hill, gradually.  If your lot size is small and space is tight, there are several options. 

  • Digging into the hillside
  • Add Turns and curves
  • Transition Zone
  • Transition Gradients
asphalt driveway

Types of Driveways to Consider for Steep Properties

Where you live in the world plays a big factor in what type of driveway installation you should get, period. Add the issue of a steep incline to your driveway, and you want to make sure that you are choosing the right product. You can either talk with contractors or such sites as the National Asphalt Pavement Association, list other good materials to choose from, but below are the most popular materials.

  • Gravel – An affordable option, which provides easy traction and is overall low-maintenance. Primarily you will have to keep up on re-grading and replacing gravel as it’s worn and washed down the hill.
  • Resin- One of the more expensive applications, Resin driveways are a good alternative if you are looking to need extra drainage for driveway, or if the driveway is too steep to pave asphalt, Resin is a good choice to work with and it’s permeable. Some locales don’t even require permitting to install resin driveways.
  • Concrete – More expensive, longer lasting and more durable than asphalt. Concrete, if installed properly, will outlast asphalt and is easier to maintain. If your driveway is too steep for paving equipment, concrete pump-trucks can be brought in to reach difficult areas.
  • Asphalt – Most common, long lasting and most cost-efficient over-all. Easier to keep clean of ice\snow in winter than concrete. Less expensive than concrete and maintenance costs are not too major, if the job is done right initially.

Things to Consider Prior to Paving A Steep Driveway

Before starting the job, make sure that you have thought long and hard about the task at hand. It’s not a quick process, if starting with a new driveway installation. You want to be happy with your ultimate decision, so make your time count. Here are some things to think about before paving your drive on the hill.

  • Can you enter and leave the property in all weather conditions?
  • Are you willing to perform and maintain the driveway of your choosing?
  • Are you aware of all the long-term weather effects on the materials?
  • Have you checked all local regulations and zoning/permitting laws?
  • Will there be snow and ice? If so, what is your removal and clearing plan for the winter? 
  • Will you be able to wait the proper cure and set times before using the driveway?
  • Is it aesthetic appealing?
driveway maintenance

Maintenance Tips for Your Driveway

Having a driveway that has a steep incline offers several challenges and  weather is definitely a common factor.

Rainwater, snow and ice all need to be able to drain properly off of your driveway. If the drainage system is built incorrectly at the base of your steep driveway, any paving job you have done or driveway installation you get will be ruined, unless designed properly. It is just as important once you have decided how steep your driveway can be paved, to ensure that you keep up on the maintenance.

  • Keeping snow, ice and accumulating puddles of water off the surface will lengthen the life of your driveway. If you are not able to keep the snow and ice off yourself, hire a company to maintain your driveway.
  • Talk with your paving contractor and know what you need to do for up-keep; re-sealing, filling cracks, grading and other preventative steps may be needed to prevent further cracking and damage.
  • If a problem arises with your driveway, such as a pot-hole or cracking- do not wait for a longtime before calling out someone to repair the problem. The longer you wait, the worse the issue becomes.

Many common problems occur when a driveway is installed improperly. When a driveway is installed improperly on a steep incline, not only do problems occur with the material itself, but it becomes very dangerous for the homeowner and their guests. If the incline gradient is too steep, at the base of the driveways’ entrance, vehicles can get damaged while entering the drive as well as upon leaving. Also, if there is snow or ice, it may be impossible for a car to get up the driveway, should the gradient be too steep. Or you may even get stuck in your garage, fearing your car may become a bob-sled when trying to leave out of your home

Adding in-climate weather conditions to this scenario and you have a recipe for disaster and liability; even walking up a too steep of a drive can be perilous in the right conditions. Be smart, be cautious and by choosing the proper design of driveway up to your home, you can rest easy that your steep driveway was paved properly.