Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ June 2019

Permeable Driveways the Answer to Flooded Homes

By Jacquie Bokow

Two neighbors on Timberwood Avenue had similar problems:  heavy rain would flow down their driveways and into their garages, which were lower than the street.  Both found that the answer to controlling the run-off was water-permeable driveways.

“Our house and driveway are lower than the houses on the other side of the street,” said Bruce Guenther, “so we were getting street run-off.  [My wife] Sue and I wanted a grass driveway that we could drive and park on, but did not intend to park on that driveway on an everyday basis.  We found a recycled plastic mesh system that met our expectations.  Our system is similar to design and look of the grass parking lots we would see at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap.”

Bruce Guenther shows off the permeable driveway he installed.

Across the street, Paul Carroccio used stone pavers.  A former construction contractor, he was able get masons he’d worked with for 20 years come and put the driveway in for him.  He discovered the previous owner had already put in about 18 inches of gravel.  Carroccio purchased 18-inch-square, four-inch thick, concrete blocks from Tri-State Quarry at Seven Locks and River Roads, right off the Beltway.

In both cases, installation involved digging below driveway ‘grade’ and installing a crushed stone/gravel support system, several inches thick, for drainage and strength below the driveway pavers.  A filter landscaping fabric that lets water through — available at most home gardening centers — should be placed atop the gravel so the gravel doesn’t fill up with dirt, recommends Carroccio.

The stone pavers installed by Paul Carroccio are strong enough to support a fire truck.

The stone pavers are “pretty heavy,” said Carroccio, but “they work great.  You plant whatever you want in there, you can even throw flowers in if you want to.  I threw grass seed around, but I seem to have gotten more weeds.  I thought about putting zoysia, which would spread and keep the weeds down.”

“The [recycled plastic mesh] type of grass paver installation will not support green, growing grass when a vehicle is regularly parked on it,” cautions Guenther.  “The grass will not get sunlight beneath the car, and the location of the car wheels will compress and damage the grass beneath it when a vehicle is parked on this surface.

“This driveway looks no different than our front lawn,” said Guenther, “and retains and drains water in rain storms rather than draining the water into our backyard or into the street gutter and storm sewer.”

“It has made a difference,” said Carroccio.  “I think it’s much more appealing than an asphalt or gravel driveway.”    ■

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