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Do I Need Planning Permission to Pave My Garden?

Walnut Travertine backyard

Whether you’re doing it to add to your home’s aesthetic or to make room for more cars to park at your house, there are plenty of reasons why someone would want to pave their garden or yard. However, it isn’t as easy as just throwing down some tile and being done with it. There are several things to consider and rules to abide by if you want to avoid fines or potential problems trying to sell your home in the future. If you’re thinking about doing any paving work on your yard or garden, this is your ultimate guide to the rules you need to follow and the best type of material to use for the job.

Why Are There Rules for Paving?

You might be wondering why you can’t just lay down paving wherever you want to – after all, it’s your property, right? Well, there are rules in place to help you maintain your property and the environment around it when you want to pave.

Water management is the primary concern. Most porch and patio slabs, driveways, walks, and other paved surfaces are done with non-porous materials, which means that water flows freely across them without being absorbed. Surfaces paved without proper grading to allow for the natural flow of water away from the house are subject to many issues. The consequences of poor water management include:

  • Potential water intrusion
  • Structural integrity issues
  • Increase in pests and insects
  • Mold and indoor air quality issues
  • Health and safety issues
  • Issues with building durability

When you plan your paving, you need to have a comprehensive water management strategy in place. In addition to proper grading and site preparation, construction should be done carefully, allowing water to be directed away from the building. Porch and patio slabs, walkways, and driveways all need to be designed and built with a slope to direct water flow away from the building’s foundation.

Slope Planning for Water Management

Suppose you’re installing any impervious surfaces within 10 feet of the home or building. In that case, you must plan the construction with a slope of at least 0.25 inches per foot to the edge of the surface or for the first 10 feet from the building (whichever is less) for ENERGY STAR Certified homes. For all other houses, there’s a recommended slope of 2 percent.

If there are physical barriers like lot lines or walls or setback requirements that prevent the slope from being maintained for at least 6 inches within 10 feet of the foundation, you must plan to install drains or swales to carry water away from the building.

Additional Considerations for Climate

Some locations experience frequent heavy rainfall. In such areas, additional local codes sometimes need to be followed to maintain site storm water management. You can take additional measures to address water management and reduce erosion and ponding on your property, especially if you’ll be installing paving over your yard. Other water management measures include:

  • Installation of adequately sized gutters, downspouts, kick-out diverters that direct water to a swale, dry well, or other approved location
  • Construction of swales that drain to dry well or French drain
  • Installation of cisterns or rain barrels that collect and store rainwater for use on the lawn and garden
  • Choose porous pavers or use open brickwork when building a driveway or walkway as these materials allow for slow percolation of water into the surrounding soil and help reduce runoff
  • Make a rain garden using native plants with deep roots that will soak up rainwater and improve filtration – design features of such gardens can allow up to 30 percent more water to soak into the ground as compared to a conventional lawn patch

What to Do if Your Property Has a Negative Slope

Suppose you’re renovating an existing driveway or trying to pave an area that has a negative slope. In that case, there are various retrofit options you can use to correct the issue instead of regrading the entire site. These include:

  • Installing footing drains
  • Installing damp proofing
  • Installing a moisture barrier of dimples plastic on the exterior surface of below-grade walls
  • Construct a drainage system or swales to carry water away from the building to a drainage location, dry well, or storm water sewer
  • Installing drains at the base of patios or driveways that slope toward the house
  • Replacing solid-surface walkways, driveways, or patios with previous surfaces (pavers, pebbles, gravel)

When is it Necessary to Obtain a Permit?

Now that you understand the rules to follow concerning water management for paving, it’s essential to understand which cases it’s necessary to obtain a paving permit. This question is a bit more complicated to answer as it depends significantly on your town or city’s ordinances. In many communities, you need to obtain a permit from the planning department to build paved areas on the house’s exterior.

Unincorporated towns are generally governed by a county permitting authority where codes aren’t as strict. In areas where there are environmental issues, protected aquifers, or special drainage restrictions, you’ll likely be required to submit a plan review, and a permit will need to be issued.

Although laws vary significantly throughout the United States, most municipalities deem it okay to pave without a permit as long as:

  • The surface of a patio or walkway isn’t more than 30 inches above grade
  • The surface of a concrete driveway or walk isn’t more than 18 inches above grade
  • Width is restricted to 18 feet (turnarounds are an exception to this rule)
  • The paved area isn’t being laid directly over a basement or other lower floor
  • A wall or fence measures between 2.5 to 6 feet (other factors such as soil type, property line, and climate may affect the requirements in this case)
  • A slab foundation for a shed, gazebo, greenhouse, or other outbuilding doesn’t exceed 120 square feet
  • In many cases, parking pads are illegal, so check with your regional authority if you’re planning on making one

Even if you meet the criteria above, don’t skip out on looking into the process as every town’s local building authority has its own rules that apply. Suppose you go ahead and build without knowing that you’re violating a code. In that case, you could end up with fines, a citation, retroactive permit costs, and even have difficulty insuring, financing, or selling your home.

Besides checking your town’s ordinances, you must also check with your homeowner’s association if you’re part of one. Many homeowner’s associations have bylaws concerning such projects.

The Best Types of Pavers for Outdoors

Pavers come in slabs and blocks and are made from various materials, including concrete, brick (clay), travertine, marble, porcelain, flagstone, and even rubber. You can use them to create walkways, driveways, patios, pool decks, and other areas around a home’s exterior. You can choose to lay slabs or use interlocking pavers for an eye-catching design.

When choosing a type of paver for your project, you’ll want to consider factors such as color, sheen, price, availability, porousness, and others. Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular paver types and for which jobs they’re best suited.

Brick

Brick is made of molded clay. It’s been used as a popular surfacing material for centuries due to its durability and classic look. Bricks allow for a range of patterns and color combinations and are an ideal alternative to concrete. They’re also an eco-friendly alternative as they’re made from natural materials. They should be laid on a high-quality mortar or sand base during installation. Brick is a porous surface that absorbs moisture quickly.

Cobblestone

Cobblestone is most commonly made of basalt, sandstone, limestone, or granite. Like brick, cobblestone pavers have been used for centuries due to their durability and attractive aesthetic. These pavers require very little maintenance and can remain stable for decades as long as they’re correctly installed. Installation can be time-consuming, and cobblestone is one of the more expensive options. Still, many people find it worth the extra time and money for its low maintenance and excellent durability. When cobblestone is set in sand, it’s a highly porous paving option.

Concrete Pavers

Concrete pavers are one of the most popular options for outdoor paving. One of the best things about concrete pavers is that they come in an array of sizes, colors, textures, and thicknesses, so you can customize them any way you want. It’s also a low-cost option that’s more durable than poured concrete, but it requires a lot of maintenance and is prone to cracking under extreme temperature changes. Concrete is a porous paving option.

Flagstone

Flagstone is a flat and smooth sedimentary rock. It comes in a wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes, making it a versatile landscaping option. Each piece has a unique shape, and they fit together like a puzzle. Its non-slip texture and durability make it perfect for flooring, but it’s much thinner than brick and concrete, so it isn’t suitable for driveways or other areas that will have heavy traffic. It’s ideal for gardens and patios. As flagstone is mined and transported straight from its natural source, it tends to have a slightly higher cost than other pavers. Flagstone is a highly porous paving option.

Marble

Marble is classically known for its elegant and luxurious appeal. Their smooth polished finish provides a more sophisticated look than most other pavers can achieve. Each piece is unique, so it creates an eye-catching look. Marble also adds value to the home and makes it more marketable. While marble is a durable natural stone, it requires a lot of maintenance. It also conducts heat and is prone to scratches and stains. While marble is a porous stone, water and other liquid can cause it to darken or stain.

Travertine

Travertine pavers are similar to marble in many ways. They’re made of a unique natural stone that provides versatility and can make a space look more elegant and sophisticated. It’s more durable and easy to source than marble, and they’re a more environmentally-friendly option. Travertine pavers are also naturally insulated, so they don’t get as hot as marble and some other pavers. Travertine is a very heavy stone, and it’s highly susceptible to acids, so you need to take care not to clean it with acidic formulas or vinegar as it will leave a stain. Like marble, travertine is porous, but water and other liquids cause the surface to darken or stain.

How to Lay Pavers

Pavers can be interlocked or laid in slabs. You can space slabs out to look like puzzle pieces or line them up perfectly like large pieces of marble. The best bet for walkways is to space them out so that water can runoff and into the ground. Interlocking pavers for driveways work well because the pattern looks nice, and the cracks between the pieces allow water to disperse faster. Laying large slabs of marble and other similar materials right next to one another should be reserved for spaces that don’t experience much traffic or rainfall. Although the stone is durable, these surfaces require a lot of maintenance and are prone to stains and scratches. If you choose to use them as flooring, you should do so in low-traffic areas where the area is more for show than utility.

For advice on planning and installing a paved area for your garden or lawn, contact the experts at EleganceUs. It’s also your one-stop shop for pavers and tiles in all types and sizes. Get in touch with EleganceUs to explore the range of products and services on offer and make your home exterior vision a reality.