Permeable Pavement Around Your Home

Have you ever walked on pavement in the rain?  I am assuming at one time or another you have and were forced to dodge puddles. As a result I’m sure you had wet shoes or maybe even socks. Yuck!

Now, have you ever walked on permeable pavers? You may be asking yourself, what are permeable pavers?  Permeable pavers allow water to drain through the expanded joints, eliminating standing water and wet socks.  No more laying out socks and shoes over vents to dry them out.  This is the most basic of benefits to a permeable paver system.  Before I tell you why permeable pavers are a fantastic choice around your home, let me explain the system in more detail.

Permeable pavers are manufactured to the same high quality standards of all concrete paving stones. The shape of the paver allows for larger gaps between the stones which in turn permits water to rapidly drain through the surface into a base material that is open graded (meaning no fines as with traditional segmental paving). This base layer can accommodate a tremendous amount of water.

To help you better visualize this let me provide you with an example. If you installed a 12” base layer of gravel, you could store approximately 4” of water in that base material.  To translate, for a 1000 square foot driveway, you could store close to 3000 gallons of water under your driveway.  This benefits the environment by infiltrating water back into the ground and recharging aquifers for future generations to use.

You may have noticed permeable pavers in large commercial parking lots or road ways. Often times, permeable paving systems are used in these large commercial settings to manage the storm water on a newly developed site in very large quantities.  This is a highly engineered system and affects overall watershed planning and infrastructure projects.  This has also been the traditional use for permeable pavers, but with new product developments, residential applications are becoming much simpler and more common.

Around your home, you can realize many other benefits by using permeable systems. I bet you are asking a couple of questions:

  •  Why should I choose permeable over traditional unit paving systems?
  • What do I do with the water that accumulates?

Here is the FREE part.  Rain water does not cost anything if you find ways to reuse it.  Believe it or not traditional paving and piping, raises your taxes or utility bills to “manage the water”.  Controlling water is a large expense to all municipalities and many of our traditional management techniques are getting old and will need to be completely overhauled.  In some parts of the United States, there is even a storm water tax based on the amount of impervious surface on your property.  Permeable paving may allow you to build a larger home or larger patio in order to meet your local building ordinance.  Again, you are spending money to manage something that is FREE to all.

Now, how do you use the water?  Below are a few uses and I would love to hear about other ways you have found to use water.

Irrigation and Indoor House Plants

  • Rainwater passing through a permeable system can be pumped back out for drip irrigation systems.
  • Harvesting the water allows you to use it for watering indoor house plants.  My house looks like a jungle with all the plants needing to be divided quite often.  Have you ever noticed how much "greener" your lawn looks after a rain than manual watering?  This is in part because tap water is treated with chemicals that lawns don't need (and guess what, you pay for the chemicals anyway).

Car Washing

  • Do you have a black or dark colored vehicle?  Do you notice water spots after you wash your car at home?  Using rainwater to wash your car will eliminate a lot of water spots.  Since there are no added chemicals in the water, the water and chemicals don't "stick" to the surface.
  • When you go to a car wash, do you sometimes wonder why it's so expensive?  The largest expense in a car wash is the last rinse since they are eliminating some of the chemicals and making the rinse more like rainwater.  Remember, that could be FREE if you just harvest and reuse it!

Water Features

  • Decorative water features, like a bubbling rock or fountain can run using rainwater.

Flooding

  • Are you in low lying areas and experience flooding often?  Permeable pavers might be your solution.  I worked on a project a couple of years ago where the homeowners always had a problem with water in their garage.  To mitigate the issue they installed permeable pavers and have not had flooding problems in their garage since. 

Indoor Plumbing (it is nice that most of us have this luxury already, but…)

  • Do you have kids?  If you do you know how often they go to the bathroom and flush the toilet.  Not only does this waste water but, every time you flush a toilet, you are paying for it.  In some areas of North America municipalities will allow a separate plumbing systems for toilets or garage wash sinks.  This doesn’t happen everywhere due to building codes, but has gained some traction in the construction industry.  It’s definitely worth looking into!

These are just a couple of economic benefits on how you can reuse a free resource, rain water.  For many years, we have treated water as a nuisance; in reality, it is a critical resource to our future generations that is unfortunately dwindling.  There is even a saying out there that says, “Water is the next Oil”.  By installing permeable pavers around your home, you are doing your part to preserve the only resource in the world that is critical to life on Earth.  And, if you happen to get something FREE out of it, how could it be any better?