Ever seen one of those driveways consisting of two parallel strips with an unpaved space in between? Well, it has a name. It’s called a ribbon driveway. Also known as Hollywood driveways, they became popular in the 1920s, but have since gotten less popular as homeowners opt for fully paved driveways.
But these classic driveways have their advantages and it’s worth considering whether it is the right option for your home. To help you make a decision, let’s discuss the pros and cons of a ribbon driveway.
What You'll Learn Today
- Pros of Ribbon Driveways
- Cons of Ribbon Driveways
- What Are the Dimensions of a Ribbon Driveway?
- Final Thoughts: Is a Ribbon Driveway Worth It?
Pros of Ribbon Driveways
Cheaper and Easier to Build
A ribbon driveway uses significantly less material compared to a fully paved driveway — usually up to 60-70% less. This translates into lower costs. You even save money on the base materials since you only excavate two strips that are each two feet wide.
A ribbon driveway is also easier and quicker to build, which means you also save money on labour.
Another advantage of ribbon driveways is that they can be more easily adapted to a particular area, especially those that are sloping or uneven. It’s easier to adapt the driveway to the contours of the ground.
By the way, any type of driveway can be a ribbon driveway — asphalt, concrete, paver, gravel or even a grass paver driveway. If you are on a budget, gravel and grass ribbon driveways are the cheapest to build.
Easier and Cheaper to Maintain
The smaller surface area of a ribbon driveway makes it easier to maintain. It’s easier to clean and clear snow off the driveway.
Another reason that ribbon driveways are lower maintenance is that they hold up better to traffic and weather. The two strips of driveway are more flexible than a fully paved driveway. They also have plenty of room for expansion due to changing weather.
So a ribbon driveway is less prone to cracking and damage, which means fewer repairs and less money spent on maintenance. It also means a long lasting driveway.
Great for Drainage
Eco-friendly driveways have become all the rage nowadays. Specifically, homeowners want driveways that reduce runoff, erosion and flooding.
A ribbon driveway is a great option if you want a green driveway. And you don’t even have to use a permeable material like gravel or grass pavers. Since there’s an unpaved area between the two strips, water will still have a place to seep into the ground even if you use concrete or asphalt.
Of course, you can have a gravel or grass ribbon driveway if you want to maximise drainage.
Improves Curb Appeal
In addition to its quaint and charming quality, a ribbon driveway offers wide aesthetic versatility. There are plenty of ways to landscape a ribbon driveway and add a personal touch.
A common option is to plant grass or other short plants in the middle section. This greens up the driveway and helps balance the hard landscaping. You can also put gravel in the middle or just leave it bare.
Cons of Ribbon Driveways
Not Suitable for Long or Curving Driveways
Ribbon driveways work great if you are building a short and fairly straight driveway. They are also fine for gently curving driveways.
But if you plan to build a long or twisted driveway, the ribbon design is impractical and can be difficult to pull off properly.
Limited Maneuverability for Vehicles
With only two strips of driveway, there isn’t much room to manoeuvre on a ribbon driveway. Even going in reverse is harder especially if the driveway is long. Any deviation from the path and you could end up crushing plants in the middle section or damaging borders along the strips.
They Do Not Accommodate All vehicles
Most residential ribbon driveways are built with regular cars in mind. The strips are two feet wide and are spaced three feet apart.
They cannot accommodate wider vehicles like some RVs or vehicles with extra-wide wheels. Large delivery trucks may also not be able to access your home without damaging the driveway.
Overall, this is not an issue in most homes. But if you have an RV or a large truck, or are planning to get one in the future, either build wider strips or opt for a fully paved driveway.
Plants on Ribbon Driveways Can be Tedious To Maintain
If you are planning to add plants to the middle of your ribbon driveway, note that this will add more maintenance work. If it’s grass, you have to regularly mow it and remove any weeds.
To reduce your workload, consider opting for a low maintenance ground cover plant like creeping junipers or thyme. These don’t need to be mowed — just water and feed them.
But whichever plants you pick, there’s a risk of damage by wheels, vehicle fluids, deicing salt and driveway cleaning detergents. You also have to be careful not to pack your vehicle daily on one spot, otherwise plants on that section will not grow properly because of the shade.
What Are the Dimensions of a Ribbon Driveway?
A standard ribbon driveway is seven feet wide. The two parallel strips are each two feet wide and the middle unpaved area is three feet wide. So from the centre of each strip, the driveway should measure five feet.
If you want the driveway to accommodate larger vehicles, you can make the strips wider but keep the middle section no wider than three feet.
Make sure there’s extra space on the sides of the driveway. Don’t have trees or a hedge right at the edge of the strips. Vehicles are wider than the distance between their wheels. You also want space to comfortably open the door and get out of the car.
So the overall driveway space should be 10-12 feet.
This video offers a great overview of ribbon driveways including ground preparation.
Final Thoughts: Is a Ribbon Driveway Worth It?
A ribbon driveway is a great choice if you are on a budget, want an eco-friendly driveway or if you’d like a driveway that combines hard and soft landscaping. We also recommend it if you want to add a quaint or vintage charm to your home.
As long as you don’t need a long or twisting driveway, a ribbon driveway is worth it. It lasts just as long as a regular driveway, it’s low maintenance and it’s a lot cheaper to build and maintain.
For more driveway tips, check out this guide about gravel.