Concrete is awesome, but it’s not the only option for securing, building and paving. There are a good number of concrete alternatives for driveways, fence posts and foundations.
This extensive article is broken up into 4 sections and provides substitutes for concrete in two approaches. The first section lists out actual substances that serve as a true alternative to concrete. The remaining sections list out other options for specific purposes (driveways, walkways, fence posts and foundations).
Related: Circular Driveways
A. Concrete Alternatives Generally
This section lists out substances that act like concrete but are different.
Greencrete or Geo-Green Crete is still in development, but it’s becoming a more popular material to create eco-friendly walkways and driveways that are very comparable to concrete and also you can now Speak to a concrete contractor to learn more here.
What is it?
Geo-Green Crete or Greencrete is a new alternative way to use waste and naturally occurring materials in a low-carbon alternative to cement. The material is made from aluminosilicate materials, which makes it easy to recycle and manufacture.
Greencrete can also refer to the way that you pour your garage, as many people are turning to perforated patterns that allow grass to push through the patterns. This is considered better for the flora and fauna around your home if using for a driveway.
- Eco-friendly and green way to create the perfect driveway.
- High-performance and low carbon emissions.
- Qualifies for certain international carbon credits.
- More expensive than cement and other alternatives due to Geo-Green crete’s low availability.
Geo-Green Crete or geo-polymer concrete can cost upwards of $2,000 for an average driveway. If you decide to go with the Greencrete pattern, you’ll pay for the materials to create the pattern, which may use cement.
Mycelium is a type of biomass green building material that has become popular in the past few years as architects and engineers look to create more sustainable structures. While people may refer to it as a mushroom block or mushroom root material, you can actually grow mycelium yourself if you want to create a natural walkway or driveway.
What is it?
Mycelium is a fungi root that can be grown to create a sustainable driveway or walkway. These “mushroom roots” create a living structure material architects and engineers like to use in eco-friendly areas to build walkways, playground, and parking areas. If you are looking to build with mycelium, just refer to it as a biomass green building material.
- It’s apart of a new effort to go green and live sustainably.
- Mushroom roots can be grown naturally to make a sustainable surface for a driveway.
- Capable of self-healing.
- Relatively new material that may not be as solid as cement.
- May take a while to grow in.
Currently, prices depend on the type of biomass material and can be purchased directly through the installer.
3. Ferrock and Ashcrete
Ferrock and ashcrete are typically grouped together because they are both by-products that can be molded into bricks and building blocks. You can use this material to build walls and walkways, as well as sub-level floors.
What is it?
Ferrock is an alternative component that uses industrial waste, typically made from steel dust, which works better than traditional concrete and can absorb better than concrete as well. Ashcrete actually is different and uses fly ash, which is a by-product from burning coal.
- Eco-friendly and sets faster than regular concrete.
- Carbon-negative material.
- May be difficult to find installers locally.
Ferrock and ashcrete costs about $5 to $10 per cubic foot.
Aircrete can replace concrete cement, but is it as sturdy or eco-friendly as some of the other alternatives? This material looks just like cement driveways and can be used the exact same way. While it’s cost effective and more eco-friendly, Aircrete blocks tend to have a weaker structure that can crack.
What is it?
Aircrete has grown more popular in the past five years because of its cost-effective and sustainable features. You can use aircrete for walls, driveways, floors, and sub-level. The high performance of this material makes it a long-term, cost-effective solution for any areas where you would have used concrete previously.
- More cost-effective than most other concrete alternatives.
- 8% cheaper than timber frame and SIPS.
- Fire resistant, moisture resistant, and frost resistant.
- Environmentally friendly.
- Acts as a thermal insulation material
- Aircrete may be more suitable for walls rather than a driveway or ground cover.
You’ll need to purchase aircrete through a detergent and foam mixer, or you can purchase installation. The AirCrete machine typically costs $500. Independent blocks may cost between $50 and $60.
Looking to build naturally? Hempcrete is one of the latest creations from the hemp plant. It’s environmentally friendly and provides an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
What is it?
Hempcrete is made from industrial hemp. It may also be called Hemplime. It is a bio-composite material that is a mixture of shives and lime, including naturally hydraulic lime, pozzolans, or sand. It is used in a variety of construction and insulation projects under Canobiote, Canosmose, and Hempcrete.
- Environmentally friendly and doesn’t use any petrochemicals.
- Low maintenance throughout the year.
- Fire resistant, pest resistant, and earthquake-tested.
- Provides waterproof insulation for your home.
- Does not have the strength of regular concrete.
- May contain soluble salts which cause efflorescence.
- May be more costly than other materials due to hemp’s cost.
Hempcrete can be purchased in bags or pallets. It typically costs between $16 and $20. For a bag of hempcrete that weighs $33, you will pay around $20.99.
B. Concrete Alternatives for Driveways and Walkways
Are you looking for a material that is quite versatile and cost-effective for your next pavement project? Gravel may be a great option to create walkways and driveways for your home. There are a variety of different types of gravel, from marble to clay rocks.
What is it?
Gravel is one of the more common alternatives to concrete. There are a few different types you can find in the home improvement store that can replace concrete cement used for driveways and walkways. These include pea gravel, crushed stone, and quarry process.
Pros of Gravel
- Cheaper than other surface materials and low-cost to install.
- Eco-friendly material that can sink into the surface without causing damage.
- Easy to maintain, may need additional gravel during snowy and rainy months.
- Very quick to install and can be done on your own.
- Climate may remove rocks and create patches.
- You may need to replace gravel when rocks go missing or sink down into the ground.
- May develop holes and gaps in the surface.
- Gravel can get dirty and cause debris to fly up.
While this depends on what you build with this concrete alternative, 13 tons of gravel costs about $1,300 to $1,600 which is roughly the amount needed for an average driveway. However, if you have a smaller area, you may not need as much gravel, reducing the cost to $300 to $1,000.
Installation will typically have an hourly cost charged by the laborers. You can expect to pay $500 or more.
The paver driveway grew in popularity after housing values began focusing on curb appeal. The tiled look and multi-colored style for driveways created a phenomenon in landscaping and structural design. You can purchase a variety of different tiles and patterns or you can create a custom paver design.
What is it?
Paver driveways are not like poured concrete or asphalt driveways. They do not have a curing period. Once installed, it’s ready to use. Pavers are used for driveways in an interlocking design. They are also called cement pavers, but it’s actually made from sand, aggregate, and water.
- Very pleasing to look at, high curb appeal.
- Little maintenance is required, but you may need to trim weeds that find their way through the surface.
- Typically has a long lifespan, lasting up to 50 years.
- Tends to stain just like cement driveways, but you can remove the stain.
- May easily crack in bad weather and due to weeds or tree roots pushing up from below.
You can typically find a paver cement set, base sand, and paver base at home improvement stores like Lowe’s. These will range in cost, but you will typically spend $3,000 or more for a longer driveway.
3. Timber sleepers
Timber is an environmentally viable option as it comes from trees. Recycled or new sleepers can be put into the ground and combined with soil for that casual and rugged look. They can transform our driveways to a be previous yet robust.
- They can be cost-efficient.
- Timber sleepers can make our driveway to appear permeable from an environmentally and aesthetic viewpoint. The permeable surface slows down, unlike hard surfaces.
- Their natural surface makes them a bit more ideal for rural areas when compared to concrete driveways.
- They require low maintenance.
- The stones make them never to appear messy even when the driveway has some leaves.
- Timber sleepers are more susceptible to attacks by the weather and vermin.
- Fire can attack them.
- They have a relatively short useful life of about 12 years.
Their prices often vary depending on the size we need. For example, one that measures 200 × 100mm × 1200mm costs around £16.80.
Asphalt is a material like concrete, except it uses tar for an adhesive rather than cement, which is used in concrete. While asphalt is cheaper, it often has a rougher look due to its texture, smell, and black color.
What is it?
Asphalt is a building material that is used for paving roads, driveways, and walkways. In general, asphalt is not used because of its tendency to crack and break apart. While cheaper than cement, it may not last as long if not poured correctly.
- Very cheap in comparison to other alternatives and concrete.
- Easy to repair.
- Remains intact for 20 or more years.
- Considered less durable than cement.
- Tends to crack and soften in high heat.
- Primarily black in color.
- May need resealing every 3 to 5 years
Asphalt driveways typically depend on the length and size of the driveway. It may be different for small walkways. Asphalt can’t be used to build housing or most other structures. You’ll end up paying about $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot of asphalt.
This driveway is made from a mixture of resin and aggregate stones. It is relatively flexible and is a permeable paving solution.
- It needs little to no maintenance.
- It is resistant to cracking.
- Care should be taken during mixing to prevent moisture from coming in to contact with the polyurethanes.
- It may cost you £40 for each square meter. There can be variations in price owing to the aggregate, size of the area or the existing floor.
If you have never used sand before, it is one of the best eco-friendly alternatives to regular concrete. You can use sand to create walkways. However, it may not be suitable as cement or other alternatives for walls, vertical structures, and driveways.
What is it?
Everyone knows how easy sand is to work with, but is it the best concrete alternative? This depends on the type of sand that you purchase. With products like All-Purpose Sand Quikcrete, you can create a walkway easily on your own that is similar to using concrete cement.
While it requires a very little budget to pour and spread sand, you may need to excavate the area and use with flagstones.
- Easy and quick to install even without a professional.
- Cheaper to install than other alternatives.
- You will need a sublevel made of gravel or tarps to keep the sand in place.
- May be difficult to maintain and keep clean.
- May not be the best choice for driveways.
Sand or traction sand can be purchased for less than a $1 in unit cost, so you can typically purchase large quantities to create walkways and other areas around your home that you would otherwise need concrete. However, labor costs have to be added if you install the sand driveway.
If you are looking to design very eco-friendly walkways around your home or landscaped areas, then mulch offers a ton of benefits. With a natural aesthetic, you can design wood walkways that go from your gardens to patios to driveways. Mulch is also one of the better ways to prevent carbon emissions by eliminating concrete driveways.
What is it?
Although you may think about using a wood alternative instead, mulch is a very practical and affordable choice that makes an attractive and low-cost driveway or patio area. Wood mulch is one of the materials that you can purchase and spread to create the perfect walkways without concrete. It’s also eco-friendly when purchasing recycled mulch materials.
- Easy and cheap to install.
- Mulch can be purchased for a cheaper price and can be distributed without a professional.
- May be dispersed easier than gravel, causing you to lose your driveway.
- You may need to replace your driveway multiple times throughout the year if you have difficult weather.
You can expect to pay $27 per cubic feet of pine mulch, but there are a variety of different mulches that you can choose from. There are also recycled mulch styles like GroundSmart or Rubber Mulch.
C. Concrete Alternatives for Fence Posts
There are 2 considerations for concrete alternatives for fence posts. They are:
- For securing posts in the ground
- The actual fence post material.
Most people when looking for a concrete substitute are looking for ways to secure posts in the ground without concrete. If you’re looking for fence post material options, check out our types of fence posts article that lists all types of fence posts.
Some people argue that concrete is a poor choice for securing fence posts because it speeds up the wood post rot and it makes it harder to replace the posts when they are rotted. The following options address these two problems.
The key here is using some form of hardpack that secures the post. Your options include:
You can dig a hole, place the post and then surround the post with gravel. Here’s a video showing you how to do this.
2. Key the posts
Keying posts is securing the post underground with perpendicular boards. Here’s a video:
3. Securing Foam
Another option other than concrete is to use some form of securing foam. This stuff is really cool. Here’s an instructional video:
D. Concrete Alternatives for Foundations
1. Wood foundation
Traditional wood still gets the better of new foundations those that are made out of steel or concrete. Wood comes from naturally available trees which are quite beneficial in absorbing carbon dioxide. Similarly, it takes less energy to process the trees into wood or timber that can be used during construction.
Wood foundations can be mostly found in light wooden houses. Wood avails a cheaper alternative to a concrete foundation in this case. If the wood is pressure-treated and covered with chemicals, then it may last for a considerable period.
- It can offer a decorative element to a garden.
- It is rather straightforward and straightforward to put up.
- It can be cost-effective.
- It can be challenging to maintain.
- Wood is susceptible to rotting or infestation by insects.
The cost of putting up a wood foundation can often vary depending on the type of wood used and the amount of wood used. However, it generally tends to cost between £10 – £100 for each square foot.
2. Crawlspace foundation
With this, home is raised a couple of feet above the ground. Then a footing is poured, and blocks laid to form a basis of support for the walls of the home.
While building this type of foundation can be less costly compared to constructing a basement, it often takes a similar period to put up both.
- It facilitates our accessibility to our home’s piping, ductwork and wiring thus making repairs and upgrades to be relatively easy.
- Since crawlspace is conditioned, the first floor of a home having a crawlspace foundation often has warmer floors, and we will not feel like it is built on concrete.
- Crawlspace foundation can support the growth of fungi and mold even if new vapor barriers are installed.
- Crawlspace foundations offer close to no protection from the ever-changing weather like during storms.
Building a crawlspace foundation often costs in the region of £4 to £7 for each square foot.
3. Granite foundation
Granite stones are ideal for homes and have been used successfully for centuries in Europe. A large number of buildings that have used them still stand strong today.
- It is durable.
- It often looks good.
- They require professionals to set them up adequately.
- They cost around £5 per square foot to set up.
4. Asphalt foundation
Asphalt, though rarely, may also be used when constructing foundations. Asphalt is either naturally available or processed to meet user requirements.
- It can be relatively comfortable.
- It can be costly.
- It costs around £7 per square foot to set it up.
5. Brick foundation
Bricks have been used for a considerable period now and remain a viable option for some people. Generally, the blocks are laid above the ground to form the foundation.
It is easy to install.
- Bricks are widely available.
- It is relatively weak.
6. Rubble foundation
This uses the rubble to reduce the concrete used and to improve the drainage.
- Improved drainage.
- They often rot.
Installation should be done by professionals, and it will cost you around £4 per square foot to set up.