Dear PoP – Permeable Paver Grass Driveway installers?

“Dear PoP,

I recently moved into a house (mt pleasant) with no parking & a large lawn. We would like to put in a driveway, but keep a grass surface. Since this is the case, we don’t even have to worry about DC restrictions on impermeable surfaces. It looks like it is easy enough to put in, but a google search (and a craigslist search) comes up with no contractors specializing in this type of driveway.

It seems like these are showing up in places like Cleveland park: Does anyone have recommendations on installers?”

Anyone put this type of driveway into their house?

55 Comment

  • Just say NO!! Why would you do this? Isn’t there parking available on your street? It’s not that hard to find parking in Mt P.

    • Um, that’s completely untrue.

    • The property line at 3303 18th Street is at the bottom of the porch steps. The “front yard” is actually public space. Use the lot line map and aerial photos at to see for yourself. There’s possibly a “Building Restriction Line” in there too which makes things more complicated. Check the plat that was part of your closing documents.

      HPO staff won’t sign off on a driveway across public space. It will need to go to HPRB if you want historic approval. That won’t be likely. It will probably need to go to BZA too since Zoning regs won’t allow a driveway in public space or across building restriction lines either. OP’s development review staff will recommend against the driveway when it goes to BZA.

      Don’t call Historic Mount Pleasant. They’re a private group with only a vague grasp of the regulations. Call the city. It’s their job to know and implement the regulations, and they do.

      Use the alley. Park in the garage off the alley.

  • You might want to check the books on that idea. I believe the law now says you need your driveway to be paved.

    No Permeable Paver Driveways allowed – you know oil leakage and all that.

    I could be wrong, but of course we have so many experts in this blog I am sure you will get the right answer fast.

  • Our neighbor in CH did this – I actually had no idea it was even an there until he pointed it out. It’s a pretty cool option compared to an ugly concrete parking pad. Unfortunately, I don’t know who they used or it he did it himself.fwm

  • I would think you would still have to deal with the city for a curb cut…

    • ah

      That’s going to be the biggest challenge if there isn’t one already there.

      • Curb cuts are NEVER granted to houses these days. In addition the picture above shows the yard as being right alongside the sidewalk. This might mean they have to deal with the Historic Neighborhood restrictions which might not allow altering the stone wall, excavating the earth down to street level etc. etc. You could try and do it unpermitted but the busy bodies in MTP will almost surely tattle on you. A town house on my street recently tried to replace their roof with normal shingles only to get a stop work order and forced to redo it with the traditional slate. Gotta say I’m glad they did but I feel for the homeowners having to shell out the extra dough.

  • Is that a picture of the actual yard in question? Is this a sideyard or backyard? It looks to be above the grade of the street. I know the kind of pavers you are talking about and would like to do the same in my own driveway. To skirt the restrictions though I dont think it matters what kind of pavers you use. Though be aware that MTP has some tight historic restrictions. You will run into a lot of trouble if you try and alter the stone retaining walls or do anything to the side yard. If this is the back yard though you should be good to go.

  • Permeable pavers aren’t anything special. I don’t think looking for someone “specializing” in permeable pavers is going to get you far. You’d be better off going with a reputable driveway installer or GC and discussing your needs. It’s no more complicated than a brick driveway install.

    And DC used to have a grant program for this, but I can’t find it in a quick search.

    • ah

      I used Capitol Hardscapes for a more traditional concrete paving job, but they also installed pavers/permeable pavers, etc.

      I assume by “keeping grass” you mean the style with two strips of paving for the wheels with grass in between.

      BTW, I believe that DC is encouraging permeable paving now to help with runoff. Your car shouldn’t be leaking oil, and it’s not as if it wouldn’t run off with a concrete driveway right into the street.

    • ah

      Here it is:,a,1209,q,499733.asp

      Looks like up to $1200, but that’s a really quick read and there are asterisks.

      • They will def. pay to have permeable pavers put it on your parking spot, but it just takes a few months for the city to come out and do an inspection. I would sign up now if you want it done.

    • They do I used it for my short front walkway. The program is under the DC Department of Energy. I received a grant for $1500 so I got my walkway redone for free because the installer’s invoice was for that amount.

  • you’re looking for a concrete paver that has large holes that is big enough to let grass grow through it.

    here’s one >>

    not sure if you’ll find them at the local home depot, but some garden centers may have them

  • dc greenworks is the agency that does the rain barrels, and at the time i got my rain barrel, they were doing subsidies for permeable pavers. just went to their website and couldn’t find info about it, though. does anyone know if they stopped this part of the program?

    • I think the program is through RiverSmart Homes. We got our rainbarrel from them, and they do pervious pavers too.


      • I asked RSH about this. They will only give a grant to replace concrete/asphalt, not to build something new.

        • ah

          How stupid — so they pay people to tear out something that works but provide no incentives for making new construction better? Are people really going to build driveways to nowhere just to get $1200 from DC?

          • If their incentive is to replace impermeable space with permeable space (which makes sense to me), I can’t see why they would give money for making a yard less permeable by building a new driveway (albeit with pavers) – IMO, that would be stupid. If not that many people take them up on their current offer, then it’s not like it will cost DC anything.

        • They told me they would fix the grassy parking spot we have.

  • i dont understand what the heck commenter at 2:43 meant, if you spill oil on an impereable surface, it just gets washed down at the next rain, so im confused. In fact, leaks onto dirt may actually be a bit better since the oil would be entrained in the soil and soil bacteria and weathering would destroy a good portion of any oil. But perhaps there is some dumb law in the books from the 50s.

  • we talked to these guys about doing something similar, but ultimately opted for gravel

  • How long do permeable pavers remain permeable? Won’t they plug up with dirt after a few years? I asked a guy who was demonstrating them once and he admitted they didn’t really know.

    • ah

      Water can soak through that dirt just like dirt on the ground.

      • just like “dirt on the ground” can become compacted causing water to no longer percolate into the soil, permeable pavers can become compacted or clogged. You would just have to follow the regular maintenance schedule that goes along with the type of paver you choose.

    • luckily dirt is also permeable.

  • OP—save yourself a lot of time and effort and email the Historic Preservation Office staffer for Mount Pleasant and ask your question. His name is Tim Dennee ([email protected]). He is a reasonable and responsive guy and will tell you quickly whether or not adding a driveway is permissable. (It should be from an alley, probably not from a public street). There are two agencies at issue: DDOT is going to tell you whether you can get a curb cut and the Historic Preservation Office will tell you whether you can do it in an historic district.

  • I am the origional poster & would like to make a few notes:
    1) The alley to the left of the carrage house in the back has a “non-historic” cinderblock retaining wall.
    2) Before we go to MtP Historic, we want a general idea of how much it costs. ($$$)
    3) I am actually looking at grass pavers:

    Thanks to everyone who comments

    • Mt P became a historic district sometime in the mid-80’s. So you’ll see things like windows and walls that predate the historic designation.

      The historic restrictions generally apply to what is visible from the street so a cinder block wall in the back wouldn’t be regulated by the HPO.

      • No way, no how does this plan conform to the Historic Mount Pleasant regulations for what you put in the front of your house. Stop everything you are doing, all planning, and check to see if you can do this under the regulations because I will be anyone here that this idea violates the Mt Pleasant historic ordinances. I mean, the photo above, what’s that, 18th and Park Rd NW?

        Stop even discussing this plan until you get approval from the city. It’s idiotic to treat this topic seriously until you know how the historic designations cover it.

        Everything in this photo is visible from the street so the alley entrance is definitely covered under the rules. And they announced to the world their address so their neighbors in the condos across the street know about their plans.

    • additional note:
      We would like a driveway to the alley. There is space between the trees so this can be done without damaging them.

  • Won’t happen. You’ll definitely get a no from HPO, and I can’t imagine DDOT would allow you to make a driveway on the front yard. If that’s what you were asking about

    • From the looks of it, it seems this is not a front yard.
      Seems that the OP has an end house and the back yard runs parallel to the street.
      The alley entrance must be right before the red car in the picture – if this picture is definitely of the OP’s house.

  • I think the City should no longer allow personal driveways. What this does is (in effect) reserve a street parking spot for whoever has enough money and balls to build a driveway.

    Think about it: the street cutout that is created removes at least one parking space and goes to the person who built it.

    Sorry, but reserving parking spaces in front of your house forever and even when you are not home is BS!!

  • Clarification:

    There is an alley behind the red car in the photo.
    We would like a driveway from the alley sloping up to the lawn.

    • Double check if you have a building restriction line to deal with. You might have to include a fence to screen the driveway/parked cars from view from 18th Street. Call HPO.

  • I guess if you want a driveway from the alley to your back yard that would be fair, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re proposing…

    Btw, I didn’t mean to come across so pissy, but it is a real pet peeve of mine when private citizens take over publc land with curb cuts and the inevitable no parking signs that will wipe out even more public street parking on your street.

    Taking this all into account, you might want to talk with your neighbors (who don’t have driveways) before you take away their parking. If they don’t have a problem then you’re half way there…

    • My neighbors not only have driveways, parking pads; garages. They also have no objections to putting a grass driveway from the garage.

      We have a Historic carrage house that is too small for a car to fit in; no parking when we come home from work late on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, or “event days”.

      Although I was hoping for a discussion on what contractors are recommended, not how evil driveway cuts are…

      • Alley, I meant Alley.

      • so….out of 39 responses (make that 40 with this response) you had 2 people actually answer your request and recommend a contractor. Most folks offered a lecture on the definition of permeable or their opinion on taking away a parking spot on the street. sounds about right.

        • What’s the point of getting recommendations for a contractor to build something that may well be not permitted?

          Someone new to the neighborhood might not be aware of the restrictions that come from living in a historic neighborhood.

          I read the comments (most of the comments anyway) as trying to be helpful.

          • For one, a knowledgable contractor knows what can be permited & what can’t. They can also draw up plans to take to the permit office….

    • curb cuts are on private land. Your theory is illogical. The street remains a street, the sidewalk remains a sidewalk.

      What you’re complaining about is a lack of parking in front of someone else’s house which is not public property. The street is, but the concept of parking there is not. That’s your mistake which is why no one agrees with you.

  • Alley driveway – then that sounds cool. Hope the green driveway works out!

    • +1. It will be impossible to do a curb cut on 18th St, but one from the alley way be more feasible.

      Congratulations – you have a beautiful house!

  • you will need to request a public space permit for a curb cut from DDOT.

  • You may have a problem with the trees and wall. Assuming the picture is of your property, and assuming you plan on coming off the alley between the two trees, and assuming there is a wall along the alley, you have a problem. The critical roots for trees lie within the top 18″ of soil and extend well out beyond the drip line of the canopy, from memory I believe there is a bit of a grade change from the alley up to the yard, such that you would have to cut into the elevated yard and grade back to the alley in order to create a driveway. Based on the location of the trees it looks like you would severely impact the critical root zone such that your work may end up killing the trees. I would consult an arborist about what kind of trees you have on your property, and if you could take measures such as root pruning that would allow for the driveway installation to minimize the damage to the trees. Many contractors are oblivious to tree health, do everything you can to protect them including tree protection fencing during construction.

    Regarding the plastic honeycomb grass pave type product you are considering (from the link). I’ve seen them in use out at the University of Maryland at the performing arts center where they’re used for fire lane access across the lawn and around the back of the building. They function well for occasional use, so for a part-time driveway they should be alright, there are other more durable permeable pavers that look like brick or cobblestone that use a gravel setting bed and the joints between the pavers to allow infiltration, but perhaps this would be an issue with the historic preservation people.

    As for installation, they are really simple. Pretty much any landscape contractor of repute could do it. Pretty hard to screw these up if you follow the manufacturers specs.

    Good luck.

  • Gawd, who would ever want to live in Mount Pleasant? What a freak show.

  • Check out a company called Invisible Structures and a product called GrassPave. I don’t know who their distributor is for this area, but if it is not on their website, a quick call to them will point you in the right direction. It is a great system. If you want to delinate what part of the yard is for parking, you can use gravel or sand in that part and plant grass up to that point.

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