When Cara and Jens Bogehegn purchased their house on Home Avenue in 2007, they were prepared to do a lot of work to bring the historic structure back to life. Little did they know that their rehabilitation efforts would soon reach outside to include the driveway. The best laid plans for a small renovation project can quickly snowball into something much bigger, and the new heated driveway on Home Avenue is a testament to that.
A complete overhaul was needed when the couple purchased the home, says Cara. “Someone else had already gutted the home; we bought it as a shell. I was pregnant with my first son at the time, and we thought we’d be in the house by the time he arrived in October, but it took until Easter to get the house ready.”
The 1890’s-era home was redone from top to bottom, and the Bogehegns also renovated the original hayloft over the garage. Not content to rest from their labors, they soon realized the original footprint of the home needed tweaking. Cara says that they decided to do a small addition which led to quite a bit more.
“Shortly after we moved in, we realized the kitchen wasn’t laid out properly, and we knew we wanted a mudroom, so we decided to do a small addition,” she says. “With that construction work, the driveway started to crumble, and we knew we needed to replace it. Since we were digging up the existing driveway, it also was a good time to replace the aging sewer line.”
As the Bogehegns weighed their options for a new driveway, two important factors figured into their decision making, says Cara. “We loved the new street-scaping of Marion Street, and we wanted to keep in character with our Victorian home, so we decided to go with a brick-look.”
While the look of their community influenced them, so did the weather. Around that time, the blizzard of 2011 struck. With Jens out of town, Cara was housebound with two small children. “The children were so young that I couldn’t leave them indoors alone to go shovel. We had to rely on the kindness of our neighbor.”
Realizing that even with a blower there still wasn’t a lot of room to put the snow accumulated from their long driveway, the Bogehegns considered heating the pavement from underneath. A concept not unlike the sidewalks the village installed on Marion near Lake Street. “It was a big splurge, but we weighed it out and decided we wanted to go with it.”
Bob Lee, owner of Robert E. Lee and Sons, the concrete contractor recommended to the Bogehegns, says that the Home Avenue driveway actually combines two personalized methods: a patterned and stamped concrete surface, and the snow melt system.
“The patterned and stamped concrete surface is colored and laid out to look like brick. It’s very detail-oriented,” he says. “The snowmelt system requires a boiler, with a series of tubes that tie into the boiler. There’s a sensor that acts like a thermostat, turning on the snowmelt system when outdoor temperatures reach a certain set point.”
The network of tubing laid beneath the concrete contains a solution that is 50 percent water and 50 percent glycol, an anti-freeze. Snowmelt systems such as these can be programmed any number of ways in terms of timing and self-regulation. The Home Avenue driveway is set up to remain on if the temperature is below 38 degrees and moisture is present.
Lee compares a heated driveway to a radiator. “The concrete is a good conductor. It melts the snow or ice and burns it off, so you never have to shovel,” he explains. “Water dissipates as it would in a rainstorm, flowing into a storm drain. While it is a luxury item, the beauty is that you never have to worry about snow and ice.”
Noting that the majority of his local driveway projects aren’t heated, Lee estimates that he does one or two a year, usually in River Forest. The radiant systems can also be used indoors, and Lee says he does a lot more of these projects in basements and in commercial spaces.
The cost of the snowmelt system is comparable to the cost of a new driveway, depending on what the client is looking for, says Lee.
“A patterned, stamped decorative driveway is also an upgrade which runs about $12-15 per square foot. The snowmelt system will run you another $12-15 per square foot on top of that.”
The Bogehegns readily admit that the driveway was a splurge, but believe it’s well worth the cost. The project included not only the snow-sensors and the boiler to support the system, but also the stamped and colored concrete, a decorative border on the driveway and a new sewer line.
The home won a Cavalcade of Pride award last year for its curb appeal.