What's the difference between permeable and impermeable surfaces?

Permeable vs Impermeable and what it means for you

contact usWhat's the difference between permeable and impermeable surfaces?

When it comes to environmental concerns in new and old infrastructure, much of the debate centres around permeable vs impermeable surfaces. In this article, we will take a deep dive into both solutions, the pros and cons of each, and what you should be considering when looking to improve your home or workplace.


Permeable Surfaces Australia is your go-to authority on permeable, pervious, and porous surfaces. If you’re looking for a permeable surface solution to replace your traditional impermeable surfaces, check out our wide variety of products. For more information, get in touch with our friendly team

What are impermeable surfaces?

To begin, impermeable surfaces are very limited in terms of function and application. They are basically only fit for one purpose - to provide a stable road or pathway for people and vehicles.


Impermeable, impervious, or non-porous surfaces do not allow water to percolate and filter through their material. This water will run off the surface, and will usually end up in stormwater systems.


As it stands, both urban and suburban settings currently feature huge expanses of impermeable surfaces, including:

  • Roads, cobbles, pavement, and bitumen
  • Concrete buildings and driveways
  • Traditional stone, brick, or concrete pavers


Impermeable surfaces cause a myriad of problems for communities. Australia is a hot, dry country, and our towns and cities are often at the mercy of the local climate. This makes water sources very difficult to manage. Some of the issues caused by impermeable surfaces include:

  • Increased water pollution by jettisoning pollutants directly into bodies of water without filtration
  • Flooding and increased erosion around bodies of water due to an influx of unnatural and unexpected stormwater
  • Poor recharging of the water table due to the fact that little water is entering the ground in the natural process
  • Stagnant water puddle formation atop impermeable surfaces with no ability for drainage or runoff
  • Contribution to urban heat island effect, where heat from the day is absorbed by asphalt and concrete, increasing the ambient temperature of the location, plus the temperature of water entering local systems, affecting the natural environment


Impermeable surfaces are an outdated solution to static problems like heat and flooding. Fortunately, the times have changed. As society becomes more environmentally conscious, so do our solutions to these problems.

What are permeable surfaces?

In comparison, permeable surfaces are wildly different in form and function. They have the ability to not only provide a stable platform for cars and people, but to also help the environment in a number of ways.


Permeable surfaces - a definition that includes the terms porous and pervious surfaces - collect water and filter pollutants out, before gradually reintroducing the filtered water to the groundwater below.


Permeable surfaces are growing in popularity in all kinds of infrastructure applications around towns and cities today. These surfaces include:

  • Planting beds and other organic materials
  • Mulched garden beds
  • Gravel and dirt paths
  • Turf, grass, and other ground covering


Permeable paving and road systems are another noteworthy example of pervious material. These solutions have been specially designed to perform the duties outlined above, and to fight against the many problems posed by impermeable surfaces.


Here are some key examples of products in this category that have been designed to meet the needs of people, vehicles, and the environment:

  • Pervious concrete driveways filled with pervious material like sand and gravel, which acts to filter pollutants from water
  • Stable plastic grids of plastic filled with gravel and other porous materials, used to create functional parking spaces
  • Porous concrete pavers that slowly allow water to filter throughout a number of layers to be introduced to the groundwater below


The differences between permeable and impermeable surfaces are clear, and are not limited to the above. Permeable surfaces also offer a number of benefits outside of environmental concerns. Pervious and porous materials also have a raft of cost-saving benefits, cutting down on maintenance costs, as well as saving on energy and water. For more information, check out our article on the benefits of permeable paving systems.


If you are environmentally-minded, permeable surfaces are the obvious choice over traditional methods of paving, roadways, and parking lots. Permeable Surfaces Australia has everything you need to know about choosing permeable solutions, from products, to detailed information. If you have any questions, please contact our friendly team.


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