When It’s Time for a Driveway Replacement
Is your driveway a mess of cracks, uneven slabs or patches of erosion?
It’s impossible to avoid this situation. Especially if you live in a climate where the seasons are marked by hot summers and cold winters.
Maybe you’ve turned a blind eye, just hoping the problem will go away rather than deal with driveway replacement.
But turning a blind eye isn’t going to make the driveway any better. And if you wait too long, you’ll be looking at total driveway replacement, rather than just repair.
Here’s the thing.
You can do repairs, but eventually a full driveway replacement will be needed
Regardless of whether your driveway is concrete or asphalt, it will eventually age and crack as the materials begin to break down.
This break down will happen much sooner if your driveway is neglected or abused, though.
In general, most driveways can last at least 15 to 20 years if they’re cared for properly. Maybe longer.
If you’re looking at driveway replacement, it’s important to understand first the causes of deterioration so that you can take preventative action.
Winter weather is the biggest reason for driveway deterioration
If your concrete or asphalt driveway is exposed to snow, that means it will be subject to water seeping down into it when the snow melts.
That may not seem like a big deal. The problem is, as spring makes its slow entry, there is a great deal of temperature fluctuation.
This freeze/thaw cycle causes the water that has seeped into your driveway to expand when temperatures drop again. As the water freezes, your driveway cracks.
Add in those studded winter tires, metal snow shovels or snowblower blades and now you’re either tearing small chunks of material out of your asphalt driveway or chipping and cracking at your concrete driveway.
And rock salt only makes the problem worse.
Rock salt is sodium chloride and it sinks deep into your driveway’s surface, where it attracts water. Plus, it lowers the freezing point of water by about 10 degrees, increasing the frequency of those freeze/thaw incidents.
While you can’t change the weather, you can do these following things to minimize damage:
- Use calcium chloride instead of rock salt to bring the freezing point down well below zero.
- Mix salt or other deicers with sand to increase traction and lessen the damage.
- Use a plastic shovel when you can and be mindful whenever metal tools have been used.
- Seal your driveway to preserve it so that less water and salt can penetrate its surface.
Don’t think for a minute though that if you don’t live in a place with harsh winters that your driveway is safe from cracks and you’re free from driveway replacement.
Winter weather is not the only cause for that messy driveway
If you’re investing in driveway replacement, here are some other factors that can cause cracks and break down sooner rather than later.
1. Contractors and companies just out to make a buck
A foundation that’s not properly laid is a huge problem.
The best base for your driveway is tightly packed crushed stone or gravel. But companies or contractors who are in a hurry may not pack the base as tightly as needed.
They may also try to save money by tossing in sand or dirt. These substances will move around with changes in temperature and cause cracking.
So be sure that you take the time to hire a reputable company or contractor. Because the only fix for a faulty foundation would be another driveway replacement.
2. Too heavy a load
The era of SUVs and even larger vehicles is here.
Unfortunately, your driveway may not be faring well with these large vehicles.
Your driveway isn’t meant to host objects weighing more than 10,000 pounds and it will crack or scar to prove it.
Outside of buying a smaller vehicle, you may want to consider parking your large vehicle on the street or creating a designated parking space off your driveway.
3. Tree roots
If you have the luxury of living near big trees, you also have to deal with their roots expanding and potentially pressing underneath your driveway where they’ll press against its subbase.
Your driveway will then crack to relieve that pressure.
If you have big trees, look into a thicker driveway with better reinforcement, or ask your contractor about putting in a tree-root barrier along both sides of the driveway.
With proper installation and maintenance, you’ll be able to minimize the wear and tear on your driveway, whether you’re repairing or going for the full driveway replacement.
So how do you know if you need driveway replacement or just repairs?
That’s the big question. Does your driveway situation call you to patch, refinish or replace?
There are plenty of considerations.
1. How big are the cracks or holes?
Small holes or cracks less than a quarter-inch wide are signs of minor damage that can often be taken care of with driveway patching or liquid crack-fillers.
Driveway cracks that are larger than a quarter-inch wide or that are more than a few inches deep are a bigger issue. You can fill in those cracks, but it won’t be a long-term repair.
Water will eventually seep in and open up the cracks again.
These temporary fixes can help you out while you save up to get a full driveway replacement. But your driveway won’t be… beautiful.
2. How old is your driveway?
Here’s the deal.
If your concrete driveway is pushing 25 years, or your asphalt driveway is nearing the 20-year mark, it’s in your best interest to do a total driveway replacement.
Time will cause these materials to eventually fail. And trying to repeatedly patch and repair an old driveway is an exercise in frustration.
The extra work just won’t be worth it.
3. How does your driveway look?
This one is especially important if you’re trying to sell your home.
For some people, the driveway completes the look of the house. Potential buyers may look at that cracked or pitted driveway as a deal breaker.
4. Is your driveway a candidate for resurfacing?
Resurfacing is a middle ground between a driveway replacement and trying to manage constant repairs.
If the foundation isn’t completely flawed and the driveway isn’t too old, experienced contractors can resurface it. This means that they essentially remove just the top layer of your driveway and replace it.
Resurfacing can make your driveway look brand new, but costs just a fraction of the price. Yeah, those cracks and pits will return, but it won’t be for quite some time.
So if you’ve determined that the damage on your driveway is too extensive to repair, or that it’s just too old, then it’s time to look at driveway replacement.
You’ll need to consider what material you want for your new driveway.
Generally speaking, when it comes to time to do a driveway replacement, you’ll have two materials from which to choose – concrete or asphalt.
Concrete and asphalt are similar but have some important differences.
In both cases, you’ll want to be sure that you use a reliable contractor who will provide a well-compacted base of gravel and stone.
Both materials will take time to cure, though asphalt takes considerably less time – several hours for asphalt vs. several days for concrete.
They are each made from some mixture of stone and sand. But where the main difference lies in their construction is in the adhesive.
The adhesive in concrete is cement. In asphalt, it’s tar. And it’s the adhesive that gives each material its unique qualities.
Which material is the best choice for you will depend on a few things:
As mentioned above, living in a place where winter includes snow, ice and those freeze/thaw cycles is going to impact your choice.
Concrete tends to crack and suffer from the cold and freezing winters. Plus, rock salt can create pits in concrete.
On the other hand, asphalt doesn’t do as well in hot weather climates because the tar can get soft and can become tacky. It may even lose its form in some cases.
If it’s different finishes you’re looking for, concrete is an easier material to manipulate. You can stain it or tint it different colors. You can even create patterns.
And it can also be stamped into different designs to give your driveway different looks.
Again, though, if you live in a winter zone, you’ll want to consider the option of asphalt. Although it’s limited in terms of how it looks, you’re no longer stuck with just black.
There is now integral coloring that can be added during the mixing. There are also tints available that can be added at the end as a sealant. You won’t have the array of designs, but you’ll have less cracking.
An asphalt driveway needs to be sealed about six months to a year after installation. Then it needs to be resealed every three to five years. It does not take special tools to do this and can be done by anyone.
Concrete driveways do not need to be sealed, but doing so can help to preserve the look and finish.
Concrete driveways stain more easily than asphalt and it will take a degreaser to remove any oil based stains.
And although both asphalt and concrete driveway cracks can be repaired, it easier to repair asphalt cracks and make the repair blend into the original look. Another big plus with asphalt is that it is fairly inexpensive to resurface.
So if the old layer on your asphalt driveway is no longer able to sustain repairs, you just add that new top layer. This is not possible with concrete.
Overall, asphalt is much cheaper to install than concrete.
But before you get your heart set on anything, check with local building codes to see if there are any specifications.
If you have more tips on driveway replacement, please feel free to share with us in the comments section. And if you’re not sure whether your driveway needs repairs or replacement, don’t hesitate to contact us.