Do-Yourself Tips for Concrete Driveway Construction

Concrete driveway

In some parts of the country a concrete driveway means a stable and clean platform for the automobile. For homeowners in other areas it is part of the curb appeal of the home, a welcome mat that foreshadows the design and comfort of the rest of the home.

For years concrete driveways were white pads and, in a lot of cases, this still works well for the average home. However, these surfaces show stains and can look haggard after a few years. Today's concrete driveways have shed this plain aura and are now available in a wide span of decorative patterns such as dyed and stamped concrete. Another favorite concrete driveway is the aggregate look which features the natural color of uniform small rocks in the concrete mix. After the pad has dried, a mixture of muratic acid is applied to etch away a thin layer of concrete. This exposes the top layers of these rocks and gives it a beautiful surface.

Concrete driveways are more expensive than other surfaces, such as asphalt pavement. However, a handy person can do a lot of the preparation work and save hundreds of dollars.

1. Concrete Driveway Planning

Unless the home is being constructed odds are there is probably a driveway of some sort already in place. This could be covered with asphalt, concrete or gravel so that the area is already marked out. However, if a circular driveway, or some other shape, is desired the space should be staked out so that the area can be searched for underground cables or pipes. To be sure, check with utility companies, especially the gas company, and bring your plans to the local building office to check for anything other potential problems.

Here are some other considerations:

  • Changing the Pathway: Another consideration besides shape or utility of the driveway is its positioning on the property. For older homes the trees, neighbor's foliage or other features may have grown into obstacles that could impede vision. The original design may have to be altered for a better view of street traffic.
  • Pad Drainage: The new driveway should be designed so that water can be directed into a drainage system and away from the home. While doing this work it might be a good idea to re-think the drainage system for the whole property.
  • Slope: Build the slope of the driveway to go with the landscaping scheme of the property. Whether it is dyed, patterned or aggregate-stone concrete it will add to the beauty of the landscape design.

2. Costing the Project

Because of considerations such as transportation and the rising cost of the materials concrete is expensive. Therefore, before committing to a ready-mix vehicle a few things should be taken into consideration:

  • Building Forms: Wood for the forms needs to be purchased and one of the best forms is a one-by-six board about ten to twelve feet long. These are held in place with two-by-two-inch wood stakes, which can be cut from longer pieces.
  • Reinforcing Mesh: To prevent cracking from the stress of curing and other stresses a heavy-gauge (6" X 6"), reinforcement should be used to steady the pad.
  • Excavating: If there is an old pad made from asphalt or concrete it will have to be broken up and trucked away, unless it is to be used for fill on another part of the property. Hiring an excavation company is the best method because they can dig out big rocks and spread the gravel evenly. Doing it by hand is a long, laborious process.
  • The Bed: Class "A" gravel is used for the bed because it will allow water to drain away from the pad. It should be th least one-foot thick and an excavating company will know this.
  • Compacting: A compacting machine should be rented to pack the gravel before pouring the concrete.
  • Ordering the Concrete: When putting in the order for the concrete allow for a four-inch bed. To make the pad more stable a one-foot area under the edges should about six-to eight inches to avoid cracking.
  • Concrete Saw: Concrete has tremendous expansion and contraction stresses so expansion joints should be cut into the pad afterward with a proper concrete saw.

3. Preparing the Base

  • Remove the old pad or overburden and sculpt out the area that will be filled with gravel. Remember, there will be a minimum of one-foot of compacted fill. A truck can dump the gravel into the void and it can be smoothed out with a rake. The compactor will aid in leveling.
  • Stake out the area as reinforcing for the forms and stretch string four inches above the gravel base as a guide for the height of the forms.

  • The forms should be attached with screws on the stakes. They should be on the inside of the stakes.
  • After they are in place the forms should be back-filled to prevent them from bending under the pressure of the wet concrete.
  • The reinforcement mesh should be placed into the area and propped up off the ground with two-inch rocks so the wet concrete can get under it.

4. Pouring the Concrete

  • For many standard driveways the concrete truck can pour the concrete on the entire pad save the mess and hassle of using a wheelbarrow. The driver will direct the concrete flow by moving the spout and repositioning the truck.
  • One person in gumboots should spread the pouring concrete with a rake until the pour reaches the top of the forms.
  • The concrete is then smoothed with a trowel while steadily moving backward.

  • The finishing job can be accomplished with an edging trowel. A special broom can be used for texture and this is also the time when dye can be spread onto the surface for a marbled look.

Hire a Professional

Pouring concrete is a skill that should not be taken lightly. In fact, unless a person has participated in a few such concrete projects it is best to hire a professional and avoid making costly mistakes. For a concrete professional in your area consult our Contractor Directory or simply post your project online.

Posted by: kim
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