Paving Your Driveway Pays for Itself

The appearance of a driveway is just as important to the curb appeal of a home as the landscaping and exterior finish. Cracked and stained driveways can give a lower impression of a home even if the lawns are well-manicured and the outside of the home has been redone in an expensive siding. Therefore it is very important that the right surface is installed, one that will last as long or longer than the other essentials of the home.

In days gone by driveways and sidewalks were raked gravel. This was a cheap way to go as any other type of surface would cost a person two to three months pay. However, in a rain the water always rose above the gravel making the surface muddy. And if a deeper gravel base was put down the tires would sink down.

Up until the 1950's cobblestones, bricks and concrete were definitely out of reach for the average homeowner. The post-War boom brought the prices down considerably and concrete driveways became the industry standard.

Concrete Driveways

One of the problems with concrete driveways or is that the mixture is under a great deal of pressure as it cures and this can cause cracks. If not for the expansion joints, strips of compressible material that can accept expanding and contracting pressures, a concrete slab can crack and even shatter. These joints are usually placed at three to four foot intervals on the driveway. However, even with these precautions nature can take over. A build up of water can undermine the pad resulting in shifting or breaking. In colder areas of the country the freeze-thaw cycle can accelerate these problems.

The other two popular paving materials are concrete paving stones and asphalt. Paving stones come in a variety of colors and patterns and, because they are not cemented together, have the liberty to move with variations in temperatures. However, repeated use or parking on this type of a surface can cause grooves.

Asphalt Paving

With the introduction of asphalt paving construction driveways took a big leap forward. An alternative to concrete and paving stones the asphalt aggregate is easier to install and accepts weather extremes better than almost any other surface. There are two main types.

Hot Mix Asphalt: This type of surface is ideal for cold climates as it is more flexible than concrete and will hold its shape better than paving stones. Also known as “Hot Mix” this paving compound is made up of a mixture of stone and sand drenched with liquid asphalt cement. The sand and gravel is heated prior to being mixed with the hot asphalt cement and is delivered to the site hot for easier application and curing. So the whole aggregate cools down at the same rate.

Chip Seal: Another asphalt product gaining popularity is the “Chip Seal” method. It is very similar to the hot mix aggregate except that thirty-percent of the asphalt cement is substituted with hot water. This water will evaporate when the mixture is applied causing the driveway pad to dry harder. Then the surface of the still-hot asphalt pad is coated with fine gravel that is then pressed into the surface. This makes a harder driveway surface and one that reflects heat. The small stones can be colored to take away the dull, gray look of a seasoned driveway.

Base: As with concrete and paving stones asphalt paving requires a solid base. This means that the surface has to be cleared of obstacles that could rise up and cause imperfections or breaks in the surface. Tree roots, large rocks and rotting wood or other vegetation have to be taken out and filled before the base can be applied. This substrata is compacted with a power roller and then a gravel base is spread out to a thickness of about four to five inches. When compacted this base should be over two-inches for the best results.

Slope and Drainage: Another consideration when planning a driveway is to determine the direction of the water drainage. On major roads the road rises slightly to the center so that the water will run off to the ditches and this can also be done on a wide driveway. If the home is on a slight hill then the water will naturally drain away. However, if the home is below the level of the street then a drainage expert should be called in to give advice on keeping the water away from the building. This may involve redoing the whole system around the home and, in many cases, will help prevent problems like moisture in the basement.

Old Pavement Restoring

Sometimes an old driveway is sound but looks bad from staining and cracking. There are sealants available to re-coat the pavement but makes sure to seal the cracks with asphalt cement and let them cure first.

Another way to refinish a large area is to utilize a milling and reclamation machine and then re-pave the surface. Because a solid base already established this machine is like a planer and grinds a certain depth off the surface leaving the rest of the driveway pad in tact. New asphalt aggregate is then spread and compacted over top of this bed. This is a favorite resurfacing method for most roads.

For more information on paving contractors consult our Contractor Directory or simply post your project online.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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