Typical Problems and Issues of a Badly Paved Driveway

A paved driveway is designed to be durable, clean and convenient to use. When the project is installed properly you can expect all of these benefits to be available for years. But a badly paved driveway will present a variety of problems that can add up to a landscaping nightmare. Is your driveway driving you mad? Or did your DIY paving project turn ugly? Have a look at these typical issues and the repair jobs that may help to turn it around again.

Typical Lifespan of a Paved Driveway

Professionally installed paved driveways will last between eight and ten years on average. General wear and tear will affect the finish of the asphalt and the makeup of the product itself is made to deteriorate in that time span.

Your paved driveway will look fabulous for the first year. Retaining the dark color and presenting a nearly seamless appearance, the driveway will not begin to show its age until about twelve months after installation. By that point oxidation will begin and the surface will look grey and faded. Some people opt to seal their driveways in an effort to maintain the black appearance and protect the surface against the effects of weather.

Sand will begin to work out of the driveway during the third year, eventually resulting in loose gravel between years four and five. By the sixth and seventh year you are likely to see cracking and during the eighth year and beyond potholes will begin to appear. These areas of caved in asphalt can be patched - as the cracks can be sealed with various products -by this point, the stability of your paved driveway has been compromised and a replacement is not far away.

When These Problems Show Up Early

Oxidation is a natural stage in the life of your asphalt. It may show up early if your driveway has direct exposure to the midday sun. But most often this stage is seen anywhere from 9 to 18 months after the asphalt is poured.

Loose gravel and cracking that appears within the first year is definitely a problem. And if potholes appear before the sixth or seventh year (especially before any cracking has occurred) there is a major issue with your driveway.

Many professional paving contractors offer a one-year warranty. This is typically enough to cover the homeowner, since any issues with the product or installation are likely to show up in that twelve-month window. Spending more money to opt for a longer warranty (especially a prorated warranty) is not worth the extra cost.

DIY Disasters

Homeowners that opt for a DIY paving project without knowing how to prep the area and handle the asphalt are in for some trouble. Paving is a fairly simple process, but the success of the project often depends on the condition of the base. If excavation isn't deep enough or the base isn't packed down well, cracking and caving in will occur very quickly.

Often issues arise after the first major rainfall. As the asphalt is exposed to the flow of water any weaknesses in the base will be evident. The problem is that once your base collapses or gets washed away, the top layer of asphalt will suffer. Whether that occurs quickly - such as with a larger crack or hole - or happens over the course of a few days, there is little to do in terms of permanent repair.

Patching holes is one possible method of repair, but that is only a surface remedy. The next rainfall or freeze and thaw will cause more damage to the driveway and your patch will be for naught.

There are plenty of products on the market that claim to seal asphalt cracks effectively. Some are made from flexible materials very similar to calking, which are moisture resistant and will move with your asphalt. But as cracks reoccur and continue to spread, you may end up covering your entire drive with these products.

Dealing With a Substandard Installation

Whether you have hired a contractor that performed a lousy job or got in over your head on a DIY project, problems with your paved driveway can be solved. Many times it may be best to take up the existing asphalt and start again.

Take your time hiring the best contractor for the job, focusing on their experience and expertise. At this point, price should not be as much of an option since you need to have it done correctly in order to make the best of the situation.

Be sure your new paved driveway meets the standards for a long lasting, professionally poured asphalt driveway. That includes:

  • at least 4 inches of crushed limestone as a base - re-grading driveways may have less, but still plenty enough to ensure the proper level of drainage
  • graded or sloping away from the house and the garage - generally directed to the nearest designated runoff drainage (sewer, swale, etc.)
  • course grade of asphalt is used - preferably HL3A or comparable
  • 2 inches of compacted asphalt is best - 3 inches may be laid if it is done in layers, otherwise the top is soft
  • sealing - which can be beneficial for the driveway - is not to be done until at least 60 days after the asphalt has been poured

Some contractors will also include an application of weed killer underneath the asphalt. This isn't necessary, but is a nice addition if you have had problems with stubborn weeds breaking through the driveway in the past.

Also remember to consider whether a retainer should be run along the side of your driveway. This could be a simple strip of pea gravel, but some homeowners prefer to pour a concrete curb or install pressure treated wooden retainers to keep the weeds out and the asphalt tight.

A well-maintained asphalt driveway will last anywhere from eight to ten years. If yours is exhibiting signs of trouble earlier than that, especially within the first year, it may be time to do something about it. Fading is normal for a paved driveway and a result of oxidation. Cracking, crumbling and potholes should not occur until near the end of the eight-year mark. Repaving is the best option and should be done by a professional paving contractor in order to ensure your investment retains its value.

Posted by: diana
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