Occasionally repairing the driveway is part of being a homeowner. Learn what you can fix yourself, what to consider before you DIY, and when you need to hire a pro.
As with any of your home's other outdoor features, time and weather will take a toll on your driveway. Nor does your driveway sit idle. You make constant use of it. Depending on the driveway's age, the condition of its surface (concrete or asphalt) and the size of your budget, your options for repairs can range from a simple restaining to a complete overhaul.
Driveway cracks are often caused by water that seeps in and under the driveway material. As that moisture is put through its paces by the freeze thaw cycle, it expands and contracts. The process exerts tremendous pressure on the relatively brittle substances used by your driveway. Additionally, tree roots, poor driveway installation and heavy loads can all contribute to driveway crack formation.
Driveway cracks that are less than a quarter-inch wide are essentially cosmetic and can be repaired easily with liquid crack-fillers. These products are “ready mixed,” meaning they do not require any special preparation and can be applied directly to problem areas.
Driveway cracks that are larger than a quarter-inch wide in your driveway or that are more than a few inches deep are indicators of more serious structural issues.
Fill in large cracks or potholes in your driveway using a patching compound. Mixing up concrete patch usually requires little more than water and a stirring implement. While you may have seen — and smelled — road construction crews using hot asphalt, those applications of gravel and bitumen (a naturally occurring substance) are not widely available to DIYers. Commercial asphalt patch is “cold” and is malleable even at low temperatures.
Whichever kind of patch you apply, tamp it down until it is even with the surface of your driveway. If you do the patching yourself, expect to pay about half what you might if you were to hire a contractor. However, be aware that even the most expert patches are only temporary. The joint between the patch and the original driveway surface is still susceptible to water seepage and the free-thaw cycle. Your patch may last for years, or it may not make it through one winter without requiring some touch-up.
If you’re tired of constantly patching your driveway, consider having it resurfaced. Experienced contractors can remove the entire top layer of your driveway and pour a new surface over it. This gives you a driveway that looks completely new, but requiring major demolition, including the hauling off of old surfacing materials and all the headaches that come with a major repair.
Besides knowing the best method for making your driveway drivable again, a professional contractor should also be able to diagnose the underlying reason for cracks and potholes and know how to prevent them from becoming a problem in the future. Here are a few important questions during the contractor vetting process.
How will this job be guaranteed? It’s vital that you get everything in writing before any work begins. This helps to avoid hidden costs and ensures the reliability of the contractor. It is also a good idea to check the contractor’s rating with the Better Business Bureau. And it never hurts to compare estimates from several companies.
Are you fully insured? If the contractor is insured, then they should be able to provide you with a product liability document. This document protects both parties to the transaction. Most importantly, it secures your property against any collateral damage that may occur as a result of the contractor completing their work on your driveway.
Can you provide contact information for your previous clients? The contractor should be willing to provide you with addresses or phone numbers of previous clients so you can see examples of their work. In fact, they should be proud of their work. If a contractor cannot provide this information, then you may want to continue your search or hire someone else.
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