Winter is just about over, but there's one thing it may be leaving behind: cracks in your driveway or walkways. Freeze/thaw cycles can produce cracks in concrete and asphalt, but cold weather's not the only culprit. Other causes include tree roots, heavy vehicles, or improper initial installation in which the underlying base material was not laid correctly, causing shifting and eventually cracking.
Spring is a great time to address this issue. Not only will filling the cracks in your driveway help prevent more and bigger cracks from occurring, but if you're considering making a move, it'll boost your curb appeal as well. To that end, here are some tips on improving the appearance and extending the life of your drive (or any walkway made of these materials).
Whether asphalt or concrete, you can choose to either patch or resurface your drive. Patching is the quick and cheap option, but it probably won't prevent more cracks from appearing down the road. Resurfacing is basically stripping the top layer of the material and replacing only that. Your driveway will look brand new, and it costs far less than redoing the whole thing.
This is generally the most common driveway material, but it can also be trickier to deal with as a DIY than concrete.
If you're just looking at a few smaller cracks, it can be a DIY project, but it can also be pretty messy. You can use a liquid sealer found at most home improvement stores to fill them in. Bigger potholes and cracks require more work, as the filler can stain your driveway, and deeper cracks needs to be filled with crushed gravel first. You'll need to tamp down both the filler and repair material, and it can be difficult to get the patches smooth and even.
You'll probably want to find an experienced contractor if you choose to resurface your driveway. This is a double process, requiring patching first and then pouring on and smoothing out the new layer of asphalt.
Sealant is a liquid that you spread in a thin layer over the surface of your drive, and it should be the last step of your driveway fix. It provides a unified coating that protects the repairs you've made and is an added barrier against water seeping into the asphalt and causing more cracking, and against oil, antifreeze, sun, and water. You'll probably need to wait a while to seal the driveway after you finish your repairs, as the layers underneath the surface can take a while to harden properly. Your asphalt driveway should be resealed every couple of years to ensure it lasts. Bonus: It looks prettier too.
You have a few more options when it comes to patching cracks in concrete. Pourable concrete grout, vinyl patching, and textured caulk are all fine DIY choices.
If you have small cracks that aren't deep, you can use a concrete resurfacing product that is pretty easy to apply. You'll need warmer weather to use it, and the entire surface of your driveway needs to be covered so the color is even.
Yep, your concrete driveway should be sealed. It's not a no-maintenance surface, and sealing it will definitely help it last longer. Concrete should be sealed every four or five years so that water doesn't penetrate and undo all the work you've just done.
Pavers are a great alternative for your driveway, walkway, or patio. Rain easily runs off, and they're not as slippery as concrete or asphalt. They generally last longer too, and if they do get damaged, you can replace the individual damaged bricks, rather than patching or resurfacing the whole drive.
They also survive earthquakes much better than the alternatives, which is contributing to their popularity in California.
Whichever method of repair you choose, be sure to follow the directions on the compound label carefully, and be sure you're working on a very clean surface. Check the weather too — you need at least two days of dry weather (and no wind would also be great). You'll save yourself a lot of heartache in the end by paying attention to prep work and following instructions.
Of course, you also need to know when it's time to throw in the towel and replace the whole thing. If your driveway is 20+ years old, or pitted with large potholes and wide cracks, it's time to call a contractor and look into getting a brand-new driveway.