Are you thinking about getting a new driveway this year? Not sure? Have a sneaking suspicion it might be time?
The decision to replace a driveway is probably made most often when there is simply a desire to make it look new again.
Replacing concrete is also a good time to think about what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how long it lasted. It is a time to figure out how to build it back better than before, not to simply replace it the same as before.
Concrete may go bad over time, but the degradation of concrete is not a function of time. Other factors are to blame and there are compensation strategies for every single one of them.
If the Pantheon in Rome can last 1900 years and beyond, how long should a concrete driveway last? With a diameter of 142 feet, it remains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete roof dome and it has been in continuous use since the 7th century.
If the Hoover Dam is expected to last 10,000 years, then why do so many concrete driveways get replaced so frequently?
In general, concrete is a reliable, durable, and sustainable construction material. In terms of volume, it is the most consumed material on the planet, second only to water. Concrete is known to be very strong. It is also known to be very weak. It has both strengths and weaknesses and that means there are possible vulnerabilities to consider.
High compressive strength means it can support a 160 story building in Dubai that reaches over half a mile into the sky.
Low tensile strength means that reinforcing steel should be used if those stresses are expected. This innovation was very helpful in the design of bridges and tall buildings.
Concrete is essentially a bunch of sand and rocks held together with a binder called cement. Add water to cement and it turns into a paste. A chemical process called hydration begins. The cement paste transitions from paste to gel, eventually becoming a hard but porous solid. The average available pore space in a hardened cement gel is 28 percent. This porosity is a problem.
Drill a few million small holes into the bottom of your fishing boat and you will notice a problem at some point during your next trip out on the lake. The porosity of concrete is a concern, particularly in northern climates. Absorbed water near the surface expands by about 9 percent when it freezes. The freeze-thaw damage called scaling is the single most common form of surface damage in the world. Because concrete is porous, it is permeable. It takes on water just like that boat you drilled full of holes.
Besides permeability issues that open the door to freeze-thaw damage, expansive aggregate reactions, and other forms of surface deterioration, there may be structural issues such as:
- as an unstable base
- uneven slabs
- spreading at control joints
- major random cracks.
Check out these four major signs that you might be ready for an upgrade.
#1. How old is your driveway?
No one likes to be reminded of their age, even your driveway. However, a properly installed driveway that has been maintained and sealed regularly should last about 30 years. If it is nearing its 30th birthday, it’s time to think about a new one.
If your driveway was not installed properly, not sealed, experiences heavy traffic, and basically just had a rough life, it will probably need to be retired much sooner than thirty years.
#2. Do you have standing water?
If there are puddles forming on your driveway it could be a sign of a failing or crumbling foundation. This could be due to age or an improper install. Sometimes a concrete contractor can raise sunken concrete slabs by injecting polyurethane foam underneath. This is only a temporary fix, but if your driveway isn’t that old and doesn’t have any other major issues, this could buy you some time. If you suspect you are having this problem give us a call and we’d be happy to help you decide if this a viable option for your situation.
#3. Got cracks?
Small cracks can be filled. However, small cracks can turn into big, wide cracks which will eventually turn into potholes. Michigan has several freeze-thaw cycles a year that are very hard on concrete, especially if it isn’t sealed. If water seeps into cracks in cold weather it will freeze and expand, causing more damage.
It is very important to keep up the maintenance on your driveway and seal it regularly. If you repair cracks when they are small, you will extend the life of your driveway.
If your cracks are too big to fix, a new driveway is in your near future.
This is an obvious sign you need a new driveway. Our roads are bad enough in Michigan – your driveway shouldn’t have potholes too. If you ignore them you are going to cause damage to your car tires and suspension, and possibly twist an ankle. A visitor to your home may experience damage to their vehicle which will not be a fun conversation to have with your insurance agent.
Small potholes can be patched to bide you some time, but that fix won’t last forever. It is possible that you may be able to replace only a section of your driveway that contains a pothole. Either way, it’s a good idea to get a concrete contractor to take a look and discuss possibilities with you.
Ready to Get Started?
Precision Concrete is happy to take a look at your driveway and provide a free estimate for either fixing or replacing.