Driveway Care 101
Driveway Care 101
Your driveway is more than just a parking spot or an extension of your garage. It’s also a welcome mat for visitors and makes a critical first impression. The condition and appearance of your driveway add to your home’s curb appeal and reflect the pride you take in your property and neighbourhood. Asphalt, concrete and brick surfaces need your help to withstand harsh seasons and keep on looking great. That’s why spending a little money on occasional driveway maintenance is a smart investment vs. the cost of a total resurfacing or driveway replacement.
With proper care and maintenance, an asphalt driveway will last for decades. Newly laid asphalt takes a year to cure and needs gentle treatment. A coat of liquid driveway sealer should be applied after three years, and then reapplied at three-year intervals. Inspect your asphalt for cracks, heaves and depressions. Most minor asphalt repairs are do-it-yourself projects easily completed in a few hours with inexpensive materials. Prompt attention can prevent small issues from becoming big, pricey ones.
Painted, decorative or neutral-grey concrete driveways generally require less maintenance than asphalt, but there are steps you can take to keep them looking their best. Application of a concrete sealer or concrete paint every couple of years creates a stain-resistant barrier against oil, gas and solvents. Use a commercial concrete cleaner for spot touch-ups. Avoid excessive use of chemical ice-melter or switch to sand for better traction during the winter. Beware of using heavy equipment or machinery on decorative concrete finishes.
Interlock Brick Driveways
Interlock bricks or stones look great but can require more maintenance than asphalt or concrete. The bricks are prone to shifting, cracking and crumbling after prolonged use and exposure to sun and moisture. An interlock brick driveway should be sealed with a water- or oil-based coating to forestall erosion and maintain its curb appeal. You can do it yourself or have it done professionally. More extensive repairs include brick replacement and even re-grading and re-compacting to restore the original look.
Gravel, dirt and grass driveways are common in rural areas and on recreational properties, where blacktop or concrete driveways may be impractical. In the city, a natural driveway can be built on a foundation of hollow concrete blocks filled with porous materials such as stone, a plant mixture or soil to allow drainage. It can also be constructed with paving stones and backfilled with sand to allow water to drain naturally through the seams. Along with environmental benefits comes less maintenance, though a natural driveway may not be ideal in your area.
More and more people, particularly those with health and safety concerns, are banishing snow shovelling by installing heated driveways. This calls for the installation of an underground snow melting system while your driveway is being built or re-paved. An electric cable grid controlled from inside your house heats the driveway, causing snow to melt on contact and preventing ice from forming. More complex systems feature a network of buried pipes pumped full of heated water and anti-freeze.
Even small amounts of oil, gas or solvent escaping from your vehicle can degrade your driveway over time if left unattended. Identify any stains or deposits and do your best to scrub them away with a stiff brush and a commercial cleaner intended for that substance. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) dissolved in water or ready-mixed is a safe and effective, general-purpose degreaser. The absorbent power of kitty litter can lift oil off most hard surfaces. If in doubt, check with your contractor before using any cleaner on your driveway.
Sealing your driveway’s surface offers the best protection from the elements and corrosive leaks from your car or other vehicles. Experts recommend that you seal a new asphalt driveway after three years and once every few years after that using an acrylic or asphalt-based product. Concrete driveways should be recoated with a concrete sealer or garage floor coating approved for exterior use. You can do the job yourself with a roller or squeegee by following the manufacturer’s directions. Remember to give your driveway a thorough cleaning first.
Hairline cracks and potholes are common trouble spots on blacktop-paved driveways. You can repair narrow, shallow cracks with rubberized crack filler. For wider, deeper cracks and potholes, you'll likely need a bucket or bag of cold asphalt filler. This is a mixture of asphalt and stones that you pack into the crevice and level with the surrounding surface. Concrete crack repair is best done with a pre-mixed, concrete repair compound applied with a construction trowel or directly from a caulk tube. For best results on any repair, always clean the area first to remove dust and loose debris.
A pressure washer is your best friend when it comes to quick outdoor surface cleaning. Use full strength on your driveway to blast away minor spills and discolouration. Select the correct nozzle setting to get inside narrow cracks and holes prior to refilling or repairing. A utility vacuum is also ideal prior to repairs for removing loose particles, dust and any standing water from hard to reach places. Have a stiff bristle push broom handy to keep your driveway clear of garden debris and random sharp objects that could penetrate or even puncture a tire.
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