There are many materials to choose from when installing a new driveway, and concrete is one of the most durable, long-lasting and affordable. Concrete is even capable of being completely customized, allowing you to install a driveway that looks like brick or cobblestone but is merely a fraction of the cost.
Perhaps the only downside to a concrete driveway is that there are some specific maintenance guidelines to follow. But once you know how to care for your concrete driveway in all types of weather, it will last upwards of 20 years, looking as good as new the whole time.
Here’s what you need to know about concrete driveway maintenance.
Concrete Can Flake or Chip Off
Under certain conditions, the top of your concrete driveway can begin to flake or chip off. Concrete experts call this “spalling,” and it creates rough patches in the driveway where the aggregate is exposed. If you’ve ever seen a concrete driveway with a hole that seems to be full of gravel and stone, this is actually the perfect example of aggregate coming loose due to excessive spalling.
So when we talk about the importance of concrete maintenance, it’s this dreadful spalling that we’re mostly trying to avoid.
Concrete Can Crack
Another problem that is associated with concrete driveways is cracking or splitting. Concrete is exceptionally durable, but not all concrete is the same. The concrete that is used in highways and bridges is not the same concrete that is used in a residential driveway. Different materials are mixed in to the cement and aggregate base in order to give concrete certain qualities. Most residential driveways don’t need heavy-duty concrete, which is more expensive than the standard concrete used by homeowners.
As a result, if a heavy truck is parked on a concrete driveway, the concrete might not be able to hold up. It may crack or sink a little.
Concrete is also prone to cracking due to extreme shifts in moisture content, exposure to extreme heat on a sunny summer day, and exposure to water that freezes during a frigid winter.
Not all concrete cracks are avoidable. In fact, during installation the contractor may use a technique called “control joints” to help minimize the random look of jagged cracks. The idea is that cracks are somewhat inevitable in concrete due to its tendency to expand and contract in various weather conditions, and that by including a weak area in the concrete (the control joint), we can control where the crack occurs. The control joint creates a crack that is uniform, rather than one that zig-zags across the driveway.
Despite some of these unavoidable cosmetic problems, proper concrete driveway maintenance involves knowing what to do and what not to do to keep your driveway in tip-top shape.
Concrete Driveway Maintenance Dos and Don’ts
• Don’t allow dump trucks, trash trucks, moving trucks or heavy delivery trucks to park on your driveway
• Don’t use de-icers on concrete, as they cause spalling and cracking
• Do use sand as a safety measure on icy concrete
• Do use a sealer to protect your concrete driveway once a year
• Don’t ignore cracks; do call in a professional to repair them before they get out of hand
• Do ask your contractor about installing control joints in your driveway
• Do shovel your driveway to prevent snow from melting, entering the concrete and freezing again, causing cracking
• Don’t use metal shovels on your concrete driveway
• Do use soap and water to clean up stains quickly
• Do allow a new concrete driveway to cure or harden for a full 7 days before use
• Don’t use a power washer on spalling concrete, as it can worsen the problem
If you follow these tips, your concrete driveway will last a long time, remaining beautiful, safe and functional for years to come.
Cathy Habas lives in Louisville, KY. She has been a professional freelance content writer since graduating from Indiana University Southeast in 2014. Special thanks to Houston Ready Mix for giving a few inputs in this post.