KB Concrete Staining, Norco, CA

Ideally, a concrete driveway will last the lifetime of your home. But, there are conditions that can shorten its lifespan and result in unsightly cracking, discoloration, settlement or scaling.

The typical causes of concrete driveway distress include:

  • An improperly compacted subgrade
  • The use of an inadequate concrete mix
  • Exposure to severe weather conditions
  • Bad placement procedures

Rather than ripping out the concrete and starting over, you can often save money by repairing your driveway, as long as the concrete is structurally sound. If you aren't sure of the structural integrity of your driveway, have a professional concrete contractor near you assess the condition of your concrete and make repair recommendations.

Before beginning any driveway repair project, the first and most important step is to figure out what caused the damage and then determine the best repair procedure for solving the problem (read this troubleshooting advice). Depending on the condition of the concrete and your budget, your options for driveway repair range from a simple color enhancement by applying a coat of stain to total concrete resurfacing with a decorative overlay.

REPAIR, RESURFACE, OR REPLACE - HOW TO DECIDE?

As long as your driveway is structurally sound, there are ways to repair minor—and even major—defects without tearing out and completely replacing it.

Defect Repair Options DIY or Contractor?
SMALL CRACKS/HOLES LESS THAN 1/4" Patch or fill DIY or hire a contractor, depending on the extent of cracking
LARGE CRACKS/HOLES GREATER THAN 1/4",
SPALLING, SCALING, OR DISCOLORATION
Resurface
Engrave
Re-color
Hire a contractor
SINKING Slabjack Hire a contractor
STRUCTURAL DAMAGE Replace Hire a contractor

DRIVEWAY REPAIR SOLUTIONS

Patch or fill small cracks

  • Cracks or holes less than ¼” wide generally don’t pose a structural threat and can be filled or patched as a temporary fix.
  • Fillers and patches are visibly different than the concrete they are applied to. If there are a lot of areas to fix, this can result in an unappealing blotchy overall look, so that is something to be considered.
  • Also, patches aren’t water tight, meaning that eventually, water will seep between the patch and original concrete, reopening the crack or hole.
  • Filling a few small cracks or holes can be a relatively easy DIY project done with materials purchased at your local hardware store.

Concrete resurfacing to cover larger cracks or surface problems

  • Large cracks or holes greater than ¼”, spalling (horizontal peeling or chipping of the surface), and discoloration can be covered with resurfacing or a concrete overlay (a thin layer of cement-based material applied directly over the existing concrete).
  • Resurfacing allows you to add decorative finishes such as stamping or coloring.
  • Your driveway will look like new without the added work and expense of removing it and installing a new one.
  • A middle ground between patching and replacing, refinishing with an overlay provides a longer lasting and more aesthetic repair than patching.

Concrete engraving to disguise cracks or flaws

  • For concrete with minor cracking or discoloration, you can completely disguise the flaws by engraving a pattern in the surface.
  • With engraving, the concrete is stained first and then a special routing machine is used to cut the pattern into the surface, creating faux grout lines.
  • Depending on the pattern you choose, the flaws in the concrete can actually contribute to the look.
  • Learn more about concrete engraving.

Recoloring to revive or correct the look

  • Discoloration of concrete driveways can be due to a number of causes including weathering, sun exposure, improper color application, and absorption of stubborn grease and oil stains.
  • In most cases, the concrete color can be revived by applying a new coat of acid or water-based stain (see Changing the Color of Integrally Colored Concrete).
  • Use a UV-resistant staining product and protect the concrete with a good sealer and your newly colored driveway should maintain its beauty for many years.

Before and after: Driveway restoration with water-based stains. See more on this project below. Floor Seasons, Las Vegas, NV.

Slabjacking to lift sunken concrete

  • If your driveway slab is sinking in spots, the problem is most likely due to a poorly compacted subgrade or soil erosion.
  • Slabs can be raised back to their original position by pumping a mixture of sand, cement, fly ash, and other additives beneath the slab—a process called slabjacking.
  • See this overview of how slabjacking can fix a sunken concrete driveway.

Is it time to replace your driveway?

Cracks or holes larger than ¼” wide can often indicate a bigger problem and require more investigation. Are there roots growing under the concrete causing it to crack or lift? Is there a leaky pipe causing erosion under the slab causing it to sink, crack, or get discolored? If an underlying cause such as these is discovered, you may be left with no other choice but to replace your driveway.

Keep in mind that any repair is temporary, although some will last longer than others-possibly many years. However, the structural integrity of the driveway as a whole is only as good as the underlying concrete and will eventually require further repair or eventual replacement. In the short run, repairs will save you money, but they may just be delaying a much bigger job.

COST COMPARISON

The best way to get an idea of what your repairs will cost is to get an estimate from a contractor near you. They can assess the extent of the damage and can recommend the appropriate solution.

Patch or fill: Do-it-yourself solutions can be as low as $10 if only filling a few small cracks or holes.

Resurfacing: Hiring a professional can range from $3 to $10 per square foot (or higher) depending on the addition of decorative options and surface prep required.

Engraving & Staining: Costs can vary greatly depending on color and design choices.

Slabjacking: Depending on how far the concrete has fallen and the size of the slab to be lifted, costs can vary. Get a quote from a RamJack contractor.

Replace: If you determine that repair or restoration isn't an option, find out more about the cost of pouring a new driveway. Keep in mind, there may be additional costs for replacing versus just pouring new, such as tear-out and disposal, as well as any costs associated with correcting the cause of the damage (tree roots, plumbing, etc.)

DIY vs HIRING A CONTRACTOR

  • As with most home improvement projects, DIY costs are usually lower-that is, if you have the right tools and the ability to do the job right the first time.
  • Patching or filling small cracks can be done easy enough with a pre-mixed patch material.
  • Larger projects like resurfacing are best left to the professionals with strict requirements for surface prep, forming, concrete mix, and finishing.
  • Coloring, re-coloring, and staining should also be done by a contractor who understands how different coloring products work together (i.e. acid-based vs water-based stains) and the different surface prep requirements and restrictions.
  • Engraving and slabjacking both require specialized equipment and training, so again, these are jobs best left to the pros.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What are some common causes of concrete driveway cracks? There are many reasons why your driveway may develop cracks. Improper subgrade prep, poor concrete mix, or shrinkage when curing are all factors that can cause cracks and stem from incorrect initial installation of a driveway. Weather-related causes such as freeze-thaw cycles, and general wear and tear over time can also result in cracking and other surface issues.

How do I fix concrete damage from salt? In climates where freeze-thaw cycles happen regularly and deicing chemicals are used, surface damage called spalling or scaling is common. Learn more about how to deal with spalling issues and prevent it from occurring in your driveway or garage.

Do oil stains need be cleaned before repairing or resurfacing my driveway? Yes, oil stains will need to be cleaned before any repair, staining, or resurfacing can be done. Learn the best way to remove oil stains from concrete.

If I have a problem with my sealer, can that be superficially repaired? Many times driveway problems are superficial and don't require a full repair or restoration. One example would be problems with the sealer coat. Learn more about different issues that can occur with sealers and possible solutions, including dealing with hot tire marks.

CONCRETE DRIVEWAY REPAIR PROJECTS

Envision Concrete in Escondido, Calif.

Bamboo-Patterned Driveway Overlay

A garden full of bamboo plants was the inspiration for this concrete driveway overlay, which is stamped with a pattern of bamboo leaves over a light stone texture.

Champney Concrete Finishing in Lynchburg, Va.

A Tree-Themed Driveway Enhances a House in the Woods

When the stain began flaking away from this home’s long, winding concrete driveway, a decorative overlay with a circular tree motif gave it a complete transformation.

Floor Seasons in Las Vegas, NV

Color Makeover Restores a Faded Driveway

This colored concrete driveway was streaked and faded due to weather exposure and improper maintenance. Water-based stains, in the colors of bark brown and light adobe, were used to revive the original color.

Pizzazz Painting in Las Vegas, NV

Stains Disguise Driveway Cracking

Some homeowners think there is no hope for a driveway with deep cracks and crevices. But sometimes the solution is simple and can have stunning results. On this project, the concrete driveway was stained a warm walnut tone to accentuate the existing cracks and give it a rich leather-like appearance.

Concrete Illusions Inc in Kankakee, IL

Engraving Restores a Concrete Driveway

This existing driveway was transformed with color and engraved patterns, including seven brick-patterned circles.