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7 Signs It’s Time for Driveway ReplacementA look at 7 telltale signs that mean you may need to replace your driveway rather than repair it.
Do you suffer from driveway envy when someone in your neighborhood replaces their driveway with a new, pristine concrete slab? Does it make you look at your own aging driveway with a critical eye?
When replacing an existing concrete or asphalt driveway with new concrete, there are a number of things to consider. Can you repair the driveway at a lower cost? Is it detracting from the curb appeal of your home? Does the driveway have major cracks or settling? Is it difficult to drive on or not draining properly?
Here are the signs to look for before you take on the expense of a complete driveway replacement:
1. SIGNIFICANT CRACKING
Cracks can form in both concrete and asphalt driveways over time and are usually nothing more than an aesthetic issue. If the cracks are fairly thin (about 1/8 inch), you can often get away with just repairing them (see Concrete Driveway Crack Repair). But if they are significantly wider, it’s a good idea to contact a contractor to make sure there isn’t a bigger problem affecting the structural integrity of the slab.
When deciding whether to repair the cracks or replace the slab completely, keep in mind that even a small crack can turn into a large problem if deicing salts, water, and other substances are allowed to seep into the cracks and cause further damage. Although filling the cracks may stop water penetration, it won’t be the most permanent or attractive solution. The patched cracks are likely to be visible and will often require repatching later.
2. BADLY SPALLED SURFACE
Is your concrete driveway crumbling, pitting, or chipping away at the surface? This unsightly problem, called spalling, results in a weak surface that is susceptible to breakage. Spalled concrete is most often caused by exposure to deicing salts, poor finishing techniques, too much water in the concrete mix, and improper curing. Although it’s possible to patch the spalled area with a color-matching compound (see How to Repair Spalling Concrete), extensive spalling will usually require ripping out and replacing the entire slab.
3. POOR DRAINAGE
A driveway that fails to drain properly can lead to serious problems, especially if the driveway is directing water toward your home’s foundation rather than allowing it to run off the surface. The water can also penetrate down to the subgrade and cause soil erosion.
In some cases, it may be possible to install a drain that will collect the water at a low point in the concrete and divert it away. But sometimes the only solution to eliminating standing water is to replace the driveway so the water slopes toward the street and away from existing structures.
4. SINKING OR SETTLING
If your driveway slab is sinking in spots, the problem is most likely due to a poorly compacted subgrade or soil erosion. In addition to being an eyesore, a settling slab often results in cracks, bumps, and uneven joints that can take a toll on your car’s tires and suspension.
If only a section of your driveway is settling, it can sometimes be raised back to its original position by using a process called slabjacking. But if the settling is severe, replacing the driveway and correcting the subgrade may be the only solution.
5. SIGNS OF NEGLECT
Not maintaining your driveway regularly can lead to you replacing it earlier than planned. Cleaning your driveway on occasion and keeping it sealed will keep it looking and performing its best. Oil, gasoline or grease spills, can cause permanent stains if they are allowed to penetrate into the concrete. And if you haven't resealed your driveway for several years, exposure to deicing chemicals and freeze-thaw cycles in winter can result in ugly surface scaling and spalling.
Learn more: How to Maintain Your Concrete Driveway.
6. IT’S PAST ITS PRIME
A properly installed and maintained concrete driveway should last 30 years or longer (see How Long Will Concrete Last?). While asphalt driveways have a service life of about 15 years.
Once a driveway nears the end of its lifespan, it will begin to show its age. You’re likely to notice more significant signs of wear and tear, such as cracking, crumbling, and fading. If you have an older driveway, you’re usually better off investing your money in replacing it rather than trying to fix it.
7. LACK OF CURB APPEAL
Maybe you have a driveway that’s perfectly sound but looks outdated and doesn’t complement your home or landscape. If your existing asphalt or concrete driveway has seen better days and is failing to turn heads, replacing it with a new decorative concrete pavement could be a great investment, especially if you’re planning to sell your home in the near future (see How to Improve Curb Appeal with Decorative Concrete).
Although resurfacing is another option if you want to give your concrete driveway a new look, you should never try to resurface a driveway that is severely cracked or damaged.
IS REPLACING A DRIVEWAY A GOOD INVESTMENT?
That largely depends on the condition of your existing driveway. In some cases, repair or resurfacing may be the most cost-effective option, at least in the short run. But most repairs will only be a temporary fix, and there will be times when a driveway is too structurally unsound for simple repairs. In these cases, replacing the driveway with new concrete will be the most cost-effective and long-term solution.
Although a new concrete driveway can cost anywhere from $5 to $18 per square foot (see Cost of a Concrete Driveway), you will get a surface that will last for decades while significantly improving the resale value of your home. If you decide to replace your driveway with asphalt to cut the initial price, you will often end up paying more in the long run because asphalt has a shorter life expectancy and higher maintenance costs (see Asphalt vs. Concrete Driveway).
IS IT POSSIBLE TO REPLACE SECTIONS OF A DRIVEWAY?
Yes, you can replace only certain sections of a driveway while leaving the rest of the slab intact. That can be a viable solution when the damage is localized, such as cracks, lifting, or settling caused by tree roots or the weight of heavy commercial vehicles. But color matching the new concrete to the existing concrete can be a challenge, and the color difference is likely to be noticeable. If the age of your driveway is past the 30-year mark, a full replacement will be the most cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing option.
WHO SHOULD YOU HIRE TO REPLACE YOUR DRIVEWAY?
Replacing a driveway is a big investment. It pays to hire a company that specializes in concrete work and driveway replacement in particular. If you want a custom-designed decorative concrete driveway that complements the rest of your home and landscape, find a contractor that also specializes in stamped and stained concrete.
Learn more: Get tips for hiring a contractor for exterior concrete work
How well your new concrete driveway looks and performs long-term is largely related to the quality of workmanship and materials that go into it. To ensure your new concrete driveway looks good for many years, make sure your contractor follows these concrete driveway construction essentials during installation.