You may think of your driveway in practical terms. It is a place to park your car or a convenient connection between the street and your garage. But it also does much more. Did you know that your driveway can make up as much as 50% of the viewable area of your home from the street? So if your driveway is showing its age, it's not just bad for your vehicle. Cracks, potholes, bumps, and sags can damage your tires and suspension. But a cracked, stained, or damaged driveway is also an eyesore. You could have a beautiful home, but if your driveway looks like it's seen better days, it could sink your home's curb appeal. While driveways can last a long time, they don't last forever. Sometimes, your best option is to repair your driveway. But at a certain point, complete driveway replacement makes the most sense. Here's how to tell when you need to replace your driveway.
Signs You Should Repair Your Driveway
There are times when it is not necessary to replace your entire driveway. A concrete driveway can last 50 years if it is well maintained, and an asphalt driveway can last 20 to 30 years. So before you undertake the expense of a full driveway replacement, consider these signs that you still may be able to repair your driveway and get many more years out of it.
Small Cracks That Don't Connect
Large cracks are a sign that your driveway is falling apart. But small cracks can easily be repaired. Typically, cracks that are less than one-quarter inch wide can be filled and sealed. Another important sign to look for is cracks that are disconnected. Once cracks combine into a web of damage, it may be too late. But as long as the cracks are thin and disconnected, you not only can but should get them repaired. Leaving small cracks unrepaired allows water to get in, which can freeze and expand, forcing the cracks farther apart and making them much worse. Even if you don't live in an area with freezing winters, weeds and even small trees can take root in tiny cracks and force the cracks open as they grow.
A Single Pothole
If your driveway has just a single pothole, you can likely fill it in and enjoy many more years of your repaired driveway. A pothole can result from pressure from above, like heavy vehicles, dumpsters, or machinery. Or it can be the result of problems below like settling in the dirt under the driveway. Either way, you can usually fill and seal a single pothole to avoid further damage.
Sunken or Settled Concrete
Even a driveway that is installed well can sometimes sink a little as the ground below settles. In some cases, this can cause cracks or potholes. In other cases, it may just mean that your driveway doesn't line up perfectly to your garage. If your concrete has settled and there's a bump up onto your garage, it's not hard to fix. Leaving the bump isn't terrible, though it can affect your tires and suspension after a time. Fixing the uneven joint is as simple as laying down a little more concrete on the driveway to smooth the connection between it and the garage.
Faded or Changed Color
Concrete changes color over time, and if your driveway doesn't look the same as it used to, that's just a sign of age. There's nothing wrong with a faded driveway. However, if you want it to look new again or want a new look altogether, you can reseal it. You'll need to fill in any small cracks first, and then you can apply a sealer that will take it back to its original color. If you want a new look, you can use a tinted sealer to create a variety of colors to match your personal style.
Crumbling at the Edges
Sometimes when a driveway is installed, the edges aren't thick enough. Or the dirt around the edges can slowly wash away. When that happens, the edges of the concrete can start to crumble. But don't despair. It's actually relatively simple to lay just a little new concrete and repair the edges without a full replacement.
Signs You Should Replace Your Driveway
While repairs are an option sometimes, there will be times when your driveway is too far gone for simple repairs. In these cases, replacement is the most cost-effective solution. Replacing a concrete driveway is not cheap—it can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 depending on the size and complexity of the driveway.
If you choose to replace your driveway with asphalt, you can cut the price nearly in half, but an asphalt driveway will only last 15-20 years compared to 50 years for a concrete driveway. Many people also prefer concrete because of its look.
For a more premium look, you can install stamped concrete. Stamped concrete can look like brick, stone, and other natural paving materials. It is more expensive than plain concrete but still cheaper than actual pavers.
However, if you're ready to make a large investment in your driveway, real brick, flagstone, cobblestone, and other materials have some benefits, such as the ability to replace a single stone if it is damaged or stained.
Here are some signs that your driveway may be beyond repair, and replacement is your best option.
Large, Widespread Cracks
If your driveway is sporting some serious cracks, it may not be worth trying to fill them. Once a crack has gotten to a half-inch wide or more, it cannot be effectively filled. Similarly, a network of connecting cracks is too much to repair. If your driveway is showing extensive cracks, its overall strength is compromised, and filling the cracks won't get you back to what the driveway used to be. It may be time to tear the whole thing apart and start over with a new driveway.
Lots of Potholes
One pothole, or even two or three small ones, may be fixable. But if your driveway has two or more large potholes, filling them will leave some nasty scars and may not be a permanent fix. Once a pothole grows, the ground beneath it and the area around it becomes unstable, and just filling it in won't repair the damage.
If your driveway has or is causing drainage issues, you need to fix that as soon as possible. Drainage issues may seem like a nuisance, for instance, blocking your path to the front door, but when water pools or flows toward your home, the damage can be significant. If your driveway isn't sending water straight into the gutter, your home's very foundation could be in trouble. So if your driveway is having problems handling water, you may need to replace it. You can make some improvements with drainage ditches, french drains, and other measures. But if the driveway doesn't have at least a 2% grade away from your home, anything you do is really just a bandaid on a serious wound. Replacing your driveway may seem like an expensive fix, but it's not as expensive and rebuilding your home's foundation.
Driveway Is More Than 30 Years Old
Under the right conditions and with appropriate care, a concrete driveway can last 50 years. But if your concrete driveway is more than 30 years old and has multiple issues that need repairs—e.g., a few potholes here, a few cracks there—your driveway may have reached its limit.
Thirty years is a reasonable life expectancy for a driveway under less-than-ideal conditions, and repairing a driveway that old may be an imperfect solution. There's a good chance that you will just end up making more repairs very soon. Eventually, you will sink more money into repairing a fundamentally broken driveway than you might have spent replacing it. So instead of paying for repair after repair, spend the money up front and get a brand new driveway.
Who Should Replace Your Driveway?
Driveway replacement is a big job that requires specific skills. There are some general contractors who claim to be able to replace a driveway. But when you're making that kind of investment, it pays to use a company that specializes in concrete work in general and driveway replacement in particular. So if you're ready to replace your driveway, try a TurstDALE certified driveway replacement company. When you work with companies in the TrustDALE Community of Trust, you benefit from Dale's 7-point investigative review, as well as his trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.