How to Prep and PaveYour Driveway the Right Way

Being in the construction industry affords me the opportunity to see many different scenarios unfold when it comes to driveways, parking lots and roadways. Sometimes they are done correctly, but often times corners are cut and money is spared at the expense of the job being done the way it should be. When it come to the homeowner or business entrepreneur planning on replacing their driveway, there are ways of getting the job done right.

First of all, how many of you have cracks in their driveway? Taking this one step further, how many of you are planning on just filling the cracks with crack sealer or covering their existing driveway with the black crud known as latexite or driveway sealer? I know many of you are planning on it or have recently done so. This, in my opinion, is a mistake! These procedures are a temporary quick fix acting as a band-aid ONLY! What these sealers do is make things worse for your driveway as blacktop is porous and air should be able to get in to the blacktop to breathe, so to speak. The sealer acts as just that a sealer that doesn’t allow the blacktop to breathe. Eventually, the cracks will come back and more so as a result of the sealer being used.

Then their are those of you that will decide to just pave over the existing driveway, which is fine and dandy IF the driveway is in good shape with limited or no cracks being evident. Paving over pot holes, cracks, areas of broken up or little to no blacktop being covered with an inch or two of blacktop will again just add temporary relief.

The ideal solution would be to rip out the existing blacktop first and foremost! This will enable you to alleviate a few key potential and current problems. For one, any problem with grades(ie. puddles, water not flowing off of the driveway correctly, or not enough pitch) can be rectified. By using a laser, or lock level and some string line, hammer and grade stakes, you can properly correct the issues of sub par grade issues. It is ideal to maintain atleast a grade slope of 1%. By this I mean that if your driveway is 25 feet long, 3″ (6″ for a 50′ driveway and so on) of pitch from your garage to the street is sufficient with more pitch, making it that much better to allow water to flow freely away from garages and door opening especially. A lock level and laser is nothing more than a way of finding a level grade from point a to point b and thus allow you to better create slope. These tools are similar to a line level or other gadget used to hang pictures or shelves straight.

Once you place the grade stakes outlining the dimensions of you existing or new driveway design firmly into the ground using a sledge hammer, you can establish level grades using the laser or lock level. Place these level grades on the stakes using a marker. The level grades should be set to the garage floor-VERY IMPORTANT! It is best to work with the floor and work off of the garage floor to reduce the possibility of water running into your garage, unless you plan on adding a curtain or other type of drain! So, you have level grades, now, tie the string to all the marked level grades on the stakes. You now have a good presentation of what your drive way is doing as if it were a straight plane with the existing garage floor. Now, you can go ahead and change the level grades on the stakes to create a 1% or greater pitch away from your garage and to which side of your driveway you want the water to flow as stated below.

Care should also be taken to address the way you want the water to flow and ride ability as well. By this I mean, say you have woods on the right side of your driveway and lawn on the left side but the lawn is sloped down away from your driveway, you probably do not want excess water flowing and ponding in your front lawn, therefore it is advisable to buildup the left side of your driveway to enable the water to flow into the woods. Another good example of water flow has to do with the street in front of your driveway. If your driveway is lower than the street meaning the water travels into your driveway from the road, by picking up the grade around the driveway apron or creating a berm or lip, you will keep the water from continuously flowing into your driveway and lawn areas.

Once you have established your grades and feel confident with these grades, you will need to determine if the material under your existing driveway is suitable for pavement being placed on top of it. Also based on your grades, do you have enough material(ie. process stone, or other suitable alternative) to properly bring the grade up to where you need to be. You also have to take into account the depth or thickness of the blacktop that you would like to put down. I think that a base of 46″ of processed stone and 3-4 inches of blacktop will do a yeoman job of creating a solid and nice looking driveway. This scenario could change depending on if you have alot of clay or large gravel rocks underneath. If this is the case you many want to undercut some of the less suitable material out and replace with better material such as processed stone. The key once the stone is added and before you are ready to pave, is to allow the stone to set for a couple weeks or so. This will help with the compaction or hardness of the processed stone binding with the larger and smaller stone in the process. Compaction will help to create a smooth and firm based surface and enable you to determine if your previous steps taken are ideal with no soft areas or large rocks coming up through the processed stone.

Now it is time to pave!!!! Depending on what vehicles you have will make a difference in your decision on how thick the blacktop should be, whether you should pave in two lifts or as a one shot deal, and also the type of mix, for example a class 1 stone asphalt consist of larger stone in the mix while a class 2 blacktop contains smaller stone or a neater and smoother driveway. If you have larger trucks and plan on doing a lot of turning around in the driveway, a two shot drive way would be better also using the large stone mix will be ideal, as the changes of the smaller stone segregating up from the asphalt causing noticeable holes will diminish.

Their are many paving crews and companies that can do the job for you, but by having a knowledgeable outlook for the job at hand will only help you to save money by the company trying to get you to buy to much or give you false quotes and ideas. You, now have the ability to actually know what is going on and can talk to the paving crew in an intelligent dialect, and your changes of getting scammed becomes less.

Once the blacktop has been laid, the roller should be able to smooth out the lines and create a smooth and shiny driveway with the proper compaction to allow your driveway to withstand the rigors of mother nature, kids and vehicle spills etc.

This is a quick but suitable procedure for redoing your driveway and can also carry over to other home improvement jobs, such as installing a pool, hot tub, or child’s playset properly, or deck.

Not cutting corners and taking the time to do it right will only save you time and money in the future. Why skip over a $100.00 bill to pick up a $20.00 bill? Same with a properly planned and followed through home improvement to add to the glamor of your house and increasing the value of your property.

Time to get started towards beautification of your property and what better way that redoing your driveway!!!!
Good luck!

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