Concrete is a very durable material and with the right installation it can last for several years. However, even driveways that are subjected to normal wear and tear can develop cracks and other imperfections.
While it may seem tempting from a time-saving and cost-saving standpoint, don't be shortsighted when it comes to something as important as your driveway. Major problems can arise if you try to repair your driveway when a replacement is actually needed.
Check out these tips to help you decide whether a repair or replacement is the better option in your situation.
Every driveway will experience wear and tear from usage and from natural outdoor elements like rain, snow and sun. Very small or "hairline" cracks are to be expected and are not cause for any concern. Driveways built more recently were probably constructed with control joints. Control joints, typically set every 8' to 10' help control where the hairline cracks will form, hence the name.
Driveway cracks that are less than a quarter-inch wide typically don't indicate any deeper damage to the concrete surface and can be repaired. You can choose to repair the cracks by simply filling them in, or you can opt for resurfacing. This involves filling the cracks with liquid crack-fillers and then applying an overlay to seal.
Driveway cracks that are larger often signal more significant structural issues. Filling in those cracks is only a temporary solution.
Though it's possible to DIY your resurfacing, it's important to note that filling cracks isn't as simple as you might think and is actually a highly specialized type of work. To that end, it may be wise to hire a professional contractor to do this repair work. However, be careful when receiving offers to repair driveway cracks for a few hundred dollars. If done well, cracks need to be opened up, sanded, prepped and then filled. This takes time and skilled workmanship. While repair work is less expensive than a new slab installation, reputable contractors who do that type of work will charge more than a few hundred dollars.
There's also the important issue of driveway assurance. Many contractors will offer some type of assurance on driveway projects but not on driveway repairs.
You'll eventually have to replace concrete driveways that have deep holes, numerous holes, large cracks and/or drainage issues. Patching could buy you some time and push off a replacement by a few years, but it will involve hard work on your end for DIY and an investment of time and money if you choose professional contractors. If the concrete is cracked all the way through, it should definitely be replaced.
If your driveway is approaching 20+ years old, it's likely time to complete a full replacement. Older driveways were not usually constructed using rebar reinforcement and/or were constructed with a sub-base with little or no base rock and are therefore prone to different cracking types.
If deeper cracks are not repaired, the rebar will start corroding and the subbase will wash out and settle, which in turn causes some areas to sink and others to lift. Slabs that are uneven represent a safety hazard. People can easily trip over raised edges along your driveway surface, and water/ice can accumulate in your driveway surface if there are issues with the driveway drainage. Not to mention, these imperfections are unsightly on your property.
Beyond the practical considerations around safety and utility, it might be time for a driveway replacement if you desire a different driveway style to match your house or better suit your aesthetic preferences. Some popular styles include brushed concrete and stamped concrete.
If you're gearing up for your concrete project, we suggest familiarizing yourself with some questions to ask your hardscape contractor so that you get the best experience and outcome.