My wife and I just invested a large sum of money into a brand new beautiful concrete driveway, and we are wondering what should we be doing in order to make sure that our investment lasts a very long time.
Over the last 15 years, I have seen new driveways be completely destroyed and all the driveways looking good as new. In some cases, concrete can be destroyed from no fault of our own, however, in most cases, how we maintain our driveway will have a massive impact on how long it lasts.
Where I am from, the Chicagoland area in the Midwest, we deal with harsh winters and hot summers; so our concrete takes a lot of abuse from Mother Nature. So if you are in a more consistent climate area consider yourself lucky, because maintaining your concrete will be a lot easier than those of us in the Midwest.
Now that your driveway is installed and looking better than ever, it is time to take a serious look at what you will need to do and what you want to avoid in order to maintain your beautiful investment.
Without further ado, the do’s and don’t’s of maintaining a concrete driveway
Do: Water your driveway if poured in the summer
This may seem odd and completely unnecessary but is common practice and borderline tradition in the Italian community. For Italians watering your driveway is a pastime activity best spent with a glass of wine in your hand.
My neighbor laughed at me when I left the sprinkler on my driveway on and off for a week after I installed it. Not knowing that what I was doing was protecting the curing process of concrete.
Concrete takes a full 28 days to cure in ideal weather conditions. When the outside temperature is over 80°F it is extremely helpful for the concrete to be watered in order to slow down the evaporation happening from the inside of the concrete.
If the water in the concrete evaporates too fast it can compromise the integrity of the concrete and can lead to more cracks or flaking.
You cannot drown concrete after it hardens but concrete can get too dry too fast. So grab a glass of wine, throw on some Sinatra, grab a hose and water your driveway.
Do: Backfill the edges of your driveway with dirt or stone
Usually when the contractor is done installing your driveway they will remove their forms and replace any better they had to remove in order to frame up the driveway.
However, sometimes your sub-base can be exposed to the elements and we want to make sure that your sub base does not move.
Underneath your driveway should be at least 4 inches of compacted stone helping hold the driveway in place. If for some reason that stone gets washed away, hour driveway will have nothing to sit on and gravity will put so much pressure on it that it will settle and crack.
To solve this problem, make sure all the sides of you driveway or concrete slab are back filled with some kind of dirt or stone to protect the sun base from gravity and running water.
Do: Seal your driveway with a penetrating sealer
There are billions of little air pockets in your concrete that are waiting to be filled with something. In the Mideast this is where water gets trapped and frozen and makes the concrete shift.
Also in the winter, salt from the street gets in the water and finds its way inside those holes and salt does major damage to concrete.
That’s why we always recommend using a penetrating sealer that goes into the concrete and protects against salt and chemical decay.
You should seal your concrete every 2-3 years as the sealer will wear away. It is a very simple process so don’t stress over it. Also it’s a penetrating sealer so if you mess up it won’t be visually noticeable.
Sealing your driveway will help fight away any unnecessary internal decay and abuse. I highly recommend sealing your driveway after a nice deep clean.
Do: Wash your driveway regularly, sometimes even power wash
The average human showers at least once a day, but we all know that’s not actually the case. What’s important is that fact that you still clean yourself to make sure no bacteria, or disease spreads. You clean yourself for longevity and the same applies for your driveway.
Concrete is meant to be used. It is supposed to have cars, bikes, dirt, landscaping, etc on it. That’s why God made it so strong. It is not supposed to be abused tho.
If you get a bunch of mulch dropped off at your house, put a tarp down on your driveway where the mulch is going to go. Inevitably, mulch and dirt will get on your driveway and that’s all fine and dandy, just wash it off immediately after.
I would go as far as saying if you spill a drink on the concrete to wash it off right away. You don’t have to bust the power washer out every time, but a solid rinse to where all the foreign objects are off your concrete will do just fine.
Once a year or right before you apply the penetrating sealer, or when absolutely necessary, take the power washer out and give it a nice gentle scrub to get all the dirt and residue out of the crevasses.
Wash your hands after the bathroom. Wash your concrete too.
Don’t: Salt your driveway to remove ice or snow
I know, salt is the quickest and easiest way to remove salt off of concrete but you cannot succumb to the temptations of instant results and must find another to remove snow and ice.
Just like Kryptonite is Superman’s weakness, Salt is the absolute antidote to concrete.
Almost every time I visit a customer who has a pitted driveway, they all say that they use salt on their driveway in the winter and almost all of them have never heard that salt destroys concrete.
This breaks my heart every time I answer these calls because this is something completely avoidable and can add so many years to the life of your driveway.
I am writing a post about the relationship between salt and concrete for more information, but for right now, just know that you should NEVER use salt on concrete and if you bring salt in from the street, to wash it off your car and driveway and use sand on your driveway as an alternative.
Don’t: spill Oils, grease, or chemicals
For all of my car nuts out there, please put a blanket or plastic or something down under your car when you are working on it.
I understand the price of an oil change is outrageous and you’re better off doing it yourself, but at what cost? Oil changes can get dirty quick and that stuff will stain your driveway so easily and is so hard to get out.
If you have a leaky car and must park in your driveway, protect your driveway with something or get the car fixed as soon as possible. The more chemicals that linger in your driveway the weaker and worse off your driveway becomes.
We installed a beautiful California finish driveway for my cousin and two weeks later his step son parked his truck on it (like it is used for) and went to fill up his anti freeze and completely missed the mouth of the container and spilled everywhere.
Luckily, he was able to bust out the power washer and remove as much as he could and there is still a stain of where he spilled.
If you can avoid it, do all open oils and chemicals in the street and away from the beautiful work.
Don’t: Drop dumpsters or storage containers
When the time comes to do some remodeling, you may need to rent a garbage dumpster and most likely they will need to drop it on your driveway. If you can avoid having a dumpster on your driveway, by all means avoid it. If you cannot however, take some precautions to protect the surface.
Some disposal companies in my area offer to bring plywood to put on the driveway to help reduce scratching and help distribute some of the weight of the dumpster.
The weight of the dumpster is also an issue. If you can fill it up quick and get it off your driveway, you are doing yourself and your driveway a huge favor.
Extreme weight is not good for a normal driveway so extreme weight over long periods of time is devastating to the structure of your concrete slab.
I also see people leaving storage containers in their driveway. In some cases this is fine if you are storing light weight items or using it for short periods of time, but please do not let this be a long term solution for storage, for the sake of your driveway.
Don’t: Undermine your driveway
Maybe you have a downspout you want to direct under your sidewalk to the other side and you have to dig to put a pipe underneath. Maybe you want to do the same for an electrical pipe. These are both normal cases for digging under concrete, however, you must properly backfill stone and dirt so no extra sublease is removed.
If you can avoid digging under your concrete slab, please do so by all means necessary.
Concrete needs a solid sub-base to keep its strength and stability, so any time the sub-base is altered, you are developing a potential danger for the concrete slab itself.
Any time you make a sizable investment, you want to make sure it lasts and you get your money’s worth. Follow these Do’s and Don’t’s and you will be setting yourself for a long, happy life with your new concrete driveway.
Comment below what you do to help maintain your driveway, or what you did that made your driveway worse. Sharing helps us all!