So your concrete driveway is crumbling to stone. Can you fix it and how do you avoid this in the future?
Each crumbling driveway is a special case and the size of the damaged area of your concrete driveway will depend if you can fix it or not.
I have listed the 3 most common cases of crumbling driveways and the possible solutions to fix this problem.
Case 1 (Pitting):
You are seeing crumbling in one or two specific areas on your driveway no bigger than 1×1 foot squares. This is very limited damage and can be common amongst concrete driveways.
This is also called “pitting” where the rocks in the concrete have popped out and the surface looks like it has pits missing from it. This is very common and does not affect the integrity or the strength of concrete.
Most of the time pitting comes from salt sitting on your driveway for an extended period of time. Salt acts like a flesh eating disease for concrete. If you live in a cold weather climate where the city uses salt to melt snow on the roads, your car is picking up and holding onto the salt under the car and in the wheel wells.
Then you park your car in your driveway and the salt/salty water drips in one spot and sits, burning away at the surface of your concrete driveway. After some time, on an unprotected driveway, this chemical reaction will cause the cement to wear away and the rocks to dissolve and pit.
Leaving you with spots of crumbling concrete known, again, as Pitting.
Solution: If the pitting is small and in limited areas, there is one solution that will help prevent pitting from spreading and happening in other locations.
I suggest giving your driveway a nice deep clean with a power washer to get any salt, oils, and dust residue off and out of your driveway.
PRO TIP: Power washing your driveway is great common practice even without any damage present. Like anything well maintained and taken care of, a clean concrete driveway will last longer and continue to provide a strong finished surface.
After your concrete driveway is as clean as it can get, let it dry over a couple of hours and then apply a Penetrating Salt Guard Sealer to the entirety of your driveway. You will know your driveway is dry when the color becomes lighter again and the shimmer from the water no longer exists.
To apply the penetrating sealer (I prefer SaltGuard) you will need a 5 gallon aluminum spray can. Spray the sealer in a circular motion hovering at least 3 feet over the concrete for a nice even spread. Since this is a Penetrating sealer you will not see a drastic difference on the surface of the concrete if any at all.
Your small area of crumbling will remain damaged however it should not grow and the sealer should protect the rest of your driveway from Pitting. I would also suggest washing your driveway at least once and year and reapplying the penetrating sealer every 2 years.
Case 2 (Small and Fixable):
You have a sizable damage area where you are almost down to stone. This will look like a bunch of cases of pitting all bunched together.
The crumbling is not covering your entire driveway but it is a big enough area to be removed and replaced with bags of concrete if needed. Usually no bigger than 50 square feet (7×7).
This type of damage may be caused by a bad batch of concrete where potential chemicals were added, or the concrete had too much water added when poured. The crumbling can also be caused from extreme exposure to outside chemicals like salt or acids. Or plain and simply, you could just have a really old driveway where natural wear and tear have finally won their fight.
Solution: Cut around the affected area and remove the crumbling concrete. This will limit your expense of fixing the entire driveway and slow the spread of the affected area.
You will need a concrete saw, hammer drill, rebar dowels, sledge hammer or jack hammer, bags of concrete, water, straight edge (for grading), and finishing tools like a float, edge, trowel, and finishing broom.
After carefully removing the concrete as to not damage the unaffected areas, you will want to drill into the sides of the existing concrete and pound rebar dowels as to tie the new concrete into the existing driveway.
PRO TIP: Installing rebar dowels will help bind the existing driveway with the new concrete you will pour to complete your driveway. Rebar reinforcement makes for a stronger, longer lasting concrete slab.
Case 3 (Beyond Repair):
Your entire driveway is worn down to rubble, usually caused by long periods of time, extremely bad batch of concrete, or unbelievable abuse of concrete. This is the worst case scenario and most likely completely beyond DIY repair.
When your driveway is completely in shambles and nothing but rubble, there really is no “fixing” that is going to last any length of time.
A concrete driveway in shambles has usually gone through massive amounts of abuse and most likely has many years under its belt. Driveways that are unkept and unmaintained can end in rubble over 20-30 years of use. So it is in your best interest to routinely wash and seal your driveway.
Solution: You can either leave the driveway as is and use it as a stone driveway, which can have its own sets of dangers but still has use. Many rural driveways are composed of compacted stone and it is 100% useful. Your second solution is to contact a concrete contractor in your area and price out removing and replacing your concrete driveway.
You will usually come across a couple reputable contractors in your area and prices can range anywhere from $4-$9 per square foot for concrete.
My best advice is to hire someone who has been in business over 7 years and to find someone that is recommended to you by someone you trust.
There are many contractors out there who have bought a truck last week and now claim to be a concrete contractor, and there are many who have lasted the test of time and have hundreds of happy customers who still reap the benefits of their investments today.
PRO TIP: When shopping around for a contractor, ask many questions and also ask for their advice. If they are not measuring the space, you are not getting an accurate price.
Questions to ask:
- What kind of reinforcement will you be using? (Answer should be wire mesh or gridded rebar)
- What finishing style do you recommend? (They should list at least 2 styles and possibly mention decorative or stamped concrete)
- Are you insured and bonded? (if the contractor is digging and they hit an electrical line and they are also not insured, you are now stuck with a bill that they may or may not cover. So working with an insured contractor is always a good idea.)
- Are their any driveways in the area you have finished? If so, can I have the address? (Go over and look at their work. Does it look nice, does it look flat, is it cracked or pitted? See their quality and even ask the home owner how their experience was)
Concrete is not the cheapest option for driveway paving and it is not the most expensive option, nonetheless, it is an investment of your money and the more homework you do, the more confident you are with investing your money.
In Case 1 where pitting is involved, I am confident you can successfully clean and seal your driveway on your own as a DIY project and should only cost you a couple hours of your time and maybe $50 worth of sealer.
In Case 2, you will have to make a decision if you are comfortable enough to make this a DIY project. You will need some uncommon equipment that is easily accessible for rent from any construction supply store and you will also need to do some homework on concrete finishing, however, I am confident that you could potentially make this a DIY project and be happy with your hard work and the end result.
In Case 3, I strongly advise not taking this on as a DIY project. I know this is an unpopular opinion in the DIY community, however, I have to be truthful and will not say that this is an easy project that anyone can complete successfully. If you work in the concrete industry as a trade and have a couple of friends who do as well who are willing to assist you in completing this project, then go for it!
Read this article I wrote “Can I Pour My Own Concrete Driveway” which lays out 5 considerations to make before taking on this project for yourself.
It is always my goal to educate and inspire you all and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge with you and help solve all of your concrete needs.