Your concrete driveway is a combination of aggregates (a mix of sand, gravel and crushed stone) and glue. When these ingredients are mixed together with water, they bind together to form a rock-like slab. The good news this slab will continue to harden as it ages. The bad news is that without these simple maintenance tips, your driveway could begin to crack and develop a scaly appearance. When this happens you may be up for some costly repairs, or lose some of that golden curb appeal.
The best way to ensure your driveway will stay in pristine condition for many years to come is to understand the curing process during installation. Proper curing is vital to developing the overall quality and durability of the driveway. Moisture is the catalyst for the melding of the 2 primary ingredients, and if the concrete dries out too fast, the process will stop prematurely. The end result will be a weakened driveway or a scaly (flaky) appearance. It is not so much what you do while the concrete is being installed by the professional. It depends on what you do after he leaves that will contribute to the quality of the slab. You should:
- Not use the driveway for 3 days if you have a compact to mid-size car. Trucks, vans or SUVs should not park on the drive for 7 days.
- Avoid the use of any type of de-icing salts on it during the first winter months of its installation. De-icing products using ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate should never be used.
- Do not dig near your driveway to avoid risk of weakening its support grade. Any shifting will cause cracks and surface irregularities.
No matter how old your driveway may be, it's never too late to seal and protect it from the elements. Sealing is the easiest way to protect the driveway from cracking. Once cracking sets in it's hard to stop. To prevent this from happening, start preparing for winter in September. You should:
- Power wash the driveway to remove all sediment and oils. Then apply a sealer.
- When the snow does arrive, shovel regularly. The goal is to not allow water to seep into the concrete, freeze and then cause cracking.
- Jagged, bent or worn metal shovels can tear up the surface of your driveway, so it is better to use the plastic snow shovels when removing snow. Any other sharp instruments used to remove ice will pose the same risk.
Choosing A Sealer
There are 2 main types of sealers to choose from. These are the "dry look" seal and the "wet look" seal. Though similar in function they do have key differences. The wet look sealer:
- Forms a film on the surface of the concrete leaving a wet look on the surface
- Provides surface protection from oils and grease
- Is less expensive but requires more frequent applications then the dry look sealer
The dry look sealer:
- Seeps and penetrates into the concrete, which creates longer protection and will not discolor the driveway
- Does not protect from stains and grease
- Usually costs more than its counter part, due to its extended protection properties (up to 10 years)