Landscape

Driveways

Concrete

Concrete produces a nice, hard, clean surface to walk and park upon. Most exterior slab systems are a standard 4” thick, on top of a base of 4-6” of compacted, crushed gravel on top of undisturbed native soil. Often reinforcing wire or rebar is placed in the slab to give it more strength to support heavier loads. Producing concrete flatwork with a nice-looking surface finish requires experience and high levels of skill. Installers only get one shot at doing it right and failures can be extremely time consuming and expensive to correct. Bravo to the men and women professionals who do this work. Good drainage, will help to protect your home’s concrete flatwork including concrete floors, porches, patios, driveways, garage floors, and sidewalks. Concrete will move and crack in response to expansion and contraction of the soils under the slab system. This movement is minimized by preventing moisture from reaching soils around and under the slab system. It is a good idea to avoid washing exterior slabs with cold water from when temperatures are high and there is direct sun on the concrete. This wastes water and the abrupt change in temperature can sometimes damage the surface of the concrete. Washing of slabs can also increase soil movement by allowing water to penetrate any existing cracks and find its way to the underlying soil. I recommend sweeping or blowing to keep exterior concrete clean. If washing is necessary, do this when temperatures are moderate. The nature of concrete is it cracks. Concrete slabs shrink about ½ inch every 10 feet or so as it cures. Some of this shrinkage shows up as cracks. Cracking of concrete flatwork also results from temperature changes that cause expansion and contraction. As cracks occur, it is good to seal exterior slabs with a waterproof concrete caulk (available at hardware or home improvement stores) to prevent moisture from penetrating to the soil beneath. For indoor slabs that do not get rained upon this is less important. Do not permit extremely heavy vehicles such as moving vans or large trucks to drive on your concrete flatwork. Driving or parking on slabs with snow creates ice so it is advisable to remove snow from concrete slabs promptly before it has a chance to become compacted ice. De-icing agents, such as road salt and other chemical agents such as pet urine, fertilizers, radiator overflow, are all things that can damage or cause spalling (chipping of the surface) of concrete. Concrete sealers are available at paint/stores or hardware stores and applied prior to the winter months will help protect your outside and garage flatwork from the damaging effects of rain and road salt. Garage slabs can be coated in pleasing ways but the preparation and application of the coatings are critical for a good result. Concrete slabs vary in color due to color differences of the concrete from one truck to the next overtime the sun will bleach the concrete to a consistent color.

Asphalt

An asphalt driveway is a petroleum-based product made with aggregates and sand. Asphalt is soft and pliable when first installed and hardens when rolled with a heavy machine and over time. Fresh installations require protection from things that can damage it. Over time, the effects of weather and earth movements will cause minor settling and cracking of asphalt. Chemical spills on asphalt must be avoided. Gasoline, oil, turpentine, and various other solvents can dissolve or damage the surface. Wash such spills quickly with soap and water, and then rinse them thoroughly with plain water. Avoid any concentrated or prolonged loads on your asphalt, particularly in hot weather. High- heeled shoes, motorcycle or bicycle kickstands, trailers, or even cars left in the same spot for long periods can create depressions or punctures in asphalt. Avoid heavy, industrial type traffic such as heavy trucks on your driveway; it was likely designed for residential use only. Exposure to sunlight and other weather conditions will fade your driveway and make the surface gravel material more visible. Over time, your asphalt driveway may begin cracking. Cracks allow water to assault the driveway base and should sealed before they have a chance to worsen and cause permanent damage. For sealing asphalt driveways, use a dilute asphalt emulsion, rather than the more common coal tar sealant. Cracks that exceed 1/2inch in width should be removed and repaired.

Pavers

Think cobblestones from medieval times and you basically have the idea. Pavers come in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Pavers are from 3”-6” thick and require varying amounts of base (similar to concrete) depending on the load they will be required to support. Pavers have lots of joints, so porosity and small movements do not cause cracking problems and are of no concern. Proper preparation of the underlying soil, as well as installation of base layers and the final paver material is critical for a quality result. Erosion of the base can cause pavers to lift, loosen and settle ˘ lifetime installation. Check out just about any old town in Europe for proof.
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