Concrete Driveway Installation Overview
A concrete driveway seems to be a fairly simple project. It’s just concrete right? This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality driveway installations can vary greatly from one contractor to another. Tuck GC, Inc. always tries to provide the best value for the customer. We will never have the cheapest or most expensive price. We do provide professional contractor services at a very fair price. I hope upon review of our installation methods you will agree we are your first choice for a concrete driveway contractor.
This video shows the step by step installation of a concrete driveway by our company. You will see in the video all recommended procedures are followed resulting in a proper install.
Below we will breakdown all the steps to the installation that should be followed for a solid concrete driveway. This link to The Concrete Network provides a reputable third party source for concrete driveway basics.
The proper base is important to a concrete driveway installation. The base though can affect the cost greatly. More digging, labor, dump runs, and materials are needed to install the driveway with a solid base. This is one place driveway cost good vary greatly from contractor to contractor. With an unlimited budget I would recommend 8” of #57 gravel, then 4” of 21a gravel, a vapor barrier, wire mesh, 24” on center #4 rebar, and 8” of concrete. Installing to these standards though will double the cost of the project. It is an overkill for a residential driveway. To provide the best value we recommend in most situations a 4” base of 21a, wire mesh, and 4” of concrete. It is very important to compact the gravel with a tamper. With these specifications a residential driveway should last 30 plus years.
The type of concrete mix used is very important. Even the type of truck hired matters. Volumetric concrete truck mixers are good for patio bases with veneer on top or footing systems. They are not typically used for driveways. A ready mix truck with concrete mixed from the plant is best. You want to make sure you use the closest concrete plant to your job site as well. On a hot day you don’t want your concrete sitting on a truck for a long time. The mix itself is important too. Most companies use a 3,500 PSI mix or even less. We elect to use a 4,000 PSI mix. For only about $20 a yard more, it is worth the small cost to upgrade to the stronger mix. Different slumps, air-entrainment, plasticizers, water deducing, retarding, and accelerating chemicals can be used to change the nature of the concrete.
Steel reinforcement can be used in a few ways. Typically, where the driveway meets to garage we will drill and embed #4 rebar with epoxy. We place the steel in the garage foundation to prevent sinking at this important seam. Industrial wire mesh is installed throughout the entire slab on all driveway installs. As an upgrade, #4 rebar can be placed 24” on center but is not really necessary for most residential applications. The key thing to remember about steel reinforcement is it will not prevent cracks. The goal of the steel is to prevent separation and sinking once cracks occur.
As an alternative to steel, fiber can be used to reinforce the concrete. Fibers look like insulation and help to prevent cracks from spreading. It works very well and can be used in conjunction with steel. The downside of fibers is the broom finish will be altered and not as aesthetically pleasing as a concrete driveway without fibers. If you are willing to sacrifice the look a little for a stronger product, then fibers can be a sound choice.
The concrete thickness is a key step to preventing cracking on a driveway. Some contractors will “cheat” the gravel and only pour your slab 3” thick. This is not a best practice. We pour all our concrete at a minimum of 4” ranging closer to 5”. We have options to upgrade to a full 6” when needed. When adding #4 rebar to a concrete driveway, 6-7” is always recommended so there is at least 3” on each side of the steel bar.
Control and Expansion Joints
Control joints in concrete are hand tooled joints placed at strategic locations to prevent visible cracking in the center of the slab sections. The control joints are weak points placed in the concrete driveway to guide the concrete to crack in these locations. Concrete will crack, so the joints provide a well-placed location to make cracks less visible. Expansion joints are material place on a cold joint. Cold joints are where an existing slab meets a new slab. These joints are typical at the garage, apron, and walkway seams, as well as between two truck pours on large loads.
Finishing the concrete is both important to both the strength of the concrete and the final look of your driveway. Once the concrete is poured out, you must first screed the concrete for a level surface. Almost immediately a magnesium bull float with be applied to the surface. Hand tools are then used to round the edges and cut control joints. Light toweling is done in the hand towel locations to hide grooves placed by the other tools. This step be done once the bleed water is minimal and the concrete is setting up. As a final step forms are removed and a broom finish is applied to all exposed surfaces.
Decorative options can be added to a concrete driveway for a more aesthetically pleasing look. We really like to weigh the pros and cons of the different added options with our customers. Unfortunately adding colors or borders adds a weakness and maintenance concerns to a concrete driveway. With any paver, brick, or stone application consideration needs to be placed on the joint longevity. With road grime and salts you will be replacing your joints every ten years. Color can fade or break away from the surface leaving ugly spots and no real solution to fix it down the road. We think decorative options can be very nice and we recommend certain types to increase the strength and lower costs down the road. We just want you to clearly know what you are getting into before you sign up for a project that is double or triple the price of a standard concrete driveway. We take our time to instruct you based on our experience with 1000s of concrete pours what is the best option for you and your budget. Below are common options added to concrete driveways.
- Color and Stamping
- Decorative Borders
- Pavers, Brick, and Stone
- Permeable Surface