Spend enough time working as an asphalt or concrete driveway contractor and you’ll encounter your fair share of driveway nightmares. For instance, most contractors love the Do It Yourself ethos (even if it occasionally cuts into the bottom line), because they know it’s better for American homeowners to be self-sufficient. Unfortunately, concrete driveways are deceptively simple projects, and it’s easy for a DIY driveway job to turn into a total DIY disaster.
In the past few years, driveway contractors have received more calls than usual asking for help repairing a DIY driveway gone awry. Unfortunately, that’s nothing compared to the con-men who pull a common driveway scam. Earlier this year in Topeka, Kansas, the Better Business Bureau warned of a time-tested door-to-door contracting con. It goes like this:
“Paving scammers look for those with obvious driveway problems. They come knocking on your door, claiming to have been working in the area and, that’s right: they just happen to have some extra leftover paving material that they need to unload. For an extraordinarily low price, they will go ahead and do your driveway.”
Of course, it’s “an extraordinarily low price” because they have no intention of actually doing the work. So if you’re looking to avoid this and other common driveway nightmares, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself (and your driveway) from certain disaster…
Driveway Do’s and Don’t’s
First, never hire a contractor that isn’t licensed and insured. In general, you should give a hard no to any door-to-door contractor who shows up on your front steps in the first place. It’s not too late to fix or replace your driveway before winter, but only work with legitimate driveway contractors with a well-established reputation.
Second, if you are determined to try a DIY driveway project, be absolutely certain you know exactly what you’re doing. Don’t try and be a DIY MacGyver and finish the job without ALL of the proper tools and materials. Do you know how wide a two-car driveway versus a one-car driveway needs to be? Do you know how much a driveway should slope to drain away surface water?
In case you’re wondering, the answers are 15-18 feet and nine feet, respectively, and one-fourth inch per foot.
Third, make sure you know how to care for your driveway over the winter. It’s not too late to perform an inspection before the winter snows arrive. If you have an asphalt driveway, look for patches that need to be fixed up before it gets too icy. If you have a concrete driveway, look for cracks and sunken driveway panels that need to be repaired or replaced ASAP. It’s hard driving on a broken concrete driveway over the winter, but it’s even harder to repair one. That’s because concrete needs to be dry in order to set properly, and that’s not an easy thing to accomplish in the middle of winter. Finally, make sure you know the right kind of ice melt to use, or you’ll risk ruining your new drive.
Remember: When installed correctly, concrete driveways should last for 25 to 50 years. If in doubt about the best way to proceed, never hesitate to call in professional help. You’ll find that the best driveway contractors are usually pretty friendly people!