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Sunken Driveways: Repair or Replace?

Once upon a time, your driveway probably was nice and smooth with nary a crack in it. However, as years pass, shoddy construction, pipe leaks, frost heave, and the elements can come into play and begin the process of cracking and sinking your driveway. A solid asphalt or concrete driveway starts with a proper foundation of compacted packing stone (a.k.a. aggregate). Placing concrete or asphalt over leveled and packed dirt or loose gravel won’t result in a lasting, smooth driveway.

Determining the severity of sinking or cracks is essential to figuring out whether the driveway can be repaired in a lasting way, or if you need to tear up and replace the entire thing.

Cracks

Nobody wants to hear “Let’s get cracking!” when it comes to concrete and asphalt. Very shallow, thin cracks allow water and dirt in, which then erode and expand the initial crack, leading to deeper damage. Water also expands and contracts when it freezes, so unless you live in an area that stays above freezing temperatures, water can push against the crack and widen it. To stop the expansion, fill the cracks with a hot sealer. You could use a sealant purchased from a hardware store, but repairs won’t last as long; they’ll just be a stop-gap measure.

If your driveway has a cracking pattern similar to the yellow brick road (minus the bricks and color), the driveway either was not constructed properly the first time around, or someone kept adding a layer of sealant every time cracks showed up instead of fixing them. This can be repaired by chucking the old asphalt, compacting the packing stone again, and applying new asphalt. If, however, there’s no packing stone, you’ll have to start at the beginning with a good foundation.

Many parts of the U.S. — including the Midwest — get cold enough to experience frost heaves. When soil becomes wet and freezes, it expands, pushing on your driveway from below. You can repair frost heave damage, or you may choose to replace just the damaged area.

Graying with Age

Driveway exposure to wind, snow, dirt, rain, vehicles, and the sun will take a toll on the color and hardness of the surface. Black asphalt will fade, but that’s only an aesthetic concern. More important to note is the brittleness of the material. If it’s not as tough as it once was, it’s practically jumping up and down in front of potential cracks, yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” If no cracks have formed, just apply a seal coat; if there are small cracks, fill them first, then add the seal coat.

Sinking and Sinkholes

If your driveway is a big block of deep cracks, it’s headed for sinking. You also could have a sinkhole forming under the driveway without knowing — until it drops. Water is a driveway’s enemy. If your gutter system’s downspouts are aimed at the driveway, turn them in the opposite direction. Pooling water or leaking pipes near the driveway also allows water to saturate and erode the compacted soil and stone.

Slabjacking

If it turns out you do have a sinkhole and your driveway is made of concrete, you don’t necessarily have to have the entire driveway torn up and replaced. Slabjacking is a process by which experts at a company specializing in foundation repair, such as Acculevel, drill small holes in the concrete. Foam is pumped under the slab via these strategically placed holes. The foam expands to fill the hole left by erosion and lifts the slab. The holes then are sealed.

Acculevel Can Give You a Lift

If you live in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, or Michigan, and you have a sinking feeling about your sinking driveway, Acculevel can help. We specialize in foundation repair and believe in doing the job right the first time. We value honesty; we won’t sugarcoat what needs to be done, but we also won’t do any unnecessary repairs. We use quality materials, so if your driveway does require slabjacking, we have quick, effective, and long-lasting foam at our disposal. To schedule a repair estimate or to have one of our experts determine what needs to be done, contact us at (866) 669-3349 or office@acculevel.com to schedule an appointment.