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Glenn Haege: The Handyman

Now's the time to repair cracked driveways


Pride of homeownership is on display throughout Michigan, and many homeowners spend a lot of time, and money, on landscaping and home improvements to give their home that "curb appeal." But often, the first thing people notice when they come to your home is the condition of the driveway.

Unfortunately, Michigan's weather extremes and annual freezing and thawing cycles are not the perfect situation for driveways. As a result, it's not uncommon to see the driveways on many homes laced with cracks, potholes and uneven slabs of concrete. While these are certainly an eyesore for a home, they can also be dangerous if someone trips over a raised slab on your driveway or sidewalk and twists an ankle.

Fortunately, there are ways you can repair your concrete and asphalt driveways without having to have a new one poured. This will save you lots of money in the process and improve the look of your home. Now is the time to do it while the weather is still warm enough to allow the repairs to seal properly.

If you have a concrete driveway with some cracks and potholes, you can generally repair them yourself on a weekend. For cracks less than 1/2 -inch wide, you can fill them by using a vinyl crack sealer such as the Concrete Crack Sealer from Quikrete, (800) 282-5828, www.quikrete.com, or Eucolastic 1, a Euclid Chemical Co. product, www.euclidchemical.com, that is available locally from Theut Products, (800) 660-6903, www.theutproducts.com. When cracks are 1/2 -inch wide or larger, clean out any debris, then fill in the crack with play sand. Tamp it down, and then fill in the remaining space with a polyethylene backer rod leaving about 1 1/2 inches below the concrete surface. Now you're ready to fill using either sealer product.

And while you are repairing the cracks, it's also a good time to fill your drive's expansion joints to keep water from seeping under the slabs, which cause erosion and additional cracks. Follow the same steps as for filling cracks more than one-half inch wide.

It is also common for driveways to experience a condition called spalling, which is where large chips or fragments of the concrete have broken off, causing a pitted effect. To repair these, begin by removing all the broken and loose concrete. Wash and clean the area with a good concrete cleaner such as DeWitt's Remove-It and resurface the area with Quikrete Vinyl Concrete Resurfacer or Euclid Chemical's TammsPatch.

If the ground underneath certain sections of your drive has settled or washed away, you may have a situation where some of the concrete has sunk, causing the sections to be uneven. When that occurs, you could have the slab replaced. Fortunately, there is a technology I've talked a lot about called concrete leveling (also known as mud jacking) that can corrects the problem for much less.

A company such as A1 Concrete Leveling/Elliott Leveling, (800) 538-3514, www.elliott leveling.com, will drill holes in the sunken slab and pump a limestone-based solution under the slab to bring it back to level. According to Darrel Maute of A1 Concrete, this process can be done into November, and usually takes only a few hours. The process can also be used for sidewalks, steps, porches, garage floors and patios. The great thing is that the concrete leveling cost is generally 25 percent to 50 percent cheaper than replacing the concrete. Maute said his company has a four-year warranty, too.

While most homes in Michigan feature concrete driveways, there are a number of asphalt driveways, and they are just as likely to develop cracks or low spots. But unlike the ease with which cracks or spalling can be repaired in concrete driveways, asphalt repairs require a three-step process.

According to Don McClellan of DeWitt Products Co., (800) 962-8599, www.dewittproducts.com, just filling in a crack in an asphalt driveway will not last unless you also seal the driveway. That's why he recommends a process that starts by using an all-purpose cleaner such as DeWitt's Degrease It to remove the oil or gasoline stains. Next, he recommends cleaning out the cracks, filling them with rubberized crack filler, and filling any depressions with a leveling patcher. The final step is to seal the driveway with either an asphalt-emulsion or oil-based sealer.

If you want your driveway to have the bright, black look all the time, you can seal it annually, but McClellan says that most good seals will last two or three years, depending on the type of winter we have and how much stress is put on the asphalt from plowing or snow blowing during the winter.

If the night temperatures get below 45 degrees, the sealer won't cure properly, and you may be looking at doing it again next spring.

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