Homeowners might look at a concrete driveway as a commodity product that has the same construction components regardless of who builds it. However, no two concrete driveways are the same. If you are building a concrete driveway in a region that is subject to weather extremes, such as Minnesota, your concrete driveway contractor will need to consider several factors to ensure that your driveway looks good for many years after its construction.
A subgrade that does not have uniform soil composition and compaction will not provide the proper support for a concrete slab driveway. If necessary, your concrete contractor should replace soft soil with crushed stone or gravel to prevent any settling or cracking of the slab. The subgrade material should also resist expansion or contraction with changing weather conditions.
Not all concrete mixes are the same, and some mixes may be wholly inappropriate for concrete driveways in Minnesota. Ask your contractor about the mix he plans to use and how durable that mix will be over time.
Control and Isolation Joint Placement
A concrete slab can crack and settle unevenly if your contractor fails to space control joints properly. Industry standards dictate that control joints should be placed no more than 10 feet apart for a 4-inch thick concrete slab. Joint depth and patterns are also critical considerations. Your contractor should show you a joint plan before he pours the concrete.
Wire mesh and steel rebar can provide additional support for your driveway over time. Talk to your contractor about the loads that you expect to place on your driveway. Steel or mesh reinforcements will not stop driveway cracks, but they can help to maintain the integrity of a driveway over a longer period of time. Ask your contractor about industry standards in your area for reinforcement usage and spacing.
You should never compromise on concrete thickness. At a minimum, your driveway should be 4 inches thick. Increasing the thickness to 5 inches will increase your construction costs, but that extra inch will also substantially boost the driveway’s load capacity. Concrete should also be thicker along the driveway’s edges.
A concrete contractor’s ability to properly finish a driveway is a primary factor that distinguishes a quality contractor from an inexperienced installer. The driveway surface should first be leveled to assure uniformity. Next, the concrete should be floated with a bullfloat before bleedwater accumulates on its surface. Last, the surface should be swept or finished to ensure proper traction. If you are unsure of any of these steps, ask your contractor for a more detailed explanation of how he intends to finish the surface.
Slope and Drainage
A driveway should be sloped away from your house to prevent water accumulation in living areas and to ensure proper drainage after rain and snow storms. Even a small amount of moisture near a house can degrade garage doors and foundations. If the concrete driveway will be constructed in an area that does not facilitate a good slope, your contractor should install a separate drain in the driveway.
All concrete structures will set and harden through a chemical process over time. You may need to maintain a layer of moisture or a curing blanket on your driveway surface to get a proper cure. Do not assume that the concrete will cure without any effort on your or your contractor’s part. An improperly cured concrete surface will begin to degrade soon after construction.
A good concrete driveway will cost a bit more, but it will last many years and will add to the value of your home. To locate a quality concrete driveway contractor in Minnesota, please see our website or contact us for more information about the importance of hiring a reputable concrete contractor.