Replacing Your Driveway
Large areas of concrete can't be resurfaced reliably. Your contractor will have to break up the old slab and pour a new one.

For asphalt, the contractor can simply apply a base and finish coat over the existing asphalt. All cracks should be treated with weed killer and filled, and the driveway should be graded if it's not draining properly. The surface layer of asphalt should be a consistent 1 1/2 in. throughout - which could require some excavation around door openings and garage thresholds.

As with all professional work, a new driveway is as good as the contractor who puts it in. Check with your neighbors who have had driveway work done. You can also find a qualified pro through a local masonry or asphalt supply house. Or check the yellow pages under "Paving Contractors" and "Asphalt and Asphalt Products." Then ask to inspect driveways they completed four or five years ago to see how they held up. Look for cracking and heaving, which indicate poor soil preparation or drainage.

Once you've chosen a pro, be sure the contract guarantees the work for at least two years. It should also stipulate a payment schedule with no more than a third of the total up front and a clause ensuring that your lawn will be restored to preconstruction condition. The contract should also include:

For a new asphalt or concrete driveway installed where none existed, a compacted gravel layer 8 to 10 in. deep of 3/4-minus gravel (no stone is bigger than 3/4 in.). If the soil is unstable, a netlike geotextile fabric may be required beneath the gravel, as may drain tile - 4-in. perforated pipe that drains the perimeter of the driveway.

•For any concrete driveway, a slab (at least 5 in. thick) made of 4,000-psi, air-entrained concrete that's reinforced with wire mesh or rebar; the slab should be thicker if you have heavy vehicles. In cold climates where road salt is used extensively, some contractors, concerned it will corrode in the concrete over time and create voids that lead to fracturing, omit the steel reinforcing.

•For new and existing asphalt, two layers: The first should be a 2 1/2-in. base layer of asphalt containing 1/2 to 3/4 in. of stone, the second a 1 1/2-in. topcoat containing 3/8 in. of stone. Total asphalt depth should be at least 3 1/2 in. - thicker if you have heavy vehicles.

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