It wasn't long ago when deciding on a driveway material was easy: asphalt or concrete. Today, the "concrete" choice has expanded to include an astounding array of decorative options. Sometimes referred to as a cement driveway or as painted concrete, decorative concrete is one of the most reasonable ways to spruce up the entrance to your home.
How do I find the right contractor to install my driveway?
•Look at decorative concrete driveways in your neighborhood and get the names of the contractors who installed the driveways that appeal to you most. Be sure to ask the homeowners about their experience with the contractor and the quality of the workmanship.
•Get references from friends, homebuilders or local ready-mix suppliers.
•Get names through your local Yellow Pages.
Once you come up with a list of contractors, be sure to ask for references and get a list of projects in your area that you can check out. Also ask how long the contractor has been in business, if they're insured, whether they have any professional certifications, and if they offer a warranty for their work.
Do I need to seal my new concrete driveway?
You should apply a high-quality sealer to all exterior concrete slabs exposed to freeze-thaw conditions. The sealer helps protect the concrete from moisture absorption, exposure to chemicals, and grease and oil stains. On decorative colored concrete, a sealer will also help enhance the color
Generally, there are two categories of sealers for exterior concrete: film-formers and penetrants. Penetrating sealers tend to offer the best protection from moisture absorption. Regardless of the sealer you use, be sure it's applied according to the manufacturer's instructions.
What if the driveway cracks?
If your concrete was jointed properly, cracks are unlikely to be a problem. Think of joints as "planned" cracks that allow the concrete to expand and contract, minimizing any chance for random cracking
Although joints will control cracking in most cases, even properly jointed concrete can crack in places other than the joints. Most of these random cracks are simply unplanned joints and won't impact the long-term service and durability of your driveway. But they can detract from the appearance. If you're concerned about random cracking, ask your contractor what measures he will take to prevent it and what his policy is about fixing any random cracking that does occur.
It's unrealistic to expect your contractor to precisely match the color of your concrete driveway to a showroom sample, a neighbor's decorative concrete driveway, or a photo from a brochure. Even plain concrete can exhibit color variations, especially if the project requires more than one load of concrete or if the concrete placements are made on different days. Most of these variations are minor and will fade over time.
What is the cost of a stamped concrete driveway?
Your initial cost to install a stamped concrete driveway can range anywhere from $6 per square foot for basic stamped concrete (using just one pattern and color) to $15 or more per square foot for elaborate multi-pattern designs with special coloring effects (see Stamped Concrete Driveway Cost). While stamped concrete is pricier than asphalt, you'll get a much better return on your investment. Not only does a concrete driveway last longer and require less maintenance than most other paving materials, it can help boost the resale value of your home by adding curb appeal.
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