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How to Pour a Concrete Driveway

This Old House mason Mark McCullough helps a homeowner fix her driveway to make it safer and increase curb appeal.

This Old House mason Mark McCullough meets with homeowner Britt to discuss issues with her driveway. The pitch is too steep, and it is uneven and made up of a mix of asphalt, concrete, and gravel. Since replacing the pitch would involve reconfiguring the cement slab in the garage, Britt enlists Mark to pour a new concrete driveway.

Why Choose Concrete Over Asphalt

While concrete is more expensive than asphalt, it is incredibly hard-wearing, making it an excellent choice for homes enduring cold New England winters. Concrete is also very low-maintenance, and its smooth surface makes for easy snow removal. Concrete driveways can last anywhere from 15 to up to 50 years with proper care, while asphalt driveways last about 15 to 20 years.

Steps for Pouring a Concrete Driveway

Step 1: Demo the driveway

  • Before any major digging can happen, you have to call a utility locating service to ensure you don’t damage any electric, gas, or water lines. Mark has already done this, and we’re safe to move forward with the demo.
  • They use a jackhammer to break up the driveway, then switch to pics and sledgehammers to complete the demolition.
  • For Mark and Britt, the demo is a lot of work, but based on the age of the house and driveway, the base should be intact—already settled and compacted. So, after the demo is complete, they shouldn’t have to lay a new base, just repair any deficiencies and maybe spread a thin layer of gravel.
  • Wearing hearing and eye protection, Mark uses a compacter to level off the base.

Step 2: Add mesh wire

  • Mark explains that they will add mesh wire on top of the base before they pour the concrete. This mesh serves to reinforce the concrete. The wire should be elevated off the base so that the concrete gets under the wire mesh.
  • Mark and Britt work together to measure and lay the mesh wire.
  • Before the concrete arrives, they need to add a thin strip of insulation to the sides of the driveway. Because they are pouring concrete against stone (not grass), this strip will act as an expansion joint, allowing the stone and concrete to expand and contract naturally over time.

Step 3: Pouring the concrete

  • Mark explains a few choices when selecting concrete: you can choose plain concrete, colored concrete, acid-stained concrete, or concrete with exposed aggregate. Mark explains that he has chosen plain concrete because it has a nice, clean look, and colored/acid-stained concretes don’t stand up to cold weather well.
  • Mark has arranged for a ready-mix concrete truck to come to the house to pour 5000 PSI (pounds per inch) concrete, 6 inches thick.
  • As the truck pours the concrete, Mark and Britt standby with shovels and rakes to spread the concrete as it is poured.
  • Once 6 inches of concrete has been poured, Mark uses a screed to level the surface.
  • Mark and Britt then use an edging tool and hand trowel to shape and smooth any edges or bumps.

Step 4: Brushed finish

  • After the concrete is poured and leveled, Mark suggests adding a brushed finish. This will help the driveway look more natural and give it definition, just like a walkway or patio. Functionally, it will help with skid resistance.
  • Mark and Britt will add this brushed finish by hand with brooms.

Step 5: Setting the concrete

  • The concrete takes 7 days to set, so no driving on the driveway for a week.

Resources

To break up the old driveway, Mark used both a Brute Bosch jackhammer and a Hilti TE 1000 jackhammer.

To compact the base soil and gravel, Mark used a Wacker Neuson VP1340 Plate Compactor.

All other tools used, including shovels, picks, trowels, and concrete smoothers can be found at local home centers.


Materials


Tools