Keep Your Driveway Up With the Joneses!

By: Karen Hoeve

We are always hearing about curb appeal and how it will improve our chances of selling if we pay attention to it. Well, technology has come up with a great way to help us to improve the curb appeal of our driveway, and this is also the latest idea so it will give your home the edge in the property market.

It is called stamped driveways or imprinted driveways, and you can even have one by just giving your existing driveway a 'face-lift'! It is a form of textured patterning and you can also use color to brighten up the concrete and to add more interest to the front of your house.

The resulting effect on your driveway from stamped concrete can be almost anything you want. Many driveways have a contrasting color border running up each side. Others have dyed the concrete a dull red and 'marked in' tile shapes for a Tuscany paved look. It is also possible to design your own driveway pattern and call a contractor in to complete it for you.

There are many contractors offering this technique, you will find them on the Internet, listed under Stamped Concrete Contractors or Flatwork Contractors. If you have had experience with concrete, you can also order your wet mix of Portland cement and try it yourself.

Portland cement is available everywhere, and - no, it does not come from Oregon! Portland cement can be made anywhere in the world where the right materials exist and in fact it was invented by an Englishman in the 19th. Century when he experimented with burning lime in his own kitchen stove.

Amazingly enough, since then it has been modified, improved and added to, but never replaced; it is one of the strongest materials to be found. Before you start planning how to try and pour your own concrete driveway, there are several precautions that should be taken.

Of course, we all know that it is not just a question of pulling on your rubber boots and slopping around in 4" deep concrete drawing pretty lines! First of all, if the driveway is large, the concrete may be drying at the far end while you are still trying to level out the beginning. Also, in hot weather areas, an inexperienced worker will not be able to work at a fast enough pace to complete the task before the concrete is 'set'.

Another point to be considered is that the concrete must not be too 'sloppy' when you are planning patterning, as the pattern could just blend away. You cannot start the patterning too soon either, as you must first allow for any excess water to surface.

It is definitely a job that is best done by the experts, however if you can do the 'groundwork' (no pun intended!) then you could save yourself a large percentage of the cost. This is the most time consuming part of the job.

It will also help if you speak to the concrete delivery service in your area, they can often advise you on re-bar and/or mesh reinforcement etc., and their drivers will often take on the part time jobs - and bring the tools!(These will need to be hired as it must be ensured that any air bubbles are out of the concrete.)

Most people can take on the preliminary preparation work. It is a question of building a rough wooden framework (often called shuttering) in the desired shape of your driveway. This is simply to stop the concrete from dribbling away at the edges and is usually removed after the driveway has dried, so it can be as rough as you like.

The shuttering is then filled with gravel to about 4" deep (or take the advice of your contractor). Some contractors will recommend a small channel in the center of the driveway to drain excess water off into the street; you can also ask for this if your house slopes in that direction. Other factors that they take into account are expansion joints and sealers for the driveway.

If you are comparing quotes for the delivery of your concrete, make sure they are all offering comparable services. One of the pitfalls is to choose a cheaper quote, but it may not include a pump truck. This will be needed if the concrete mixer cannot get close enough to your driveway to 'dump' the concrete.

Just a word of warning, if you are considering pouring a new driveway, some local building inspectors like to be informed of this, it varies from area to area. However, it would hinder the sale of the house if you had to hold everything up while you got approval and pre-approval is much easier!

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