Asphalt driveway Questions

farbieMarch 23, 2005

I am currently getting estimates to have a new asphalt driveway installed at my home. My house is 50 plus years old and the driveway has been 3/8 inch loose bluestone. Finally got tired of having to rake bluestones after every winter. The contractors all say they will install a 4 inch crushed stone base and 2 inches of asphalt. However I am getting different opinions of the existing 3/8 loose bluestone. One contractor says they will rake out the existing bluestones (1/2-3/4 inch) as it makes a good base and add more fill while the other says the bluestone should be completely removed and will not make a good base for the asphalt. Can the experts out there tell me which is the better installation method.

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How can your contractor know the thickness of the existing stone or make your new surface good and level if he does not remove all the old and install a new base? I would demand that all the existing stone be removed the bed dug down and leveled out and a new base installed at least 4in thick 6in is better, you better keep a close eye on that contractor character wanting to leave the old junk if you let him do the work, sounds like a sloucher. I would request 3in of asphalt for longevity 4in is even better and make darn sure that they use NEW asphalt not RECYCLED as the recycled junk can contain anything from metal to dirt and cause you big problems down the road or driveway so to speak. If you plan on staying here for a long time the extra expense will be well worth it. If you are going to sell in a couple of years cheap it out and let the next owner worry about it. Paved drives rarely pay back anywhere near the 100% just a good place to spend all that disposable income. LOL

    Bookmark   March 25, 2005 at 3:23PM
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Are you sure you want to go with asphalt? It is a very high maintenance product. Every 2 years you must seal the whole surface, and you must constantly seal cracks that appear. I had asphalt on my last house and will never get a house with it again.

Asphalt is cheaper in the beginning than cement, but more expensive in the long run. Cement is expensive in the beginning, but cheaper and less maintenance in the long run.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2005 at 1:55PM
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Asphalt experts...speak up.

I believe that it is not necessary to seal every 2 years on a proper installation.
Only real reason is for cosmetic purposes.

I have several neighbors who are gearing up to seal coat their new (1 yr old) driveways and I think it is probably a waste of money.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 12:52AM
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I had my drive done last year. It is over 300' (partially shared), so we got as many estimates as we could. Some contractors wanted to completely tear out all of the existing asphalt and do 6 inches of stone base, 2 inches of base asphalt and 2 inches of top coat. That was really quite expensive though. Most of the contractors recommended tearing out the areas that were in bad shape and just adding a topcoat to the portions that were completely intact. That is what we ended up doing. It seems fine so far, but I (hopefully) won't really know for 10 years or so if it is holding up.

In the areas where they tore up the existing drive, the stones underneath were fairly large. I think if I were you I would have your stones dug out and start over. The reasoning for leaving my existing drive was that it would provide a stable base for the new layer. I suspect that wouldn't be the case for your stones.

FWIW, my understanding is that it is difficult to properly compact more than about 2 1/2 inches of asphalt in one pass (with the equipment most contractors use) and 2 inches at a time is typical (you need some room for error & donÂt want any soft spots).

Finally, it wasn't a pleasant task, but I kept a close eye on the contractors. If I hadn't spoken up a few times, they definitely would have taken some shortcuts. They weren't happy about it, but they did the work because they knew I was right. Make sure you get very clearly written descriptions of exactly what they are going to do for you. I found that what I was told and what was written was not at all the same thing (perhaps no surprise), but what was a surprise was that almost every written estimate had a different (generally imprecise) way of describing the work. It was very hard to compare them on paper. Walk the drive with the estimator and make sure you completely understand what is going to be done in each area. If the estimator/salesman explains it to you but it doesn't clearly match what is on paper, ask them to humor you and rewrite the estimate to clearly reflect what they said. The person who is in charge of installing the drive may well not be the same person who gives you the estimate so you need to have everything clearly spelled out - not a bunch of jargon that is open to Âprofessional interpretation. My impression was that almost all of the contractors (including the one I used) tried to give themselves as much leeway as possible to cut corners. Lets face it - unless they really do a bad job, it is going to be years before you will know if you got a quality install.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 10:09AM
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DelcoGreg, your information on getting estimates spelled out is very helpful. We had a driveway completely removed and replaced several years ago. It only took till the second year to see cracks, and got progressively worse. Contractor wouldn't even come look. Won in small claims court the third year but this scum had so many people after him under so many business names (yes of course I had check it out beforehand, but that particular company must have been
clean at the time) there was no way to collect. Even the attorney generals office just said "get in line. One of our people has been trying to collect for years." $2,000 shot and an unsighty driveway for years.

So would you please elaborate on the shortcuts they would have taken, and anything I can watch for this time around?
I watched the whole thing and I saw tearing up, stone pouring and asphalt pouring and rolling. I'm tempted this time to get out there and measure with a ruler! Thanks, Sandy

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 8:03PM
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The stuff that I was able to catch was obvious - mostly areas where they didn't dig everything up and lay a new base as promised (they were only removing and replacing the areas that were in bad shape). The other major problem was with the areas where the driveway met other paved areas (walkways, garages). When adding 2 inches on top of an existing driveway, it is a lot of work to get things graded out so that the two surfaces meet and still have ~two inches of new material all the way up to the edge. My contractor tried to just scrape out a little bit next to those areas. If I had let them go, in many places I would have ended up with less than a half inch of new material over a not very solid base. I am sure those areas would have been a problem eventually. When I called him on it he got pretty mad, but he then dug and graded them properly.

The truth is that a lot of what the contractor is going to do is out of your control. For example, the asphalt mix should be at least a certain temperature when it gets put down. How hot is hot enough? Who knows, but you aren't going to go out there with a thermometer anyway. There is a fine line between trying to make sure things get done right and antagonizing the contractor. The latter may be necessary, but only as an absolute last resort. Otherwise they are going to do whatever they can to just get it done and get out.

What you can do is to ask the contractor about things when you get your estimate so that they know what you expect before they bid. As I said, you might not measure the temperature of the mix, but when you get the estimate you could ask them how far they will have to go to get the asphalt and whether that is close enough to allow them to get the entire load down while it is still hot. At least if you ask those sorts of questions they will know that you've done your homework. In the end though, you are going to have to trust someone to a great extent.

If I am serious about a couple of contractors, I like to try to get references from them. Not just give me the names of 3 of your friends and relatives, but I ask for something specific - in the case of a driveway I might ask for a reference from someone in my area who had them replace a driveway of similar size 5 years ago. You could still get scammed, but in my experience (both at home and on my job) the honest people will try to get you a reference that at least partially matches your request and the shifty ones will just give you their standard references.

Of course you have to at least call the references to find that out. I have to admit that I didn't follow my own advice with this contractor. A guy around the corner from me gave me their number after they did his drive and he was really happy with them. Then, I thought a guy I know was recommending them, but that turned out to be a miscommunication (long story). The moral is, don't skimp on the references.

I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 11:43PM
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DelcoGreg, it helps a lot, especially because the adjoining sidewalk right next to it leading to the walk- in garage door needs to be replaced too.Two different jobs and contractors and don't want one to goof up the other. Cement contractor came last night to measure and says sidewalk and garage apron (if we decide on one and can afford it) should be done first. I'm not looking forward to this. All I want is a front entrance that isn't an eyesore anymore. Front door is fine, but this mess is all before anyone gets there. Thanks for your quick reply and additional info. Oh, and I always go out of my way not to antagonize workers needlessly, but sometimes you just have to say something. Thing is we needed to know what to look for and ask. Thanks again, Sandy

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 3:42PM
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Sandy -

Both contractors are going to want to go first, the driveway contractor because they don't want to risk messing up a new apron and the cement contractor because they can't drive their equipment on your new driveway. Obviously the cement contractor first makes the most sense, but I suspect it isn't easy to compact the drive properly along the apron without risking going onto the apron at least a little. My contractor chipped and scraped my apron a bit and another poster said that his contractor actually cracked his garage floor.

If you put off the apron for a year while your driveway firms up, the cement contractor could come back and saw nice, clean, solid edge in the driveway and then pour the apron. That might be the absolute ideal plan. Assuming you don't want to wait that long, I wonder if the cement contractor could do the apron in two pours. A base pour before the driveway and a finish layer after the driveway. The second pour might be small enough that it could be wheelbarrowed into place if your driveway isn't too long. That would likely cost extra, but you could have something decorative done with the second layer if you wanted to (e.g. stamping or a fancy finish - definitely at an extra cost). They might be concerned about getting the two layers to adhere to one another, but there are all sorts of additives that can be mixed into concrete to solve such problems.

Good luck & let us know how you make out.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2005 at 11:16PM
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DelcoGreg, I haven't used computer this week so just saw your message. It makes lots of sense. The concrete isn't a priority, can easily wait, especially if it will mean a better job in the long run. The clean cut sounds good. I even considered, at one point,leaving a new stone base without asphalt for a while to make sure its firmly compacted. Don't know if that helps but I'd sure like this work to last so its not an eyesore if/when we need to sell. Thanks again, and I'll let you know how it goes. Sandy

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 8:25PM
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We bought a house a while back and we still haven't been able to move in because the house has to pass inspection. The very last thing to pass inspection is the driveway. My husband has been laid off for a while (he just recently found a good steady job) so we didn't have much of an income, which is why we decided to go with asphalt. My husband found this man on the internet (mistake number 1) and his 2 son's. They started that evening and when we came to check up on them the very next morning, they were gone and the driveway was finished, so my husband says.-my husband knows less than I do- When I saw it, I was dissapointed. It looked very sloppy. QUESTION: Isn't there supposed to be some type of border? Whether with boards or it being dug out? The man, Lee, was supposed to dig it out-it looks as if he just scraped the surface of the ground and slapped it on there. There is absolutely NO DEPTH to it at all. Not only that, but Lee says that he was going to put down grass killer before putting down the asphalt-whether he tried or he just didn't at all- you cannot even see the driveway because the grass grew through! My husband contacted him and explained the situation and his only response was "I'll go by there and look at it and if I can do anything about it I will." Am I crazy for thinking "I DON'T THINK SO U FIX IT WITHOUT ANOTHER DIME FROM MY POCKET OR U GIVE ME THE WHOLE $850 BACK-OR I'LL SEE U IN COURT!"
Please answer my questions someone-a True professional, someone who knows what they're talking about please- I need some type of knowledge b/c I need to confront him.

HELP ME PLEASE. And if you'd like to see the pictures of the driveway please let me know and I'll be more than happy to send them.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 11:53AM
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Last year I added an apron to my existing asphat driveway. The seam where the apron meets the driveway is deteriorating. do i have to get the whole driveway and apron resurfaced so that evrything matches without any seam, or is there some other less costly solution?


    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 11:38AM
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