Blacktop Driveways Over Concrete
"But keep in mind that you may have crack problems at a later date with your blacktop. My guess is your current concrete drive has control or expansion joints at 10 - 15-foot intervals."
Blacktop Driveways Over Concrete Checklist
- Blacktop over concrete is not a good idea
- Added height could cause big problems
- Cracks in new blacktop will happen over existing concrete cracks
- Concrete overlay may be a better choice
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DEAR TIM: The surface of my concrete driveway is eroding after years of wear and tear. I'm thinking about resurfacing my existing concrete driveway with blacktop. It's my intention to add two inches of blacktop to the existing concrete after all of the loose debris is removed.
Is this a good idea? Do you see any problems?
Are there other alternatives? Patrick O., Lexington, KY
DEAR PATRICK: What you plan to do is done on hundreds of thousands of miles of roadways and driveways each year in the USA.
Can Blacktop Be Put Over Concrete?
Blacktop can be successfully installed over concrete. But there are issues as you might expect. In addition, you do have an alternative paving method that may surprise you.
Does Concrete Provide a Solid Base?
One positive aspect of installing blacktop over concrete is the concrete provides a firm base for the flexible asphalt paving. Experts who work each day in the blacktop industry, refer to blacktop as flexible pavement.
It doesn't have near the strength of concrete when you measure them inch for inch. The asphalt cement that bonds the pieces of sand and gravel in the blacktop can and does move over time.
What is Asphalt Cement?
Asphalt cement, the binder that holds together the sand and gravel in blacktop, is a unique material in that it possesses qualities of both a solid and a liquid.
Any chemist will tell you that asphalt is much like glass. Both will succumb to the pull of gravity, albeit it takes years to see it happen. Window panes in old homes that have survived the test of time are almost always thicker at the bottom of the pane than the top.
Blacktop Drive Installation Video
Here's a great video showing lots of things you need to know about installing blacktop.
How is Concrete Similar to Blacktop?
Concrete is very similar to blacktop in that it also contains sand and gravel pieces. But the Portland cement ingredient that crystallizes and bonds tenaciously to the sand and gravel is as hard as rock.
In fact, and geologist will tell you that regular concrete looks and feels exactly like a sedimentary rock called conglomerate.
Where Does Blacktop Get Its Strength?
Blacktop derives its strength from the base beneath it. New blacktop driveways are routinely installed over a compacted crushed-gravel base.
This base stone is often eight to ten inches thick and when installed on firm compacted soil, it makes a superb foundation for the blacktop.
But if your concrete driveway is crack-free and the individual slabs are not tilted, the blacktop covering will perform as well or better on it than the gravel.
Can You Have Crack Problems in the New Blacktop?
But keep in mind that you may have crack problems at a later date with your blacktop. My guess is your current concrete drive has control or expansion joints at 10 - 15-foot intervals.
Or perhaps there are a few random cracks and some slight displacement between the cracked pieces of concrete. If this is the case, these cracks will eventually telegraph through the new blacktop covering.
Your blacktop contractor can saw cut in crisp lines in the blacktop directly over the concrete control and expansion joints if you like. These thin lines can be filled with a special epoxy crack filler and the small stones that are in the blacktop mix.
Can The New Blacktop Be Too High?
The new blacktop on top of the concrete can be too high. This can cause water puddling and tripping issues where the blacktop touches other paving.
The added two inches of blacktop might cause safety issues where the driveway abuts stairs and sidewalks. The added thickness of the blacktop can reduce the riser height at stairs.
A tapered two-inch lip can create a stumbling hazard when people walk from adjacent paved surfaces onto the driveway.
Does The Blacktop Require Future Maintenance?
Keep in mind that your blacktop driveway may become a maintenance item every three to five years.
To keep blacktop from degrading due to exposure to the elements and liquids such as gasoline, oil and hydraulic fluids, it's not a bad idea to keep a coat of premium sealer on it at all times.
Sealers aren't necessary because public roads are never sealed. The car traffic would wear off the film in a short time. Low-traffic driveways will not be an issue.
What is a Better Option Over the Concrete?
If I were you, I'd seriously consider installing a thin concrete overlay on your driveway. You can apply a layer of cement stucco as thin as 3/8 inch that will last for another 40 or more years.
It's possible to add an even thicker layer of concrete with small stones in it, but then you have the same safety issues I have already discussed.
Can I Do a Stamped Concrete Overlay?
There are professional companies that can stamp and colorize the thin overlays if you want a truly distinctive driveway. Stamped concrete is not a do-it-yourself (DIY) project unless you have lots of experience and many friends who can assist you.
Is Concrete Overlay DIY Friendly?
The concrete overlay project is very DIY friendly as you don't have to do the entire driveway on one day or even a weekend. You can apply the overlay to one or two sections of driveway at a time.
The trick to making sure the driveway looks the same once complete lies in getting all of the materials you need at the same time. You must buy all the sand at one time and the bags of cement must be from the same manufacturer and batch.
Can I Trust Blacktop Contractors?
Beware of blacktop contractors that speak with a forked tongue. Some might say all will be well if they install blacktop over broken and crumbling concrete.
It will look fine for awhile, but wait until you start to drive on it or heavy trucks pull into your drive. If you live in a cold climate, all sorts of cracks will appear half-way through the coldest part of the winter when the soil freezes and heaves the driveway.
How Does the Concrete Overlay Bond to the Old Concrete?
If you decide to install the concrete overlay, you must make sure all loose material is removed and the concrete is slightly damp. Immediately before applying the overlay mix, paint on a thin coat of cement paint.
Cement paint is made by mixing Portland cement powder with clear water. CLICK HERE for a step-by-step guide for doing a concrete overlay.