More expensive than asphalt or gravel driveways, but cheaper than stone and brick, concrete is a heavy favorite for homeowners everywhere. Its durability and aesthetic flexibility make it suitable for almost all conditions and environments. Though plain concrete is dull, and ill-suited for landscaping, it can be adapted through coloring and stamping to create pleasing and varied looks. A landscaper or creative homeowner, with extra time, energy and money, can create a driveway that compliments the surrounding area.
The term “concrete” is often confused with cement and asphalt, but there are distinct differences: cement, typically Portland cement, is an ingredient in concrete, together with either crushed rocks, sand or ash. The concrete industry is incredibly large, as it is used in the construction of roads, highways, overpasses, bridges and building foundations the world over. In fact, worldwide, concrete is used more than any other man-made material.
The main draw of concrete is its outstanding durability: a well-made and well-maintained concrete driveway can last for decades. The trick to maximizing longevity with concrete begins with a solid foundation: no matter what the quality of the concrete or the skill of the contractor, an inadequately constructed foundation will quickly cause cracks and fissures to appear. It is significantly more difficult to create pour concrete on a steep gradient, and therefore concrete driveways on hills, slopes or steep inclines should not be undertaken lightly, or without the benefit of experience. Do not hesitate to seek professional advice for such a difficult task.
Concrete, while extremely durable, does also require cleaning and regular maintenance to keep it in good shape. A stiff-bristled brush combined with pressurized water are sufficient to clean most concrete driveways with easy, however stamped patterns might require more attention, as dirt and even weeds can emerge within the cracks of the patterns. If you live in a cold climate, you will probably want to salt your driveway; concrete, however, does not abide regular salting, as these can cause great damage to the surface of the driveway.
However, by applying a concrete sealer to your driveway in the autumn, it will be sufficiently protected to allow salting. The sealer also functions to further protect the concrete from the freeze/thaw cycle that can be so damaging to any structure. Sealers can be applied in many ways, either by brush, roller or low-pressure air spray, and the work can either be outsourced to a contractor or done by the homeowner. Thankfully, snow is easily removed from concrete surfaces, which is another benefit of this particular material.
Expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of £5-£10 per square foot of concrete surfacing, with prices rising depending on the quality of the concrete. Colored or patterned surfaces will raise this cost dramatically. Part of concrete’s appeal is in its price: while not the cheapest material, its price can still largely be controlled by the buyer, and a perfectly serviceable concrete driveway will not break the budget.
Finally, and this comes as a surprise to many people, concrete is one of the most environmentally sustainable paving materials out there: unlike asphalt, it consists of largely natural materials – water, rock, sand and cement – that are renewable. Even at the end of a thirty or forty year period, concrete is still salvageable, and can be recycled to create other driveways later on, in much the same way a bar of soap, when it has dwindled to a shadow of its former magnitude, can be recombined with other soap to create a brand new bar.
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