Improve your “Curb Appeal”: Driveway Edition

Plenty of people want to improve the overall look of their home from the exterior. But, the options available are so plentiful, it’s sometimes hard to narrow down what will make your property look best.

Have you looked at your driveway lately? Is it raggedy looking cobble stone, dirt/gravel, cement, or cracked and faded pavement?

Luckily, there are some things you can do to improve the look of your home by simply tackling that driveway!

Regardless of whether you have a short driveway or a long winding goat path to your home far off the main roadway, there are some things you could take into consideration to improve the look of your property.

Start by trimming those shrubs!

First thing to focus on is any overgrown grass along the sides (or maybe it’s looking more like hay at this point). This could be a shaggy lawn that is not trimmed near the edges of your driveway, or for long country lanes, it could mean seriously overgrown bushes that lean into your road and scratch your vehicles as you drive back and forth.

If you’re disabled and not capable of trimming back your road, then you could always look for a trustworthy person in your community who is known to do odd jobs (they’ll gladly take that easy job for some extra cash). If funds are an issue, it’s always an option to look at your friends or family, maybe trading a nice home made meal would be sufficient for them.

Once those weeds are whacked, then the bushes and shrubs are tamed, it’s time to focus on the next aspect.

Holes, Divots, and Craters!

If you’ve got a dirt driveway, you KNOW what I’m talking about.

When the rain comes down heavy on the dry ground (and seems to go on forever), a few of us on rural country lanes will cringe, knowing that our driveway will be silty at the bottom, but lacking everywhere else once the rain stops.

We’ve even uttered “there goes my driveway” a time or two.

So, what can we do about it?

Once the damage is done, there are a few steps to be taken. It’s going to take some pretty rough manual labor and a weekend, or some heavy machinery and half of a day.

The best course of action would be to:

  • Have some material delivered to fill in the holes, cracks, divots and borderline trenches in the middle of your driveway.
    • You’ll be wise to look up the material available at your local gravel bank. There are a number of options for base layer fillers.
  • Once the cracks are filled, you’ll have to get some more material to build up several different layers. Typically with a stone as the base layer to ensure drainage, followed by a few more layers of various materials that compact together to create a solid driveway with adequate drainage.
  • If you are doing this work yourself, be sure to build up your driveway with a slight “crown” in it. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s building up higher in the middle than on the sides (because if your driveway is dead flat, the water has nowhere to go. If there is a crown, the water will run off to the sides since the middle is higher).
  • Make some new trenches: I can’t stress enough how important it is to create a system to carry the rainwater to another location other than your driveway. This can be done by either digging visible ditches, or by installing a French Drain system, which looks great (invisible) and is pretty effective!
  • When in doubt, look for a skilled contractor to do this type of work for you. Check out their reviews online, and ask anyone you know about a contractor you’re thinking of using. Chances are there is someone right in your town that has the skills and experience to do a great job on your driveway.

“But, my driveway is not dirt!”

Don’t fret, I’ve got some tips for the slab driveway, paved, and even cobblestone!

THE SLAB

I really feel for any poor soul that’s plagued with a concrete driveway (if it was not done right in the first place).

If you’ve got one solid slab of concrete from your garage to the road. I’ll bet that you’ve have seen more than a few lengthy cracks in your driveway. Unless of course, the driveway was made in sections, which allows the concrete to move a bit, but still results in some cracking.

If it’s gotten out of hand, there may be some weeds growing in those cracks as well (or even full on green grassy patches). But slaying those with a little environmentally friendly weed killer is a cinch. A bit of research will turn up a few organic herbicides that can be used safely around humans.

Once the driveway is free of excess greens, it’s time to seal up those cracks.

Any cracks deeper than 1/2″ and wider than 1/4″ will need what is called “filler rope” or “filler rod” to cut down on the amount of caulk needed to fill the crack evenly.

Obtaining the right type of caulk is important, because it has to be elastic enough to stretch and move with the concrete so that it does not crack again in the same place a year later. Stopping an associate at your local hardware store and asking for concrete sealing caulk and asking for suggestions will point you to the best available product near you.

Once the “filler rope” is applied, and the caulk is applied over it, the next step is to take some type of putty knife or spackling knife to spread it out evenly with the rest of the driveway to give it a smooth and even appearance.

Boom, your driveway looks 10 times better now! Trimmed up grass/shrubs on the sides, and filled up those cracks too!

PAVE THE WAY

An asphalt driveway is one of the best options to give the home a modern, clean look throughout.

The downside of asphalt is that it gets dirty, and fades over time. But there are things we can do to maintain the road!

First!

The recommendation for cleaning an asphalt driveway is to sweep it off with a stiff bristle broom, followed by washing (a pressure washer works the best).
This should be done at least twice per year.

Also, every two to five years, you’ll want to put a “seal coat” on the driveway.

A seal coat is basically a barrier to protect the asphalt from the elements above (sun, and water mostly). Exposure to the beating sun and water will cause the asphalt to become hard and brittle, which causes cracking, and breaking (even whole chunks) which is not a desirable look!

Applying a sealer coat can be done by a weekend warrior homeowner, or by a hired professional. Either way will be sufficient enough to get the job done.

COBBLE STONE

Cobble stone driveways are probably the easiest to maintain!

Though, this type of surface is NOT smooth (and it isn’t meant to be). It’s a surface method that has been around since the Roman Empire. The stones are rounded at the top, which creates a bumpy and uneven surface to be driven over.

Basically, it’s regular maintenance for cobblestones. Sweeping it off every few weeks to rid it of mud and dirt, then hosing it all down. Once the loose debris is removed, any leftover stains can be washed off with soapy water and rinsed.

Since sand is used to seat cobblestones, it’s easy to fix any gaps or loose stones. Simply by pouring sand in the joint and tamping down the stone (sometimes wetting the sand will aid in this process).

Some folks even seal their cobblestone driveway, but it’s not necessary. The process of doing so is very tedious, since it’s done by hand with a brush typically. Find a sealer that is suitable for stone, and brush it on the tops of each stone, wait 24-48 hours for it to dry and apply a second coat.

Simple is a good rule of thumb.

Anything to improve the overall appeal of a property should be fitting to the property itself. Because, a gold plated gate on a “goat path” leading to a rustic cabin just doesn’t seem to make sense.

So, maintain your driveway how you find it fitting, and don’t sweat the little things.

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