how winter affects your driveway

How Winter Affects Your Driveway

Holes

Perhaps one of the first things you will notice when winter begins to affect your asphalt driveway is a series of cracks and holes. These weaken the driveway overall and can lead to potholes. How does this happen? Simple precipitation. The snow and ice melt, seeping into cracks in your driveway. As the temperatures drop, and the ice expands, the cracks in your driveway worsen considerably. In many cases, it can lead to potholes, and entire chunks can break off.

To Salt or Not to Salt?

There is conflicting advice regarding adding salt or deicers to your driveway.  A sealed driveway is better protected than an unsealed blacktop. In either case salt and deicers can potentially crack your driveway. This is especially true while plowing and shoveling snow. The deicers and salt can even weaken the sealant, leading to cracks and potholes that can damage your car’s tires and suspension.

Driveway Sensors Fail

For homeowners that have electronic security systems in place, maintaining driveway sensors and other electronics is important during winter weather. The cold winter can affect battery strength, making it difficult for your sensors to detect incoming vehicles and visitors. By looking ahead to how winter affects your driveway sensors, you can make sure that your sensors are placed in areas that are in full sun during the winter or in weather-resistant casings.

Shoveling

Surprising enough, you might be the one most likely to inflict damage on your asphalt driveway by using metal shovels and snow blowers. These can damage your driveway considerably if not kept at least a half inch above the blacktop. Waiting too long before shoveling can also be an issue, leading to problems like ice melting and refreezing flush to the driveway.

Be prepared for winter by making sure that you have repaired your driveway before the temperatures drop. Add sealant for an extra coat of protection. Minimize use of salt and deicers. And be sure to use driveway-safe tools to remove snow like plastic shovels.

when is it time to replace your asphalt driveway

When Is It Time to Repair Your Asphalt Driveway?

Cracks in Your Asphalt Driveway

In places with extreme freezing temperatures especially, cracks can appear in your driveway over the years. Often this is because water or substances like oil or de-icing salt seep into the asphalt and expand. This can create ugly cracks. Sometimes you can get away with patching up the spot temporarily.  To prevent long term (and costly) damage to your driveway, it makes sense to call a professional for a driveway replacement. This will ensure that you have a quality, curbside appealing, driveway that will stand the test of time.

Fading Aged Appearance Overall

Asphalt driveways are meant to last decades, but every driveway is subject to aging and basic maintenance issues over time.  So when is it time to repair your asphalt driveway? Look at whether your driveway looks faded, has cracks, has a lack of resealing, or just seems worn. An aged driveway negatively affects a home’s overall curbside appeal. This is more than a cosmetic problem. The driveway may also have some serious issues that will require complete repaving and driveway repair.

Potholes

Potholes can be one of the more glaring indications that it is time to repair your driveway. While some potholes are small and easy to patch up, many of them can be large ugly pits that seem to catch your car’s tires every time you pull up to your home. Potholes can wreak havoc on your automobile’s suspension system. While you can repair minor potholes, if you find that year after year you come across large potholes, an entire driveway replacement may be the solution that you need. Modern asphalt materials can handle these problems and may be well worth the investment.

Water Does Not Drain

Finally, if you are finding that flooding is becoming an issue, there can be potential long-term damage. Poor drainage can weaken your driveway, causing cracks and large holes. There are several different ways to handle these types of issues from replacing your driveway or adding curbing that will redirect water.

Be sure to contact a professional paving company when it is time to repair your driveway to ensure decades of reliable durability.

interlocking paving stones

Why Choose Interlocking Paving Stones

Paving stones, or pavers, are becoming a popular choice for outdoor areas. They date back to the Romans, and stunning examples can be seen all over the world, like in the Great Wall of China. More recently, they’re being used by home-owners for driveways and patios.

What Does Interlocking Mean?

When interlocking paving stones are installed with paver jointing sand. The jointing sand locks the pavers in place and fills in the joints completely from top to bottom. This creates friction in the joints, which dispenses the weight load over a larger area. So, when you walk on the pavers, even if your foot is only on one stone, your weight is being supported by six or seven stones.

Pavers Aren’t Rigid

Other surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, are rigid, and can’t move as the earth below moves. This can cause cracks and chips in the surface. Pavers, however, don’t crack or chip because they are individual stones, and they can move with the ground. The jointing sand lets the stones stay flexible.

Repairs Are Easy

One of the biggest benefits of paving stones is that they’re easily repaired. A single stone can be removed and replaced. Concrete and asphalt are more complicated to repair. Damaged concrete needs to be cut out, and new concrete poured. This needs to be done by a professional, which is costly, and the new concrete is unlikely to blend in with the older concrete.

Paving Stones Have A Lower Moisture Absorption Rate

Air pockets in surfaces reduce the durability and increase the chances of cracks and damage. Air pockets increase the moisture absorption rate. Paving stones are quite dense, and the method of installation means that there’s very few, if any air pockets. It also means that they are suitable for cold and wet weather because as there’s less chance of water seeping in, the chances of expansion and cracking are also reduced.

When you’re making your decision between paver stones, asphalt or concrete, you should take into account that pavers are extremely durable, long-lasting, and absolutely beautiful.

concrete vs asphalt

Pros & Cons: Concrete vs Asphalt Driveways

Two of the most common options for driveways are asphalt and concrete. Both materials have pros and cons, similarities and differences. Deciding which to use needs careful consideration, and factors such as appearance, maintenance, budget, climate, and restrictions need to be taken into account.

Maintenance

Asphalt needs more maintenance, but any repairs are generally inexpensive. Concrete doesn’t need as much maintenance, but any repairs tend to be complicated and more expensive. It’s also worth noting that oil leaks are almost unnoticeable, but gasoline leaks will damage the surface. Any stains will be noticeable on concrete. Asphalt can last for up to 20 years before needing to be replaced, but concrete can last for up to 30 years.

Climate

Asphalt tends to crack as temperatures fluctuate, and the tar can melt, soften and deform. It is better suited to cold climates. Concrete, however, can crack in cold weathers, and if you use an incompatible de-icer, it can damage the concrete. Cracks and damage to concrete can be expensive, and difficult to repair, whereas cracks in asphalt are easy, and can be repaired as part of routine maintenance.

Appearance

In terms of appearance, it’s down to personal preference. Concrete tends to be light colored, but it can be tinted, designed, patterned, or finished to give it a more alternative appearance. It takes a few days, or more than a week for concrete to cure completely. Asphalt is darker, but it can be colored slightly if you want something a bit different. Asphalt is cured in a few hours.

Sealing

Asphalt needs to be sealed between 6 – 12 months after installation, and then resealed every 3-5 years. Concrete doesn’t need to be sealed, but doing so can help to extend its lifespan. Asphalt can be resurfaced easily, but concrete can not.

You need to think about your needs and preferences, but you should also be aware of the similarities between asphalt and concrete. Both need a gravel base, and both need time to cure before driving on them. The main difference is in the manufacturing stage. Asphalt is made from stone, sand and tar, while concrete is made from stone, sand and cement. Either surface will last for many years if they have been properly cared for.

Most Common Types of Asphalt Cracks

Most Common Types of Asphalt Cracks

Not all asphalt cracks are made equal.  While we tend to group them all together under the header of “damaged pavement”, asphalt can actually crack in multiple different ways, each with their own basic underlining causes and their own methods of repair.  Here are the most common types of crack you need to worry about.

Alligator Cracks

So named because they resemble the pattern found on alligator skin, these are the most common types of crack asphalt faces.  They spread far and wide across your pavement, covering a large surface area in a relatively short time.  Usually, this is a sign of a weak area in the base layer of your asphalt, though particularly weak areas of the surface or poor drainage could also be causes.

Block Cracks

These are big squares and rectangles, almost segmenting your asphalt and dividing it up.  These can be as small as a square foot or as large as 100 square feet, but generally are caused by an inability for your asphalt to expand and contract with changing temperatures, possibly caused by aging asphalt binder or a poor choice of binder from the very start.  Small block cracks can be sealed easily; larger cracks probably need to be removed and replaced.

Linear Cracks

Long, vertical cracks up and down the center of your asphalt are called linear cracks, because they’re primarily in a straight line.  While these can be caused by just general wear and tear, they’re often the result of bad joint construction.  As joints are the least dense areas of pavement, they can be prone to damage if placed in the wrong place (i.e. right in the wheelpath).

Traverse Cracks

If your asphalt is cracking horizontally, that’s a traverse crack.  These are usually caused by the weather, with low temperatures causing the surface to shrink.  They can also be caused by poor construction, but generally in Toronto, it’s the weather to blame.

Potholes

The actual craters and depressions in your asphalt are grouped with cracks because they break the integrity of your surface, but we all know them as potholes.  These can be caused by any of the aforementioned cracks if left unattended, or by severe water or ice damage.  They can damage all the way down to the base of the asphalt, which is why it’s so important to take care of the other cracks while they are still minor!

Prepare Your Asphalt for Winter

Prepare Your Asphalt for Winter

The winter weather is the single largest factor in the longevity of your asphalt.  Cold months can be rough on your pavement, so you want to make sure you’re appropriately prepared in order to minimize that weather damage.  With a little preparation and some good practices, you can help maintain the structural integrity of your pavement and have everything looking great come spring.

Remove Debris Before It Snows

Large pieces of debris can freeze and damage your asphalt’s surface over a long cold winter, as well as making it more difficult to plow.  Even small pieces of debris can provide more area for water to freeze and thaw, damaging your surface.  A professional cleaning is a good way to ensure your asphalt gets off to a great start this winter.

Fill in Cracks and Sealcoat

Cracks are weak points in your asphalt – they provide entry points for water to seep into your asphalt, freezing and thawing and damaging your surface.  Filling them in can help prevent damage to your surface over the winter.  Sealcoating – if it’s still warm enough to do – is another way to provide a protective layer.

Shovel Regularly

Standing water and snow can damage your asphalt over time.  A good defense, then, is to clear your asphalt regularly.  Be careful if you’re using a plow, however; it can snag in small cracks and potholes and cause surface damage to your asphalt pavement.  For lighter jobs, a regular shovel is a safer method.

Limit Your Deicing

Asphalt is more resilient than concrete when it comes to deicing, but that doesn’t mean it’s invulnerable.  While common deicers like rock salt won’t directly damage your asphalt, some of the side effects might.  Specifically, when it melts the snow and ice, it also encourages water to seep in through surface pores in your asphalt.  From there, the freeze-thaw cycle can cause its fair share of damage.  This isn’t to say you should never use deicers, just that shoveling and plowing is a better first solution to accumulations of snow.

The Effect of Deicers on Concrete

The Effect of Deicers on Concrete

You’ve probably heard lots of advice on what deicers are safe to use and which aren’t on concrete surfaces.  The frustrating part comes when that advice is confusing, contradictory or generally based more on something people have heard rather than hard evidence.  That’s where science comes to the rescue!

Researchers at the University of Kansas sought to answer this question once and for all in a recent study on the effects of deicers on concrete deterioration.  They exposed samples of concrete to four of the most common deicing agents – sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate.  The study ran for 95 weeks, with regular cycles of wetting and drying.

As a general rule, they found that sodium chloride was the safest deicing substance.  Significant quantities of any of the other three will impact the long-term durability of your concrete.  That’s not to say they all affected it in the same way, but sodium chloride was the clear overall winner.

At low concentrations, calcium chloride had a relatively small negative impact, just like regular old sodium chloride.  That’s more damage than the control concrete suffered, but nothing too drastic.  The other two, however, caused measurable damage, even at low concentrations.

When the concentrations were cranked up, the results got worse.  Even sodium chloride caused measurable damage, highlighting the danger of over-deicing your surfaces.  The other three, however, were much, much more harmful – creating significant changes in concrete that result in loss of material and reduced stiffness and strength.

In short?  Stick with rock salt for your new concrete surface when possible.  It’s not as fast as some of the other alternatives, but it will cause the least problems for your concrete over time.  If you must use something stronger for extremely harsh conditions, calcium chloride is your next best bet.  Avoid magnesium, and definitely avoid ammonium – ammonium based deicers chemically damage your concrete.  As always, use caution and common sense, and your concrete will likely be just fine.

concrete

Guide to Maintaining a Concrete Driveway

One of the best features of a concrete driveway is the lack of regular routine care – it’s a strong, durable surface that can withstand a great deal of punishment.  That doesn’t mean that it’s entirely maintenance free, however – proper preventative maintenance can seriously extend the life of your surface and make sure your investment lasts as long as possible.  Here are our top tips:

Reapply Sealer As Needed

Keeping your driveway sealed prevents water from entering the surface, which can be a source of cracking and other damage in Ontario’s harsh freeze-thaw cycles.  There is no magic number for how often you should reseal your concrete; it will depend on the weather conditions it’s exposed to and the amount of traffic it receives.  As a general rule of thumb, resealing it every two years is a good plan.

Remove Stains Immediately

Concrete sealer does help prevent stains from being absorbed, but that doesn’t mean it’s impervious to stains.  Don’t let oil, gasoline or grease stains sit on your concrete; it will discolor it and ruin the aesthetic appeal.  If it does discolor, pressure washing is often enough to remove the stains, though there are also chemical cleaners you can buy if that doesn’t do the trick.

Avoid Deicing Chemicals

A recent study showed that using deicers containing ammonium nitrates and ammonium sulphates attack your concrete on a chemical level, in addition to the scaling and spalling caused by forcing moisture to thaw and refreeze.  Rock salt or calcium chloride is less harmful to your concrete, though they can harm vegetation and metal.  In general, try to deice as little as possible, especially in the first year of your concrete’s lifecycle.

A Little Care Goes A Long Way

It may be concrete, but it’s not impervious.  Residential driveways aren’t designed to handle, for example, large construction equipment or fully loaded moving trucks.  Use your new surface wisely and avoid subjecting it to excessive strains and loads, and your concrete will continue to look good for years to come.

Why is my Concrete Cracking

Why is my Concrete Cracking?

All driveways will eventually age and crack as the materials age and break down – but that’s something you should be dealing with in 15 or 20 years, not in the first few years after installation!

So, what is causing those cracks?  Here are a few of the most common sources of concrete or asphalt cracking – and how you can avoid them.

Freeze/Thaw Cycle

The single biggest source of cracks in the Toronto area is the freeze/thaw cycle.  Melted snow will seep into the pores in your concrete.  When it freezes again, it expands – and that causes the damage and cracking.  Salting your driveway only makes things worse; it gets into your surface and then attracts water, lowering its freezing point, and making more freeze/thaw problems.  Avoid using rock salt, and instead use calcium chloride – that lowers the freezing point far enough that those freeze/thaw cycles will be less common.  Sealing your concrete will help prevent the salt and water from penetrating in the first place, helping preserve your surface.

Heavy Loads

We may think of concrete or asphalt as indestructible, but in reality, it’s like any other surface.  If you had a parking lot made of glass, you’d expect heavy loads to crack it.  The same is true for concrete; we’re just talking much, much larger loads.  Vehicles weighing north of 5,000 kg can end up doing serious damage to your surface – and those cracks can be entry points for water for future damage.  If you’re expecting particularly heavy vehicles, you’ll need more heavy-duty concrete or other materials to withstand the load.

Sharp Objects

Those studded winter tires?  Snowblower blades?  Even the scraping of a snow shovel?  They can easily chip or crack concrete driveways.  If you must use metal, be very careful – and, when possible, use plastic shovels and tools.  They’ll chip before your driveway will!

4 Tips for Hiring a Driveway Contractor

4 Tips for Hiring a Driveway Contractor

If you’re looking for a reliable driveway contractor in the Greater Toronto Area, we humbly suggest that you won’t find anyone better than Epic Paving and Contracting.  That being said, you don’t have to just take our word for it – you should do your due diligence, first.  We believe that you’ll find, when all is said and done, that we’re the best option in the area.

If you don’t live in the GTA – or just want to make sure you know what you’re getting into – here are our top tips for hiring a driveway contractor.

Credentials, Credentials, Credentials

Any company you trust to do major work on your property should be fully licensed, bonded and insured.  Ask to see their health and safety credentials, as well; these independent credentialing organizations protect both the consumer and the contractor from danger or negligence.

Testimonials

Check out the company in question on sites like HomeStars, Houzz and the BBB to see what other clients are saying about them.  You ideally want a long trail of satisfied customers – a company’s past work is the best indicator of their future performance.

First-Hand Evidence

A good driveway contractor will have addresses of driveways they’ve worked on in your immediate area.  Go check them out for yourself!  It’s worth the time and effort to drive by and check out the handiwork and final products.  Driveways are fairly easy to check out without having to enter private property, so take advantage of that fact!

Experienced Crews

Working with a fast-setting material like asphalt requires precision work to be done both quickly and efficiently.  A large, experienced crew is vital to making sure the job is done properly and not just quickly.  You want your contractor’s crew to have years of experience paving driveways and working with asphalt or concrete – experience can make all the difference between a driveway that lasts 10 years and one that lasts 30.