Driveways, Patios, and Sidewalks
Whatever material your driveways, patios, and walkways consist of, you can maintain them by following a few guidelines. Water is their worst enemy, especially in cold climates where freeze/thaw cycles can break them up, so check that water drains off and away from their surfaces. If it doesn't, try to reslope the ground. If that's not possible, redirect water (using downspout extenders, for example), or consider having a drain system installed.
Any weeds, grass, or other vegetation should be trimmed from the edges of the drive or sidewalk and removed from cracks or mortar areas. Remove surface stains such as oil from concrete or asphalt surfaces as soon as possible.
To prevent accidents, also check that a driver entering or leaving your driveway has a clear field of vision and can easily be seen from the street.
To clean stains, look for concrete stain removers at your home center, or try a solution of 5 percent muriatic acid, followed by TSP. Wear protective clothing, gloves, and safety glasses, and scrub the solution into the stain with a stiff brush.
Concrete should be sealed to help prevent water from entering it. Before sealing, check for cracks or holes that need to be patched. Cracks can be fixed as described in Chapter 7. The same general procedures apply to patching holes or damaged areas. Chip out any loose pieces, brush or vacuum away any dust, and clean the area. Paint on a bonding liquid if necessary to help the patch adhere to the concrete. Trowel the patching compound into the hole or over the area, and smooth it level with the surrounding concrete surface. Keep it moist as it cures, as required in the patching compound's instructions.
To seal concrete, first brush it clean and remove any stains. Once it's dry, the sealer can be applied with a roller, brush, or even a sprayer attachment for your garden hose.
For step edges or corners that are chipped or damaged, follow the general procedures for patching holes, but use either hydraulic cement (which sets up quickly and holds its shape), or place a wood form around the repair to prevent it from slumping away from the step while it dries (hold the wood in place with wedges or concrete blocks).
Wooden frames, or forms, will hold the concrete repair in place while it cures.
Concrete blocks or paving slabs can heave or sink as the ground expands and settles. To fix this, pry up the high or low end with a crowbar, and prop it up with stones or a jack. Depending on the problem, either remove some of the underlying material, or add some (try sand and small stones). Lower the block down and tamp it firmly into place.
Iron railings are often secured to concrete steps with bolts-an attachment that can come loose over time. To repair it, chip concrete away from the railing post to make a hole about 2 inches wide and 2 inches deep. Patch it as described previously with a compound designed for bolt holes.
Periodic sealing of your asphalt driveway protects it from cracks and stains, and can also restore the appearance of the blacktop after you've repaired it. Try using an acrylic sealer; it's water-based, kinder to the environment, and easier to apply than tar-based products. You should expect to recoat every two years.
Patch any cracks or holes before sealing asphalt. Cracks less than '½-inch wide can be sealed with asphalt crack filler. Clean any loose pieces out of the crack, and apply an asphalt primer. Squeeze the crack filler into the crack until the filler is just above the surface, and then smooth it out using a trowel or putty knife. Sprinkle sand over the patch before the filler dries to prevent it from sticking to car tires.
Watch the weather. Don't fix or seal asphalt if rain is forecast in the next twenty-four hours. Work in warm weather (usually above 60°F for sealer and 70°F for patching compound, but check product instructions) to ensure the best bond and easiest application, but avoid very hot sun, as it dries the sealer too quickly.
Larger cracks and holes need asphalt-patching compound. Clean out any damaged material, taking it down to an undamaged layer and undercutting the edges to help the patch stay in place. Apply the patching compound and compact it (in layers if the hole is deep) with the end of a 2″ × 4″, until the compound sits just above the surface. Place a piece of plywood over the patch and weight it down with concrete blocks or drive over it. Add more patching compound if necessary. Check the product directions to see how long the patch needs to cure before sealing.
To seal asphalt, first sweep the driveway or sidewalk to get rid of loose dirt and debris. Clean off oil and grease spots with TSP or a commercial cleaner/degreaser. Scrub it on, and then rinse with a garden hose. If stubborn stains persist, apply an asphalt primer to ensure the sealer adheres to the stain.
Smoothing out the asphalt crack filler will help it adhere to and blend with the existing asphalt surface.
Stir or shake the sealer as described in the product instructions (and check to see if it requires a wet or dry surface on which to work). Your first coat should start from the house and work down the driveway or sidewalk. Pour on enough sealer to cover just a manageable area at a time; working a small area allows you to maintain a wet edge and avoid lap marks.
Immediately spread out the sealer with a long-handled applicator, working it into the asphalt and then smoothing it out. A second coat may be required, usually within twenty-four hours of the first (check product instructions). Apply the second coat perpendicular to the direction in which you spread the first.
To protect the sealer while it cures, block foot and vehicle traffic from the driveway for two days. Use brightly colored flags on tape or rope to ensure no one trips when it's dark.
Periodically rake gravel driveways or sidewalks to redistribute the stones from high spots to low spots and to remove stones from nearby flowerbeds or grass. The stones will work themselves into the dirt surface, so you'll need to add another layer of gravel periodically. Gravel can be purchased through contractors or stone suppliers.
Brickwork and Pavers
The most important fix-it job for surfaces made of individual bricks or stones is to keep weeds from breaking up the material between the bricks. Many designs use sand to line these gaps, which may need to be renewed periodically. Spread coarse sand over the bricks or pavers, sweep it into the gaps (holding the broom at a 45-degree angle), and water it well. As the sand dries, it may settle; repeat the process as necessary.
Damaged bricks can be lifted up and flipped over to reveal an undamaged surface. If bricks are cracked or crumbling, try to replace them with similar-looking bricks. Chisel out the sand or mortar around the individual brick, pry it up, and replace the brick and the sand (or mortar) in the joints around it.