Everything You Should Know Before Replacing Your Driveway

From the best material to suit your style to cost-saving tips.

White garage covered in vines

Better Homes & Gardens / Bob Stefko

You’ll never give more thought to tree roots until it comes time to replace your driveway, attests Mallory Micetich, home care expert at Angi. But beyond sneaky roots that can pose a threat to asphalt or concrete, causing cracks, ridges, and holes galore, there are additional factors to consider as well. From how to choose the best professional for the job to the material that’s best suited for your driveway dreams, doing your research before you embark on this major home improvement project will make all the difference in both the process and life of your new driveway.

To help break down everything you need to know before replacing your driveway, we tapped Micetich and Courtney Harmon, president of The Driveway Company, for all the tips and must-have knowledge you need to get the job done with peace of mind. 

The Most Common Driveway Materials 

Choosing the best material for your driveway requires consideration of both where you live and your driveway goals. These are the most common driveway materials but, remember, they all come with their own set of pros and cons. 

Asphalt: Choose asphalt for its affordability on the front end, but know that it will come with substantial upkeep, which Harmon says will likely be required every two years or so. Both Harmon and Micetich agree that it works best for cold climates. 

Concrete: If you want a long-lasting material, concrete is likely the best choice. “The maintenance on concrete is very minimal, which includes regular surface cleaning, crack and joint filling, and top coat sealing,” says Harmon. “These services are very minimal in cost but very important to getting the full life out of your driveway.”

Gravel: With the right care and maintenance, including leveling and topping off, a gravel driveway can last decades. Micetich says it also comes with the benefit of being the most affordable driveway material, costing anywhere from $1 to $3 per square foot. 

Paver: In areas where the soil has a sandier quality (particularly in Florida and the Southwest), pavers might be the best choice. While pavers can add a decorative element to your home’s curb appeal, Harmon warns the underlying surface can begin to wash out over time—and rather quickly at that—which can cause the pavers to sink. The good news is you shouldn’t need a full driveway replacement as often as using other driveway materials since damaged areas can be fixed more easily than asphalt or concrete. 

decorative driveway
Helen Norman

Important Factors to Consider When Replacing a Driveway

Before you get started on your driveway replacement, or even start scheduling estimates, it’s important to do the legwork. Hint: It all starts with research.

Contractor: As with just about any home repair job, choosing the right professional for the job can’t be underestimated. “Choosing a trusted contractor that uses high-quality materials and has a good reputation will make your driveway installation process a breeze,” says Harmon. But the best way to find one starts with educating yourself first. Harmon suggests researching the proper prep, finish types, and even what she describes as “concrete 101.” Education, she says, is the best thing you can do to start your project off on the right foot. “This will help weed out the sub-par contractors, and partner with one who will meet your needs and leave you happy with your project.”

HOA Requirements: If you don’t have a homeowner’s association, you can automatically cross this item off your to-do list. But if you live in a neighborhood with an HOA or any other restrictions, be sure to note requirements to your contractor before you get started and select approved materials and design features.  

Location: Where you live, how much rain you receive, and even your yard's soil makeup should have weight in your decision. “Some homeowners don’t take their climate into account when choosing a driveway material, which leads to cracking that prematurely ruins their driveway or requires more frequent maintenance,” says Micetich. If you’re not sure of the best route to take, contact a professional in your area who is well-informed on the best materials for your particular area. According to Harmon, choosing a material that’s widely used in your location could even save you money. “If you see 90% of homes in your neighborhood with concrete driveways, but you want to consider asphalt, chances are, the companies close to you will charge you a premium due to it being a service they are not doing regularly.”

Price: Unfortunately, if you’re looking to cut costs, there’s not much you can do if a full driveway replacement is needed. “The cost of installing driveways is a majority of three things: materials cost, removal of old material, and labor,” says Harmon. There’s not a lot of wiggle room when it comes to reducing costs in any of those areas—taking out that old concrete driveway yourself definitely won’t save you money either in the long or short term. That means saving money with your driveway overhaul comes down to maintenance. Harmon says that annual care and repairs can ensure your driveway lasts for 30-plus years. 

exterior modern home driveway motorcycle
David A. Land

Things You Should Never Do When Replacing Your Driveway

Now that you know all the things you should do when replacing your driveway, there are a few pitfalls to avoid if you want to make the most of your driveway. 

Capping: “Pouring concrete on top of existing concrete or asphalt is called capping,” says Harmon. “The unresolved issues with your old concrete, such as cracks or frost heaves, will carry over to your new concrete if not removed.” Rather than capping, she suggests an overlay, which gives the appearance of a new driveway with just a few layers of topcoat—plus, no driveway replacement headaches. 

Improper Finishing: “Improperly finishing the concrete is another grave mistake,” warns Harmon. “If the concrete dries too fast, it could cause crazing cracks, uneven coloring, and brittle top coat finish. It will start flaking up within a few years, leaving the homeowner looking for another option years before they should.” When interviewing your potential contractors, be sure to ask about their finishing process to ensure this step isn't overlooked. 

Using Subpar Materials: If the price seems too good to be true, it might just be. Ensure your contractor uses high-quality materials so you can get the most life out of your driveway. “Using poor quality concrete or not following proper building codes will 100% shorten the life of your driveway,” says Harmon. “It will cause immediate cracking and unpleasant curb appeal.” Micetich suggests asking your pro about their materials ahead of time as well as requesting photos that depict the wear of their work over time for full peace of mind that you’re getting a high-quality installation. 

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