Concrete Driveway Installation: Get the Facts

Photo: thermionics/flickrConcrete construction will produce a driveway that is sturdy and enduring at an affordable price, with the extra advantage of an attractive range of possible finishes. Just make sure that you follow the crucial steps of properly preparing your site, having the concrete installed in a professional manner, and allowing sufficient time for the curing process. Here's what you need to know.

Advantages of a Concrete Driveway

Concrete is both durable and low-maintenance. It will require just an occasional scrub plus an annual resealing as per the manufacturer's instructions to prevent staining and increase weather resistance. If it is installed and maintained correctly, your concrete drive will have a long useful lifespan, usually 25-50 years.


The cost of concrete driveway installation is moderate -- more expensive than a gravel drive but less than pavers. It can range from $4-10 per square foot or more, depending on conditions which include the complexity of the job, how far you are located from the cement plant, and whether you opt for a special decorative concrete finish.

Technical Specs

Be sure to investigate your local code requirements regarding measurements and minimum compressive strength, and have your contractor pull any necessary permits before starting your concrete driveway installation. Width for a one-car drive is 8-9 feet, and 15-18 feet for a two-car.

Both the concrete and its base should be a minimum of 4 inches thick; however, a concrete thickness of 5 inches will provide you with close to 50 percent more strength at a cost increase of only 20 percent.

It's important that the drive slope toward the street ¼ inch per running foot for adequate drainage. A water-reducing admixture will reduce the amount of water needed to keep the concrete workable, resulting in a stronger mix with less vulnerability to cracking.

Site Prep

Thorough preparation is essential for a sturdy concrete driveway. After the area has been cleared of vegetation, wooden forms must be placed along the edges of the site of your future drive, followed by a base of compacted gravel. The purpose of this essential work is to ensure that your driveway will be level and well-drained.

Concrete Mix

Pouring of your driveway concrete mix should take place only after the initial prep work has been completed. The amount of concrete which you will need is determined not only by the length and width you require, but also the thickness of your slab. Hire a crew of experienced concrete workers to spread the mix in the wooden forms, reinforce with steel bars or mesh, and finish the surface. Control joints should be spaced at intervals of every 8 to 12 feet.

Concrete Curing Process

For maximum hardwearing strength, your concrete driveway will need to go through a process called curing (or "setting up") before it is ready to use. Give it a week before you drive on the fresh surface and don't seal it or park large vehicles on it for a full month. If the weather is warm, spray the drive lightly with your garden hose from time to time, to keep it moist during this period.

Colors and Finishes

An exciting new breakthrough in the concrete industry of the 21st century is the development of designer colors and decorative concrete finishes. Especially if your driveway is highly visible from the street, you may wish to make it a design feature of your property. For example, you might choose a concrete color that coordinates with the material of your home, or opt for a stamp pattern or a faux brick or tile finish.

Laura Firszt writes for

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