(Family Features) - You might not give the driveway much thought. You might notice a weed popping up here, a little crack over there. But left untreated, those little problems could eventually mean a costly driveway replacement.
Whether your driveway is concrete or asphalt, there are some simple things you can do to give it a longer life.
Eyeball it. As often as you can, give your driveway a quick once-over. After running errands, before you go inside, scan the drive for cracks, chips or holes that might cause tripping or even tire damage. Look for weeds and places where roots might be pushing under the surface.
- Get rid of weeds by pulling them up or treating them with an herbicide or cider vinegar.
- Sweep up nails, glass and other sharp objects. Sweep away ant hills, as well.
- If there are fresh oil stains, put a layer of cat litter on top to soak up the oil. Leave it overnight, then remove the litter. Make a paste of non-bleaching powdered detergent and a little water. Spread the paste on the stain and let it sit several hours or over night. Then scrub with a heavy wire brush. If there is any remaining discoloration, it should fade over time.
Fix it. If you do find minor cracks or holes, you can - and should - fix them as soon as possible. Water can seep into the damaged areas and weaken the drive.
- If you're not sure about what repair substance is best, talk to someone at a home improvement store.
- Make sure the area is clean and free of weeds, dust and ant hills.
- For concrete cracks less than 1/4-inch wide, you can use liquid concrete filler or apply some concrete with a trowel.
- To fix large holes and deep cracks in concrete, fill with gravel to within four inches of the surface, then pour in concrete. Tamp down, smooth with a float and finish with a flat trowel or broom to match the existing finish.
- For asphalt cracks less than 1/2-inch wide, fill them with asphalt crack filler.
- For deeper asphalt cracks, use a trowel to fill them with a mix of sand and blacktop sealer. Larger holes or dents may require shoveling cold-patch asphalt into the hole and compressing it with a tamping tool.
Seal it. One of the best things you can do to prolong the life of your driveway is to seal it every couple of years. This helps keep moisture out, prevent staining and protect the surface from deicing chemicals.
- To seal concrete, choose a sealer that does not break down under the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Your paint dealer or concrete supplier should be able to help you find a clear sealer.
- Repair and clean the driveway. You may want to power wash it. Make sure it is completely dry. Then use a paint roller to apply the sealer following the manufacturer's instructions. Allow sealer to set for 24 hours before using the driveway again.
- Most asphalt sealers are coal-tar based. You can also find a combination sealer and filler with a fine aggregate added to help smooth rough and pitted pavement. A five-gallon drum should cover about 300 square feet, but a heavily pitted, unsealed surface can soak up more. Follow manufacturer instructions and allow the sealer to set for 24 - 48 hours.
Put the brakes on driveway problems with some routine maintenance. A little elbow grease and time could save you thousands of dollars down the road.