4 tips to caring for walkways and driveways

Keeping up the curbside appeal of your house is key to maintaining and growing its value. To help, here are four tips to caring for walkways and driveways.

4 tips to caring for walkways and driveways

1. Apply asphalt sealant

A couple of coats of sealant every few years gives asphalt driveways needed protection against weather and wear.

  • Two types of sealants are available: coal-tar emulsion, which is better at repelling motor oil and other petroleum products that eat away at asphalt, and asphalt emulsion, which is less caustic to use. Regardless of which you choose, buying one with the highest grade possible (with a five- or six-year warranty) will pay off with better and longer protection.
  • Prepare your driveway for sealing by washing it with soapy water and a stiff bristle brush, followed by a thorough rinsing. Regular cleaning also exposes any cracks or fissures that may have opened up over time.
  • Dig out any weeds or grass, and patch small cracks with crack-filler compound. Mix the sealer for the time specified; poor mixing is the leading cause of subsequent problems.
  • Work on 9 sq m (100 sq ft) at a time, using a sealing brush, a push broom, or a roller.
  • Apply two thin coats rather than a single thick one; it will dry faster and bond better.
  • To improve traction, spread a thin coat of sand over the wet sealer.
  • Let the driveway dry for two days.

2. Maintain the concrete

Expansion joints let sections of concrete expand and contract in response to temperature changes. Over time, these joints can also become the primary points at which water seeps in under the cement and causes cracks and erosion.

  • Seal any leaky joints in driveways and walkways with an epoxy joint sealant. Before applying the sealant with a caulk gun, sweep out the joint and scrub it clean.
  • Be cautious when using de-icers containing rock salt (sodium chloride) or magnesium chloride. They're highly effective, but also highly corrosive to asphalt, brick, and concrete surfaces — not to mention auto bodies, lawns and wood floors.
  • New de-icing products using calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), a noncorrosive, water-soluble acid, offer a safer, equally effective alternative, though they can cost up to five times as much as salt-based products.
  • If you stick with salt, look for a de-icer with added corrosion inhibitors.

3. Fix weeds

  • Kill weeds or grass growing in the crevices of walkways or between patio pavers by pouring a pot of boiling water over them.
  • You can also make an effective, all-natural weed killer by mixing 250 ml (one cup) of salt and 5 ml(one teaspoon) of dishwashing liquid in 4 L (1 gal) of white vinegar.
  • Pour a small amount directly on weeds to stop them in their tracks.
  • Save noxious herbicides for serious weed invasions.

4. Spot fixes

If a concrete surface isn't cured properly, contained too much water, or is subjected to a heavy impact, the concrete will eventually chip or flake in a process called spalling. But you need not repave the entire area.

  • Instead, break up all the damaged concrete with a small sledgehammer. You'll hear a hollow sound when you hit weakened concrete.
  • Then, using a wire brush, scrub the surface until all the loose material has been removed, and rinse well.
  • Once it has dried, cover the surface with latex patching compound or a mixture of portland cement, fine sand, and water.
  • Smooth it with a steel trowel or a wood float.
  • If there are large gaps — pencil-width or wider — where your sidewalk or stairs meet your foundation, water can seep into your basement, or freeze and expand causing greater damage.
  • Fill the gap with foam backer rod, apply a thick bead of urethane caulk, then use the back of a spoon dipped in mineral spirits to smooth the joint.
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