Ask Angi: What should I ask driveway installers?

Paul F. P. Pogue
Tribune News Service

A new driveway is a fantastic way to spruce up your exterior and add more useful space for your vehicles. But not all driveways are created equal, so you want your installer to do the best job possible.

Concrete and asphalt driveways bring different pros and cons, so make sure your contractor explains what’s best for you. Ask the following questions when vetting contractors to improve your chances for a perfect driveway:

1. How much base material will be installed beneath the driveway?

Most asphalt driveways require at least two base coats, plus a topcoat and sealant. When installing a new driveway, you usually need a gravel base of at least a couple of inches to support the asphalt.

Rebar plays a crucial role in the installation of concrete driveways.

2. Do you have enough staffing for the job?

Asphalt cools quickly after being poured, so time is of the essence. A larger crew works more quickly, and if the crew leader doesn't apply enough work hours to installation, the driveway won't last as long.

3. What drainage plan will you use?

Anticipating any potential drainage issues is critical to sound driveway installation. Drainage problems are frequently caused by the pavement preventing water from entering the ground. One solution is to install a driveway material that allows water to pass through it, such as some types of concrete or recycled glass. Placement is also crucial; driveways should be installed in an area with good drainage and slopes away from the house.

4. How will the driveway be reinforced?

Rebar is an essential component of concrete driveways. Asphalt relies on a certain amount of material flexibility to give it strength, so rebar isn't required, but a concrete driveway needs to have a rebar mesh installed to support it. Rebar is available in a variety of strengths. Grade 40 is ideal for most residential uses, although contractors may recommend higher grade rebar for specific purposes. Rebar is particularly important because cracks are inevitable in concrete driveways. Keeping the concrete together after it cracks, so it doesn't separate or shift vertically, is crucial. Fortunately, rebar or steel can help.

5. How will you seal the driveway?

When it comes to asphalt sealants and crack filler, there is a significant difference. Extra additives can make sealants stronger and last longer. Homeowners often just look at the price of an estimate and think sealer is sealer. That's not the case. Sealer is a concentrate mixed with water, and a contractor can easily cut corners by adding more water to the concentrate.

You'll want to reseal occasionally, but don't overdo it. Your driveway doesn't need to be resealed yearly; once every two to three years is all it needs. And don't go overboard with the sealant, either. Experts suggest making only one coat unless the sealer is being applied for the very first time. When two coats are applied to an existing driveway, it can cause the sealant to peel.

A few more details to guide your driveway installation

Get everything in writing: the batch, the mix and the intended depth of the asphalt and base. Don't feel intimidated by the prospect of taking a ruler to the ground to check the depth for yourself. Subpar contractors might short you on asphalt, but reputable contractors won't object to your double-checking their work.

Tweet your home care questions with #AskingAngi and we’ll try to answer them in a future column.