How to Prevent Winter Driveway Damage All Year Around
Tips for Maintaining Your Driveway
After a long winter, the sight of snow melting can be a sight for eyes that are sore and tired from snow glare.
If winter left cracks and potholes in your driveway, however, you might want to shut your eyes and keep them closed until next December!
Don’t wait until you have to repair your driveway. Maintain it instead. Take these easy and affordable steps in spring, summer, and fall to reduce the amount of damage to your concrete or asphalt driveways in winter.
1. Maintain Your Snow Blower
Yes, this article is about taking care of your driveway. But if you use a snow blower, then part of driveway maintenance is snow blower maintenance.
Spring and fall are great times to work on your snow blower. The weather is finally warm enough for the work to be enjoyable while not being so warm that you dread spending time in your garage.
Tasks like checking the spark plug and the drive belt will make sure that your snow thrower is working efficiently once snow falls. The less snow that sits on your driveway, the better your driveway’s condition, since snow can melt and seep into concrete.
Also important is checking parts like the shave plate or skid shoes for damage. A chip or jagged edge in any part that makes contact with the ground can gouge chunks out of an asphalt driveway and make maintaining that asphalt even trickier.
2. Clean Your Driveway
If you thought a chipped shave plate could ding an asphalt driveway, imagine what twigs, branches, and stones can do, especially if left for the winter months when snow can pile on top of them and add pressure.
Sweep your driveway to remove pieces of yard debris like these before they gouge the asphalt or concrete. For added convenience, blast your driveway clean with a leaf blower.
Other materials can damage your driveway, too. Chemicals like motor oil and gasoline not only can stain concrete and asphalt; they also can cause concrete and asphalt to break down.
You can scrub some light stains away using common household materials like baking soda or dishwashing detergent. Removing oil stains on your concrete driveway might be more difficult. For stubborn stains, consider using a pressure washer.
3. Park Your Vehicles in Different Spots
You’ve seen potholes and cracks in local roads. They appear in spots that cars have driven over thousands of times.
Your driveway might not receive as much traffic as the Santa Monica Freeway, but vehicles still can damage it.
Unsurprisingly, heavy vehicles can cause heavy damage. Travel RVs and campers are likely to be left sitting in the same spot in your driveway for months at a time. The continuous pressure can cause your concrete or asphalt driveway to eventually crack or develop dips, a process called compaction.
Heavier vehicles like construction vehicles can cause damage even more quickly.
If you own an RV, park it in different spots from time to time to spread the pressure, or considering storing it in a lot. Have construction vehicles park in the street if and when possible.
4. Get Rid of Weeds
Because your lawn is right next to your driveway, any weeds that take root along the driveway’s edge (or that appear in cracks and divisions in the middle of your driveway) can spell trouble for asphalt.
The reason: plants like dandelions are hearty. Given enough moisture, they can grow vigorously and push through asphalt. Some weeds also have roots that can burrow beneath asphalt, allowing the plants to spread.
Pulling the weeds probably won’t be the best answer. Doing that risks leaving the roots in place, and dandelions and other weeds can grow back from the roots.
Instead, try getting rid of your weeds with an herbicide or a homemade vinegar solution.
5. Seal Your Driveway
As you’ve seen, several different elements like debris, chemicals, and weeds can damage your driveway.
Add moisture to the list.
Concrete is a porous material, meaning that it contains tiny holes and spaces. Water from rainfall or snowmelt can seep into those spaces, freeze and expand in cold temperatures, and contract when the temperature gets warm. This process of expansion and contraction can cause cracks to form in your concrete driveway.
Something similar can happen with asphalt. However, the moisture seeps below the asphalt into the soil beneath it. When this moisture in the soil freezes, it pushes the soil upward, a phenomenon called frost heave or soil heave. The soil then pushes against the asphalt, creating bumps and cracks.
Applying a sealant to your driveway is an effective way to lockout excessive moisture. Because sealant can wear away, experts recommend seal coating your driveway every three years on average.
Before sealing your driveway, take a few preparatory steps:
- Wait for a stretch of time when the daytime temperature will be 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above and no rain is forecast for at least two days in a row
- Sweep dirt debris off your driveway’s surface and out of any cracks
- Scrub or power-wash any stains
- Let your driveway dry for at least an hour
- Fill cracks in your driveway with a crack filler—sealant does NOT fix driveway cracks!
When Your Driveway Needs Repair
If a long, harsh winter has already struck, you might see the most severe forms of damage on your driveway, such as potholes and cracks. Don’t hesitate to call a professional to repair your driveway. No matter how bad the damage is, it’s always better to fix it before it gets worse.
Once it’s fixed, you’ll know exactly what easy steps you can take before winter returns to maintain your driveway, prepare it for the cold, and help prevent the worst from happening.