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Revamping a Driveway Starts with Planning, Permission

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By Felicia Feaster

(MCT)—In the old days, a cracked driveway was summarily patched. And a seriously broken and damaged driveway was replaced with new concrete. But very little about today’s driveways — and sidewalks — is that conventional anymore. Homeowners now have an enormous array of options, from a rainbow of color choices to a range of textural effects when it comes to replacing or revamping their driveway.

Michael Dussling, the owner of Concrete Resurfacing Products in Suwanee, Ga., has been working for 14 years in the concrete business. In addition to offering a variety of exterior treatments for driveways, sidewalks, pool decks and walkways, Dussling offers interior concrete treatments like acid stains and concrete polishing for kitchen, basement and garage floors.

“My customers are in two different groups,” Dussling says. “One: people who just want something decorative put on their concrete. And two: someone who has structural or cosmetic problems with the existing surface that they want to fix. And they don’t want to see the repairs, so they want to cover it up.”

There are also two schools of thought when it comes to resurfacing damaged driveways. Bill Sudlow of Atlanta’s Sudlow Concrete has worked in the concrete business for 12 years and is less often inclined to repair a crack in a concrete driveway because of the impossibility of matching new concrete to old. “To repair a driveway is sort of a misnomer; you can’t really repair concrete because the patch looks worse than the crack. But you can remove a section of the driveway and replace it,” noted Sudlow. More often though, when the driveway is unsightly, his customers choose a complete driveway replacement. “If it’s an upscale house in an upscale neighborhood, most people just opt to go ahead and replace the whole driveway,” Sudlow says.

If cosmetic issues are the crux of your concrete complaints, a resurfacing is often the answer. “The advantage of doing a resurfacing over tearing out and repouring a driveway is it’s about half as much,” Dussling says. “The downside is, if you’ve got cracks in the driveway, we can repair them before we do it and we always do. But the problem is you don’t know which ones are moving and which ones aren’t and the moving cracks are probably going to come back.” Dussling cautioned homeowners repairing cracked driveways that cracks often have a tendency to return.

“Concrete cracks. That’s just the nature of the material. We do the best we can to repair them and have them not come back or if we think there’s a very good chance they will, we try and camouflage them. We can work them into a pattern or do something on the driveway to try to hide it,” Dussling says.

Another consideration when planning a driveway or sidewalk repair or replacement is, of course, the neighbors — or the city. Some homeowners need to be aware, Sudlow says, that their municipality will have to approve any changes they will want to make to the sidewalks in front of their home. “(In some cases), there’s all kinds of special permits you have to get, and it’s a big headache,” cautioned Sudlow, though it can be done.

Suburban homeowners also will want to check with their neighborhood association when it comes to a major driveway revamping. When it comes to changing out the surface, says Dussling, “most of the neighborhoods, front porch and the sidewalks they’ll kind of let you get away with.” But driveways are a different matter. “They really want to have a say in a driveway. They want approval on that,” Dussling says. “We also have neighborhoods that will have 20 or 30 houses in the neighborhood that will say, ‘hey, we want to do the whole neighborhood the same.’ They’ll pick a deal and we’ll do every driveway in the neighborhood the same,” says Dussling, to lend uniformity to the neighborhood.

As with everything home improvement, there are cresting trends in driveway design. One of the more popular options Sudlow has seen for new driveways is stamped concrete in which a pattern such as flagstone, stone, brick or cobblestone is stamped into tinted concrete. To save money, rather than stamping the entire driveway, only one portion often is done. “Typically what’s done is something called the apron, which is the last part of the driveway before you get to the street,” says Sudlow, of the last 10 to 12 feet of the driveway.

With so many front-and-center driveways serving as visible components of the home’s architecture, the opportunities to embellish and customize them have exploded. Homeowners are choosing various stamped patterns, tints and textured surfaces at an array of price points to bring distinction to a surface that might have previously been ignored. Trompe l’oeil options, in which paint or stamps are used to mimic the effect of stone or brick, is especially popular.

©2012 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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