Restoration Guide: Site Work: Driveways, Walks, Patios

Shannon Lee

Editor's Note: This is article 3 of 5 in Chapter 9: The Site Work and Landscaping Guide of Old House Web's Home Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab guide.


Section 1--Paved Walks, Patios, and Driveways

Walks and driveways usually consist of either asphalt or concrete. Though these two materials are susceptible to problems resulting from extreme heat and cold, proper maintenance can ensure decades of good service. All paved areas should be inspected every spring and repaired as soon as a problem presents itself.

There are three major delivery methods for concrete. Ready mix from a plant can give you an exact measurement of concrete ingredients, thus taking the guesswork out of do-it-yourself jobs. Pre-mixed concrete from a bag is usually better for small jobs, and there is also pre-mixed concrete delivered by a power mixer. Precast concrete pavers are ready-made for installation and are generally cheaper than either concrete or asphalt.

Asphalt works well for driveways and sidewalks. A bit cheaper than concrete and just as long-lasting, asphalt works best in areas that do not have extremes of cold or heat. Both occasionally need a bit of maintenance and repair.

  1. Seal asphalt. Applying a sealant to asphalt every year can greatly extend its lifespan. It stops hairline cracks from growing larger and gives the surface a smooth, uniform appearance.
  2. Repair asphalt cracks. Anything more than a hairline crack should be repaired with asphalt filler.
  3. Repair asphalt holes. Occasionally water seeps in through cracks, undermining the gravel bed and leading to a pothole. Black top or cold patch can be used to fill and seal the hole.
  4. Remove concrete stains. Depending upon the source of the stain, there are two ways to remove it. The first is physical removal, including blasting, grinding, and the like. The second is chemical, which uses compounds that react with the stain to remove it. Several treatments might be required.
  5. Seal concrete. Sealants for concrete protect it from water penetration and stains. It also prevents damage from oil and antifreeze leaks.
  6. Repair concrete cracks. Liquid cement filler can be used to seal cracks in concrete. Larger cracks might need new concrete to fill the area, and the entire surface should be sealed again when the repair is done.
  7. Repair sunken concrete. Pull up the slab of concrete using bore holes and a lever, then mix new cement to pour into the holes, filling the void underneath.
  8. Patch concrete. Patching material can be as thick as a paste, which has to be spread with a trowel, or pourable, which contours to the damaged area as it dries.
  9. Repair crumbling concrete. Patching products work well to repair crumbling concrete. You can also try concrete bonding adhesive.
  10. Resurface concrete. Significant peeling, flaking, or scaling can be repaired by a cement overlay system. As the concrete dries, patterns can be pressed into the surface to make it match the older concrete designs.
  11. Lay new concrete. When laying a new slab of concrete next to an existing one, it is important to make certain the new footings match the old ones. Your new concrete should be as similar to the old concrete as possible.
  12. Repair concrete steps. Most concrete steps can be repaired with the same methods used to repair a concrete slab. If you choose to replace the steps instead, precast concrete steps are inexpensive and quick to install.
  13. Repair handrails. Most steel handrails can be made sturdy again with new brackets. If there is serious rust damage, consider replacing the handrail.
  14. Repair stone steps. Loose mortar is often the culprit when stone or brick steps need repair. Remove the old mortar and replace it with new.

Section 2--Repair of Masonry Walls

Home restoration projects on your old house might include the original masonry walls. There are many different types of masonry walls, and just as many ways to construct them. Walls can be made of rough, uncut stone with no mortar, or neat bricks with steel reinforcements running through them. Retaining walls can made of poured-in-place concrete, interlocking concrete blocks, stone, or brick. There are many reasons retaining walls can fail, and just as many ways to replace or repair the damage.

  1. Repoint a masonry wall. Before the 1930s, mortar in stone and brick walls was made of lime putty, which can easily weaken and fail. Repair the problem by removing stones until you reach solid mortar, then replace the stones with new mortar. If you choose to use a lime blend mortar for the purposes of preservation, opt for one that has at least 20 percent Portland cement mixed in.
  2. Resurface a masonry wall. Repair cracks and holes with the proper filler materials. Scaling problems can be remedied with a bonding bridge, repair mortar, and sealers.
  3. Replace some masonry. If there are several areas that need to be replaced, first eliminate the source of the problem, and choose bricks or stones that fit the area; replace them with the proper mortaring.
  4. Drainage for retaining walls. Drill weep holes into existing walls, and build new weep holes into walls you are repairing. If weep holes are not feasible, a french drain can help move water away from the wall.
  5. Repair a retaining wall. If the retaining wall is showing numerous problems, it is likely necessary to look at the materials behind it to determine the cause. Before rebuilding, speak to an engineer about the problem.
  6. Replace the retaining wall. Some retaining walls eventually fail. If replacement is necessary, good drainage is an essential element.

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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