A Guide to Pricing Your New Driveway
By Jay R Armstrong, C.E.T.
Is it time for a new driveway? What should I do and who should I call? Here is a simple guide to things you should consider when pricing your new driveway. What type of shape is the driveway in right now? Is the driveway new with a new house? Is the driveway 30 plus years old with a lot of cracks and missing chunks of asphalt? Is the driveway 5 to 10 years old but has deep ruts? Is the driveway 10 to 20 years old with just a few cracks?
First, what is a good driveway? A driveway starts with a strong gravel base. The strong gravel base must be placed on ground free of any topsoil or organic material. This ensures there is no water held under the driveway. Water can cause soft areas or settling and cracking from the freezing in winter. The minimum for a strong gravel base is 12” of gravel with at least the top 4” being crushed gravel but preferably the entire 12” being crushed gravel. The crushed gravel is also called Granular ‘A’. The gravel base must be well compacted and allowed to settle for a few weeks before paving on it.
The asphalt surface should be a minimum of 2” after it has been compacted or called the finish thickness. Thicker asphalt may be required if the vehicles that use the driveway are heavy like motor homes, large trucks or vans. There are several types of asphalt that are used for driveways. HL4 and HL3 are sometimes called road grade asphalt. These asphalt mixes are coarser with more stone and are stronger but they look stony. HL3a, HL3m or HL2 fine mixes are sometimes called driveway mixes. These mixes are finer with more sand and are softer but they produce a smooth finish.
If you have a new house make sure your builder has supplied you with a good base. If you would like an area larger than what the builder installed, be sure that the excavation and gravel base for the widening is included in your price for the paving.
If your driveway is 30 plus years old and has a lot cracks and is missing chunks of asphalt you must remove the existing asphalt and repave with a minimum of 2” of asphalt. The existing base must be regraded and well compacted. When getting a price for the removal and repaving also ask for a quote to excavate and replace the existing base if needed. This will save any disagreements about extra billing if the base is found to be insufficient.
If your driveway has deep ruts this is a sign of a poor base. The asphalt must be removed and the existing base must be excavated and replaced with a good base and repaved.
If your driveway is 10 to 20 years old with little or no cracking it could be overlaid. This is placing a single layer of asphalt over the existing asphalt. If there are any cracks, they should be repaired prior to the overlay. If these cracks are not repaired they will show through in as little as a few months. The driveway must have tack coat applied, which is a form of liquid asphalt prior to the paving to ensure a good bond between the new and the old asphalt.
There are also many variations that you could want, like widening your driveway or adding additional parking spots. This type of work should follow the same principals.
Water must be addressed in all situations. The water must always have a place to go. The driveway grade should be away from all buildings and toward grass areas or the street. If this cannot be done a catch basin or drain should be installed but there also must be an outlet for these structures as well.
Selecting a contractor can also be difficult. You may have one knock on your door wishing to quote on the driveway. If a contractor says they have some extra asphalt from another job, BEWARE! This is a means of pressuring you into a quick decision. You can take their written quote but tell them you wish to get at least two more quotes before proceeding with the work. Then take the time to research their quote. Get three quotes and compare them. Are they pricing the same work? Is the area of work the same, is the thicknesses the same and is the type of asphalt the same? Ask the contractor for references and go look at their work. Warranties are also very important, and they should be a minimum of one year.
Driveways are a large investment. The cheapest price does not mean the best quality work.