Driveway repair: Should you patch, resurface or replace?
Resurfacing a concrete driveway can really improve your home's curb appeal. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Ernest C. of Naperville, Ill.)
Despite just being a long, flat stretch of concrete, asphalt or brick, driveways can actually be really expensive to install. That's because to do it properly, you first need to dig down and lay a proper foundation. Because of this, many homeowners shy away from completely redoing their driveways, choosing instead just to deal with the growing cracks and crumbling material by patching up the bad spots. While this is much more cost effective in the short run, it could cause additional problems down the road.
The decision to patch or replace your driveway requires consideration of several different points, and in the end your personal preference will play a significant role.
The constant freeze-thaw cycles and the thousands of pounds of metal moving over your driveway every day are going to damage it at some point. This damage will normally show up as small cracks across the surface or small divots in the material, and it's these signs of minor damage that really call for driveway patching.
Cracks that are less than a quarter-inch wide don't really indicate any deeper damage to the driveway surface and can be repaired easily with liquid crack-fillers. Cracks that are larger than a quarter-inch wide in your driveway or that are more than a few inches deep often signal more significant issues. Filling in those driveway cracks will only temporarily solve the problem.
RELATED: How to repair driveway cracks
You can fix driveway holes using a patching material that you tamp down to be even in height with the rest of your driveway. The fixes are always temporary because water will seep in between the old and new material and start to open up the hole again. If you plan to do driveway patching yourself, expect to pay about $3 to $5 per square foot, about half the cost of hiring a contractor for driveway repair.
You'll eventually have to replace concrete and asphalt driveways with deep holes, numerous holes or large cracks. Patching could push this replacement back a few years, but the driveway will look less than ideal during that time.
If your asphalt driveway is approaching 20 years of age or your concrete or paver driveway is pushing 25, it's probably time to just completely redo the whole thing. After many years spent in the elements, these materials just start to fail. Trying to patch these ancient driveways is normally not worth the effort since new issues will almost certainly arise as soon as you've patched the old ones. Regardless of age, doing repairs can always make your driveway last a little longer, but at some point the extra work isn't worth it.
Driveway replacement: Outside factors
The fundamental condition of the driveway isn't always the driving factor in replacing it. In some cases, the driveway completes the look of the house, a look that could be very important to some homeowners. Alternatively, for a homeowner trying to sell a house, potential buyers may look upon a cracked or pitted driveway as a big turnoff.
In cases such as these, it's almost always preferable to redo the driveway rather than patch it. These patches won't be invisible, and problems can creep up again at unexpected times. Don't expect to see a return on your investment for replacing the driveway, it's one of those aspects of a home that's only important if it's in poor condition, but sometimes getting just the right look is important.
Before shelling out the money to a contractor to redo a driveway or dealing with constant patches, consider the middle ground. Experienced contractors can now just resurface the driveway, essentially taking off the top layer of your driveway and replacing it. This gives you a driveway that looks completely new, but at a fraction of the price, and unless there are issues with the foundation, the cracks and pits that you are covering up won't return for some time.
Expect to pay about $2.25 per square foot for basic driveway resurfacing. So a typical residential driveway of 750 square feet would cost about $1,687. If you want patterns or colors, you need to pay more, around $4 to $8 per square foot, or $3,000 to $6,000 for a 750-square-foot driveway.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on Jan. 3, 2013.