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Saturday, July 14, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Revamping a driveway starts with planning, permission
By Felicia Feaster
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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 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 said. "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 business for 12 years and is less 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, people 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 said.
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 said. "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 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 said.
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 said, that their municipality will have to approve any changes they will want to make to the sidewalks. "(In some cases), there's all kinds of special permits you have to get, and it's a big headache," he cautioned.
Suburban homeowners also will want to check with their neighborhood association when it comes to a major driveway revamping. "They really want to have a say in a driveway. They want approval on that," Dussling said.
"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," said 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 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 the apron, "which is the last part of the driveway before you get to the street," said Sudlow.
The opportunities to embellish and customize driveways 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.
Following are some of the options Michael Dussling at Concrete Resurfacing Products offers for making your driveway a standout.
After the driveway is cleaned, a colored sealer in 64 different color options is applied, which is absorbed into the concrete. A concrete sealer is one of the most affordable options when it comes to changing the look of your driveway or walkway with minimal cost.
Currently, concrete experts said, shades of tan — champagne, sandstone and Sahara — are the most popular sealer colors. The results last anywhere from five to seven years.
Textured materials are used to create traction but also cover up any imperfections or repairs that you've made on a driveway, pool deck or walkway. "It just gives you a nice uniform, even surface for driveways that are on an incline and gives you significant nonslip traction, so you're not slipping and sliding on your driveway," Dussling said.
Cement can be sprayed in a base color and then highlighted with other colors to mimic the look of a pebbled surface. "It's a very decorative look, but the cost doesn't really go up that much," Dussling said of this driveway and walkway effect.
Stencils or taped patterns can mimic the look of stone, brick or tile and is offered in any number of different colors. A contrasting grout color lends realism to the look.
In conjunction with stenciled patterns, sponged-on colors can be used to match a surface to, for instance, a stone patio. "We can pretty closely match something that you've already got," Dussling said.
"We'll actually install a half- to three-quarter-inch layer of cement over the top of existing concrete, stamp your pattern into it. It will look exactly like stamped concrete," Dussling said. Color and antique effects can then be added.
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