concrete solid or ribbon driveway installation

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Old 03-20-14, 07:53 AM
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concrete solid or ribbon driveway installation

Hi,

I live in the hudson valley New York and am insterested in either a ribbon driveway or a solid driveway made of concrete (ribbon would be two "tire tracks" like sidewalks poured in parallel, leaving the middle part as grass for an old-time look.) It is about 115' long and would be 2 tracks of 24" wide for the ribbon or one solid 8' drive if I just fill it all in. It would be used for driving my smallish, compact car to my garage from the street. It would be pretty light use and light weight with maybe an occasional truck driving on it.

Half of the driveway is now just dirt. The other half to the street has two old cement tracks (ribbon drive) in it, one half is just a couple inches thick and would be removed very easily. The other half is 2' X 3' concrete blocks that are maybe 5" thick and all need to be removed.

I am getting estimates now and my first quote was for $4800 for the ribbon and $8500 for the solid drive version. I live on a busy street with limited access and no access from the sides or rear of the property, so they will have to use wheel barrows or some other portable method to fill in the drive.

He said it would be 5" thick concrete on a couple inches of gravel, or he said he sometimes just pours onto the dirt below. That was a little confusing to me, and I need to clarify whether he would use gravel under it. What is the minimum gravel I would need? Is it ok to pour onto dirt for this application?
 
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Old 03-20-14, 10:30 AM
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It's not unusual for sloppy contractors to pour concrete directly on dirt, or even grass lawns, for that matter. Such is an indication that they don't care about the long-term performance of the slabs they pour. Shop around for estimates from contractors who are more conscientious. For best performance, it's always better to have a compacted gravel base under concrete. For a 5" slab, about 3" of compacted gravel would be a recommended minimum. The gravel allows water to drain away instead of accumulating in and saturating the soil; in your climate, excessive slab frost heaving is something a proper gravel base would minimize.

A new driveway only 8' wide would be a mistake, in my opinion. As would a ribbon driveway--although they have a classic look, they just aren't practical, unless maintaining the center strip is a hobby one enjoys. Even though you are driving a small car now, that may change in the future. Having additional width will enable users to walk on a solid surface when entering or exiting vehicles, along with providing snow storage benefits (the snow banks, being farther away, won't restrict access where opening car doors). Not that it's your concern, but if the driveway is made wide enough, concrete trucks can do a chute delivery, driving right up to the far end (in between the forms) and then discharging as they return to the street.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 10:47 AM
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I think a "ribbon" driveway will be a mistake in your climate. There you be joints (construction or cracks) that would make it susceptible for a differential in the ultimate grade and levelness. - It would be difficult to remove snow because of the possible different contours. The ribbons are also very difficult as you back down the long driveway in the dark or in bad weather. If there is snow cover finding and staying on a ribbon while backing is a real challenge, especially in the dark.

The 8' width may be adequate, but very limiting. You may want to consider at least widening an area by the garage for a turn around (or space for another occasional car) and then be able to drive out forward, just as you enter it.

Dick
 
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Old 03-20-14, 10:54 AM
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Thanks for the reply, BM45.

It was a little worrying to me that they weren't concerned about the gravel after everything i've read. They even said that they had seen gravel under concrete resulting in trapped water and freezing, which seemed odd. I am assuming 5" concrete is an adequate depth for either a ribbon or solid driveway? 3" - 6" gravel is recommended? I definitely have freeze-thaw cycles here.

The problem with my width is that my old driveway is very narrow. I only really have room for 8' at least for the part from the road to the half-way point. From there on out I could go wider, but I don't want to have a landing strip in my back yard.

The ribbon is for looks, but I also thought it should reduce the cost of the installation dramatically, as seems to be born out by my first quote. I don't mind maintaining the middle strip. I'd prefer a solid drive for maintenance and snow-blowing possibilities, but I thought it would be a lot more expensive. My main goal is to eliminate the horrific mud rutting and puddling that is occurring in the part of my driveway that is currently dirt. I can appreciate the other suggestions regarding exiting the car and snow storage, but they don't weight heavily for me. I am assuming a concrete truck is wider than maybe 9'? I only have that room max for my back gate.

Maybe I should think more about asphalt. I just hate the idea of having to treat it every year or two and deal with the smell and being hot in the summer, etc. Also, I don't really know how durable it will really be. I guess you have to pay for that durability with concrete!
 
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Old 03-20-14, 10:59 AM
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Thanks for the reply, Dick. I hear you on the ribbons being less stable. The old ribbon I have now for the 1st half of the drive (put in sometime after 1914 and probably before 1980 at least) (at least the part that was done with thick cement) is a little off at the joints, but it is quite adequate, so I didn't think that would be a problem. I did think about it being harder to use a ribbon drive. It's not hard for me to use, but it could be for my wife or another owner. If I go off once in awhile, I don't really care. it's not a big deal. I definitely don't want a double-wide drive at the back or a turnaround, as I like my yard with as much grass as possible.

Do you guys have an idea of what it should cost (a range maybe) to put in either kind of drive as I have specified? 8' wide, 5" concrete with 3" minimum gravel base, all of the prep work and removing the old ribbon for the front half? I am currently getting estimates and talking to people, so I will soon enough see what the going rates are here, but I am curious as to what I will be winding up with.

Thanks so much for the input.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 12:23 PM
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I am assuming a concrete truck is wider than maybe 9'?
Any vehicles wider than 8' generally need a special permit to go up and down the road. I don't know the specifics of a concrete truck but I doubt they are wider than 8' Maneuvering them is another story and there can be a big difference between drivers. The good drivers can take them anywhere that's feasible but some of the not so good drivers balk when they get far off the road or anything that takes more skill.

Concrete is more durable than asphalt but snow will melt off of asphalt sooner than it will concrete.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 12:43 PM
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Thanks marksr. That's a good idea. I need to see if some places have trucks that can get through my gate by calling around. maybe the concrete contractors can tell me that.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 12:46 PM
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The contractors are more likely to know which drivers are best. From what little I've seen the concrete plant either doesn't care or doesn't know but the concrete guys I know will ask for a certain driver when they have a job that doesn't have the best road or terrain.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 12:57 PM
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Ha! I never thought of that, but it makes sense i guess!

I'm starting to wonder if I should consider asphalt a little more closely. I was turned off by it at first, but it is starting to look better. I've seen a few around that look pretty nice, very flat, smooth and easy to snowblow, etc. I should be able to do a full drive of it for the cost of half a drive with concrete I would think. I would be good about making sure it is sealed and well-maintained.

Does anyone know what specs. I should look for on a solid asphalt install so that it lasts a long time? how much dirt to dig out? how much gravel/other base, how thick for the various layers of asphalt? thanks.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 01:55 PM
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Locally they excavate about a foot, bring in 8" or so of slate rock, a few inches of gravel and then asphalt. Some of the cheaper outfits will skimp on the base or even asphalt thickness but it usually shows in a year or so As with hiring most any contractor it's best to check references and preferably eyeball some of his work.
 
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Old 03-20-14, 05:38 PM
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If you skimp on asphalt thickness, or proper base preparation, you can count on surface failure in a short period of time. A neighbor of mine in a former life went with the lowest bid, and the weeds were coming through in less than a year. Once that starts, the driveway is toast, ready to be ripped out and completely redone. He thought he was getting 2" of asphalt, but I measured it at about 1-1/4" thick in places where the weeds had poked through. My current neighbor had a new asphalt drive installed less than a year ago, and he's already sealed it twice because of surface raveling.

Cheapest is rarely the best value.
 
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Old 03-21-14, 05:00 AM
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Ya, there are/were a few cheap outfits around here like that. One was notorious for laying 2" of asphalt along the perimeter and less than 1" in the field I don't know how outfits like that stay in business ..... maybe they don't but there is probably another shady outfit waiting to take their place

That said, there are some good pavers out there but it pays to do your due diligence!
 
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Old 03-22-14, 04:29 AM
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on hudson valley, this will work - ribbons 3'w - overall width - 10',,, if you can't back down that driveway, you shouldn't be driving

5" thick air-entrained conc jointed @ 4' - on well-compacted base mtl such as NYSDOR Item 4 - no steel rqd - either b-top OR conc, base mtl & prep is critical to final performance

sounds as if bridge's n-bor saw b-top thickness BEFORE rolling/compaction,,, old trick of b-top pavers,,, hgwy & municipal contracts usual spec sub-base, base course & wearing course + compaction rqmts for ea but they're not used in residential work,,, for residential, you'll get base mtl + driveway mix

that's what i'd do if still in binghamton & my bride wanted that look
 
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Old 03-22-14, 05:28 AM
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Thanks for the info, stadry.

I'm starting to think that asphalt is a better choice for me considering the upfront cost for a fully paved surface that will be easy to maintain and reasonable durability if done correctly. I like the idea of having one solid, flat, smooth surface to remove snow from in the winter, especially after a winter like this one!!

I've been reading a lot about the best asphalt driveway installation practices. The National Asphalt Pavement Association (surprise, surprise) recommends "full-depth asphalt" as the best option (and also increases the usage of asphalt material at the same time ) They recommend 4-6" of asphalt on top of the prepared ground. They also say that gravel can replace the asphalt thickness at a rate of 3:1, that is, 3 inches of crushed, compacted aggregate is equivalent to 1 inch of asphalt. So, that would calculate out to 3" of asphalt and 9" of compacted aggregate to equal a 6" full-depth asphalt drive. I am assuming that the aggregate is a lot cheaper than the asphalt, and that is why contractors use aggregate instead of just installing full-depth asphalt?


Everything I read seems to indicate that the sub-soil condition (and traffic usage) are the key factors in how to design a driveway. I'm sure no contractor would come in here and test my soil before giving me a quote, right? I guess they are assuming my soil under my drive is similar to everyone else's around here and use experience of what works?

I had an asphalt guy come and give a quote recently. He said he would dig down 6", put in 3" of compacted, crushed, recycled concrete and then 3" of compacted asphalt wearing course. He also said he'd give me a quote for making an even sturdier drive by putting in 3" of aggregate, 3" of thicker base course and then 1-1.5" of wearing course.

I'm starting to think that maybe a thick, 6-9" of compacted aggregate, followed by 3-4" of compacted wearing course would make a very durable driveway. So far, the two contractors I've talked to (one for concrete and one for asphalt) both said they'd only put in a maximum of about 3" of aggregate. That sounds like a mistake from what I am reading and seeing from what you guys are posting, unless they go really thick on the concrete or asphalt, which is not the case!
 
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Old 03-22-14, 09:18 AM
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For its cost, A high quality fabric below the base aggregate is worth every cent. the fabric will keep the aggregate from pushing into the subsoil and also act as a drainage medium for the subsoil. Having worked with asphalt pavement for a number of years, I have found that a 3" dense binder followed with an 1" of top (NYSDOT 7A) makes a great driveway. All these depths are un-compacted asphalt pavement layers. there is approximately 20% compaction when rolled correctly. Also keep in mind that the gravel base should be somewhere around 8" thick and compacted as much as possible.
 
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Old 03-22-14, 04:04 PM
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Thanks, landfillwizard. How much does the fabric cost per square foot? I could have my contractor use that no problem.

I have decided to go with a fully paved asphalt driveway. I talked to a contractor today who I liked a lot. He said he would put down 6" of compacted item 4, followed by 3" of compacted type 6 asphalt. He advised me to tear out 3 smallish (less than 4" diameter) trees along the driveway to prevent problems with roots, and I am debating whether to do that or just hope it isn't a problem and repair it down the road, as I love the trees.

He talked a lot about grading the driveway so that water flows away from my house for the first half of the driveway. Then, he decided it would be best to grade it the opposite way for the second half of the driveway due to the contours of the land. It seems to make a lot of sense to me. He also said he'd cut off part of the top soil in front of the left part of my garage, where I'm not getting asphalt installed, so that the water will flow off into my yard. He's the first contractor to talk about water drainage design explicitly.
 
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Old 03-22-14, 08:14 PM
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Sounds like your latest asphalt guy knows how to think, and knows what he's talking about. Ask him if he does his asphalt all in one lift, or places a finishing coat on the base layer of asphalt. If he does the latter, ask him how much tack he applies between layers. Also ask him if he charges extra for defoliant.

I wouldn't remove trees that you like, unless they are inches away from the edge of the finished driveway. Root growth for most tree species can be effectively minimized in a certain direction by digging a narrow trench at the crown outline, then installing some impervious sheets in the trench, followed by backfilling. All bets are off if the trees are water-seekers, like cottonwoods--such roots are known to travel many feet in search of water, including finding and penetrating sewer lines.
 
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Old 03-23-14, 04:46 AM
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OK, i'll ask him that. i'll also ask the next guy who comes for an estimate. i know that he just installs one type of asphalt. i'll ask if he does 2 lifts. you can do thicker lifts if it's colder outside, right? he didn't talk about defoliant. i assume you add that onto the subsoil before putting down the aggregate? so, the best practice is to put defoliant, then geo-textile, then aggregate (pack it good), then put down the lifts of asphalt with a layer of "tack" between layers?

Regarding the trees, they are within inches of the edge of the driveway, one of them like 2 inches!!! i am starting to think it might be safer to just pull them out and install some shrubs all along my driveway. as it is i will have one large tree at the edge that I am NOT moving and will have to deal with if it becomes a problem.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 07:27 AM
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Bridgeman,

Having seen 10s of thousands of tons of Asphalt pavement placed I have seen very little if any delineation between lifts from placing two consequent lift without a tack coat. However, these lifts were placed within 24 hours and no traffic drove on the lower lift. If any dirt or gravel got on the lower lift then all bets are off. If aaron hires a good contractor that places a 3" compacted layer and compacts the material at the correct temperature and lets it cool out before placing another lift, then delineation will not occur. However the temperature of the upper layer is crucial to a good bond with the lower layer. Temperature should be approaching 300F at time of placement for the upper layer to get a good bond.

I would also encourage aaron to place a top wear surface over the binder layer to seal the binder and give a smooth driving surface. Once the asphalt pavement is placed wait 1 year before applying a driveway sealer.
 
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Old 03-25-14, 01:18 PM
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OK, landfillwizard, what's your take on geotextile fabric and defoliant? Are they necessary/advantageous?

Let's say my contractor uses a minimum of 6" of compacted item 4 for the sub-base. What are the two main options for an appropriate asphalt job? One case is that he could put down one layer of asphalt (I think he said he'd put down one layer of type 6 maybe?) He was saying 3" thick after rolling it.

What is the other case? A base layer (how thick and what kind?) covered with a top wear layer(how thick and what kind?)

What is the difference between the two options in terms of durability, stability, etc.?
 
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Old 03-25-14, 07:26 PM
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This article may not be the greatest, but it seems like a no nonsense approach:

How to Install a Durable Asphalt Driveway: The Family Handyman

It recommends 4-8" of aggregate sub-base, depending on soil type and then 2-3" of asphalt. It says you can usually get fine (1/2" or smaller) or courser (3/4" or smaller) asphalt with the 3/4" stuff being stronger. It says you can get 2" of 3/4" topped with 1/2" of smaller. I think I'd just opt to go with 3" of the coarser stuff, which is what my latest contractor seemed to be indicating he would use. I don't mind the look of the 3/4" stuff. As for whether it should be laid at one time, that depends on the temp outside and the asphalt temp i guess?
 
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Old 07-03-14, 05:18 PM
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final result

I decided to go with an asphalt contractor. He put in a minimum of 5" item 2 base, rolled it and then layed down at least 2.5" of rolled asphalt. it's thicker in areas. it look fantastic, and seems like it will be very durable.
 
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Old 07-05-14, 01:25 PM
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& since its june/july, temperature's cooperated - you're fine - good luck !
 
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Old 04-29-15, 12:47 PM
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Hows it going with the driveway ( read your posts from 2013)

Any update to the drive way its been a few years. Hows it holding up?

I very much want to do a ribbon driveway but your case for asphalt is a good one. I am in the North east PA. So not as bad but bad enough in its won right weather wise.
 
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Old 04-29-15, 12:54 PM
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I love the asphalt driveway. It is incredibly durable probably due in large part to the incredible base they put in. It should last for years, and if a root grows up and damages it, I can always have that part cut out and refilled. I'm glad I went with asphalt. I thought the concrete would look better, but I really like the asphalt look. It also melts off the snow pretty fast due to the black color when it is sunny. I've seen a lot of concrete jobs around here crumbling away already after only a year or a few years, so I'm glad I avoided that mess! It may have been cheaper concrete, lower PSI stuff, but still, asphalt seems great. I used Angie's list to find a reputable place. You can tell when they are going to be good based upon if they want to just slop down a thin coat or do it right, by digging it all out and packing it down well.
 
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