If you are building a home on a new plot of land or moving into one with a gravel driveway, there is a good chance you will want to install a driveway made from concrete at some point. Most people have no idea how a driveway is constructed, and thus have not considered the fact that they can install a driveway themselves. We rarely get to see a driveway during the construction state, and the concept likely seems both foreign and difficult. This, however, is not the case - with the right tools and guidance, you can build a driveway yourself and use the money saved for landscaping, interior decorating, or celebratory pizza for your job well done.
Laying A Concrete Driveway
Laying a concrete driveway is not very different from laying a concrete pad, except that the driveway must incorporate expansion joints. Concrete expands and contracts, and if you do not allow for this, you will have cracks in your driveway. You must also lay the driveway in such a way that it sheds water. This is not a problem if the drive is on a gentle slope but if it is level, you have to build in a fall of 1 inch every yard.
Consider first which vehicles will be using the drive. If it is only designed for the normal family car, a thickness of 5 inches of concrete over a 6 inch base of hardcore will be sufficient. If, however, your oil or coal is going to be delivered up this drive, you will need both a wider drive and a minimum thickness of 8 inches of concrete over 8 inches of hardcore.
Design the driveway first on paper. Make sure that the drive is wide enough. If it is against a wall, there must be space for a car door to open. You should also consider how much parking space you will need and whether or not you want to incorporate a turning circle.
Start by excavating the area of the proposed driveway. You need to clear it of all soft earth and plant material until you have a firm, hard surface of subsoil. Rake this as level as you can, if at all possible roll it with a heavy iron roller or scrape the surface with a board to make it flat. Start by putting in level wooden peg-markers to show the shape and size of the driveway. The first peg must be driven in until it shows the height above the ground of the finished driveway, allowing for all the hardcore and concrete. Use a straight board and a spirit level to fix the other pegs at one yard intervals, remembering that each peg must be one inch lower than the preceding peg to allow for the fall. As you go, put up the formwork with 1 inch thick planks to mark the drive. Make sure that your formwork planks have sufficient depth to hold the concrete; that is, the formwork must be the depth of the finished driveway. The top edge of the formwork must be exactly aligned with the top of the marker pegs, to maintain the fall.
Fill the formwork with the necessary depth of hardcore, compressing it as much as you can. Before pouring in the concrete, you need to put in the expansion joints. You need strips of treated hardwood 1/2 inch thick and the same depth as your concrete. They must be the exact width of the drive and must fit tightly across the drive, on top of the hardcore, and between the formboards. These should be put in every two yards.
Fill each area between two expansion joints with concrete. This should be a strong mix, of 1 part cement to 11/2 sharp sand and 21/2 aggregate (or 31/2 parts ballast instead of the sand and aggregate) with enough water to allow the concrete to be poured. You can mix this yourself in a small electric-powered mixer. Start by pouring in a little water as the machine is turning and gradually add the other ingredients until you have a mixer full of well-amalgamated ready-to-pour concrete.
Empty the concrete from the mixer into a strong wheelbarrow, and from there to the first area of the driveway. Spray the first area of driveway lightly with water and tip the barrowload of concrete into place. Start at one corner and fill the area between two expansion joints, being careful to spread the concrete right up to the joint without moving it. The concrete should completely fill the area; rake it so that it is just above the top of the formboards.
Once the first area is thoroughly filled, tamp down the concrete. This requires two people. Lay a board across the concrete from one formboard to the other, and with the thin edge of the board tamp the concrete down with steady blows. Cover the whole area twice and then remove any excess with the board. Fill any holes and tamp down again. Each area of concrete must be kept damp for a few days until it sets. Cover it with polythene or sacking and in very hot weather, spray it lightly.
Allow the concrete to set for at least a month before removing the formboards.
Where Can I Find Driveway Materials and Supplies?
Any local hardware store should have most of the tools you require to install your own driveway. If you have a Home Hardware or Lowes in your area either of these should do just fine. The great thing about hardware stores is that they should have helpful staff who either have experience doing what you are, or have helped others find the right supplies to do so. If you have any questions about materials, it is the perfect place to get answers from someone who deals with them for a living.
You can also do your shopping for supplies online, but you won't get the personal attention you would in a hardware store, and you'll have to pay for shipping and wait for the supplies to arrive before you can get started.