Educational Consumer Tips
Better Business Bureau
Category: Home Improvement
The entrance to your home begins with your driveway. Improved asphalt techniques and other new surface treatments allow you to have a more attractive entrance than ever before.
A poorly designed and constructed driveway that begins to crack and crumble after its first winter is far more expensive than a well-constructed driveway that costs a little more to start with but remains solid and attractive for many years with minimum upkeep.
Remember that a good driveway is a major construction job that must be carried out according to rigid specifications.
Paving contractors are regulated in Virginia and must be licensed by the Board for Contractors. The Transaction Recovery Fund can reimburse a consumer up to $10,000 when a licensed contractor "botches" a job. If the consumer uses an unlicensed contractor, the fund is not available. Some contractors claim to be licensed in other states. Those licenses are generally not valid in Virginia. Unlicensed contractors may not have liability insurance or bonding and they have no enforceable warranties for the work they do. Before you agree to a paving or paving repair job, there are three things that should be checked: the contractor's license status, whether the contractor's bond is current and the contractor's complaint resolution history.
The following tips are provided courtesy of the BBB of Western Ontario and Tuscon Asphalt Contractors.
In general, asphalt paving consists of approximately two inches of compacted asphalt laid over a crushed stone base of four to six inches. A base of the proper thickness and material is necessary for a long-lasting driveway. A proper grade, meaning there are no low spots in the driveway, will ensure you do not end up with puddles. The overall paving job will reflect the quality of asphalt, stone and workmanship that went into its construction.
Tips on Caring for Your Asphalt Driveway
- Asphalt is made up of various sizes of stone, sand, liquid asphalt and other elements. Some areas will look smoother than others - some hairline cracks, scars and raveling are not unusual. It can take up to 12 months for the liquid asphalt in blacktop to harden and cure. You can walk on the surface immediately but it is recommended that you keep vehicular traffic off at least 12 hours or longer after paving, especially when the job is done during the hot summer months.
- Asphalt surfaces are flexible and as temperatures rise and fall you may notice the surface will harden and soften. This is normal, so on really hot days you may want to lightly spray water on the surface in the heat of the day to cool and help harden it. Don't be alarmed if soapsuds appear, this is a natural reaction between the asphalt and chlorine levels in the water.
- Power steering marks and scuffing are common in new asphalt and newly sealcoated surfaces. Try to avoid turning the wheel with the vehicle in a stationary position. Turning while stopped can cause the asphalt to move and scar the new surface.
- Try not to park in the same spot every time.
- Excessive weight from large vehicles can depress your new asphalt.
- Motorcycle and bicycle kick stands, lawn chairs, jack stands, car ramps and even high heels can create holes or depressions in your new asphalt. Placing a piece of plywood under the tires or jack will help prevent this problem.
- Excessive weight from the tongue of stored campers or boats can cause depressions.
- Spills from gasoline, oil, anti-freeze, power steering and transmission fluids can all cause damage to the asphalt surface.
- The inherent flexibility of asphalt allows rough areas and scars to heel themselves in time and under traffic, while larger tears can be touched up. Asphalt hardens as it ages and becomes much less likely to depress or scar.
- Once your asphalt has completely cured it is advisable to apply a sealer to your pavement. This process is called "sealcoating."
What Sealcoating Can Do
- Enhance the appearance of the pavement and the value of your property
- Slow oxidation, water penetration and surface raveling
- Resist gas and oil-type spills
- Extend the life of your pavement
What Sealcoating Cannot Do
- Cannot seal or fill cracks
- Cannot provide structural help to failing or damaged pavement
- Cannot completely fill in voids, cracks or blemishes in pavement surfaces
- Cannot stick to decomposed, peeling or oil-coated pavements
A sealcoat is designed to protect the pavement surface from sun oxidation, moisture penetration and loss of surface particles. Sealing slows the penetration of spills from gasoline and other petroleum products. Unsealed surfaces remain porous, dry out, become rough and the life of the pavement is significantly reduced.
Before sealcoating, the surface is typically cleaned with wire brooms and blowers.
Pavement cracks wider than ¼" can be sealed with a hot rubberized crack sealer to prevent moisture infiltration.
Sealers can be applied by hand or spray applied. It is the decision of the installer to determine which method is best for your driveway.
While some parking lots require two coats, most driveways receive one heavy coat.
Drying times for sealer can vary significantly. The time of year, temperature, wind and exposure to the sun will all affect drying time. Although sealer may look dry, it is recommended that vehicles stay off the surface for a period of 12-24 hours. Foot traffic is okay if the surface looks and feels dry and doesn't stick to your shoes.
During periods of high heat, sealcoat surfaces are susceptible to tire marks and other scars. Most tire marks blend in time and severe marks can be touched up a month or so after sealing.
After the initial application of sealer it is recommended to reapply every 1-3 years. Excessive traffic, UV exposure and the condition of the pavement before sealcoating will all affect its longevity.
GUARANTEES AND CONTRACTS
All guarantees should be specific, definite and clear as to meaning. Conditions and any time limits should be included. Lifetime and other long-term guarantees that extend beyond the reasonable fulfillment possibilities of the product or service should be avoided.
In cases where a company outlines in its contract a list of "Conditions", be certain the contract clearly defines where the contractor's responsibilities begin and end. All guarantees and contracts should be in writing and signed by both parties.
DOOR TO DOOR SALES
Occasionally homeowners are approached by a contractor who says something like: "We've just finished a job in your neighborhood and have this material left over…" That is a red flag and the Bureau urges consumers to be extra cautious about this type of door to door approach.
When you are approached by any door to door solicitor, first insist on a written and signed estimate - make sure that a street address and telephone number is listed for the company, as well as a detailed description of the work they will be doing, the total cost, and any warranties or guarantees. Ask for references of the work they have done in your area and check the references. Never simply sign a contract with the first company that comes to your door. Get additional quotes and check the company's references.
Remember that a price quote means nothing unless you know exactly what is being provided in terms of adequate base, drainage and other specifications. Insist on a written contract with thickness, quantities and areas specified in detail. Remember, the lowest bid is not necessarily the best bid. After you have made certain your contractor is a reliable person with a good record, listen to his advice. Don't make him cut corners by asking him to cut his price.