Driveways are normally constructed of asphalt, concrete, or gravel, or might just be a clearing with no covering. The latter is not particularly desirable from a cosmetic point of view and because of the ease with which ruts can develop. Gravel driveways on occasion also develop ruts and require periodic replacement of the gravel. Concrete and asphalt driveways should be inspected for cracked, broken, or settled areas that require rehabilitation. Extensive cracking, such as alligator cracks, is usually an indication of poor drainage of the subbase or poor construction. In this case, the cracks cannot be sealed effectively. The entire area should be patched. If a large portion of the driveway has this type of cracking, resurfacing is required.
Sometimes the driveway is on an incline, so that subsurface water flows below the driveway, undermining the subbase. In this case, prior to resurfacing, adequate provision for drainage of the subbase should be made.
When standing at the front of the driveway, look to see if it pitches directly down toward the house. If it does, the garage and any other portion of the lower level are vulnerable to flooding unless a large operational drain at the base of the driveway intercepts the surface water. Usually a channel drain that runs across the width of the driveway is needed to control such water runoff. The drain, however, should have a free-flowing outlet. If the drain is connected to a dry well, it might be ineffective during those months when there is a high water table; one corrective procedure would be to connect the drain to a sump pit and remove the water by means of a sump pump.
When a house is located on a street that is inclined, the curb cut for the driveway should not be feathered into the street. Instead there should be a small ridge on the driveway at the joint between the driveway and the street. This ridge will prevent water that normally accumulates around the curb from flowing onto the driveway. This is normally not a problem in newer structures. However, in older houses the ridge tends to deteriorate, allowing water to overflow. This condition should be corrected.
In some northern areas, raised and inclined driveways have scratch marks that are caused by studded snow tires. This indicates that those driveways will be difficult to negotiate during some winter months; 100 pounds of salt and sand should be stored in the garage or near the driveway.
The minimum width for a driveway is 8 feet, although 9 feet is preferred. If the driveway is used both as an areaway for the car and a walkway in place of a path, it should be at least 10 feet. Anything less will make walking quite difficult when a car is parked in the driveway. Note whether the driveway discharges into a heavily trafficked street. If it does, an area in the driveway should function as a turnaround to allow a driver to head onto the street rather than back out onto the street. Also, look for overgrown trees and shrubs at the end of the driveway that might obstruct the driver’s view when entering the street.