On this page:
- Estimating the Cost of a Concrete Driveway
- Is Concrete the Best Choice for My Driveway?
- What Affects the Cost of Installing a Concrete Driveway?
- What Details Will Influence the Cost of My Driveway Installation?
- Preparing for a Concrete Driveway Installation
- Cost Comparisons
- Level of Difficulty
- Find a Pro
Concrete is a stable and low-maintenance paving material that is a great option for a driveway in many locations. Installing a concrete driveway is a labor intensive project that requires some specialized skills and tools, and since the job involves handling a lot of material, it is often most cost-effective to leave the work in the hands of a pro. A number of options for finishing the surface of the concrete with texture and stains give you plenty of opportunity to customize your driveway and increase the curb appeal of your home without increasing the maintenance requirements of the surface.
Estimating the Cost of a Concrete Driveway
Who Should I Call?
Driveway, paving, and concrete contractors commonly install residential driveways, and are the specialists in the field. These pros know what it takes to meet local codes and to accommodate the ground and climate conditions when designing, preparing, and pouring your driveway. General contractors (GC) also often provide the service with a subcontractor on new construction and exterior renovations, but if you hire a GC, you may pay up to 15 percent more than if you contract the driveway pros on your own.
How are Driveway Installations Estimated?
Large hardscape and concrete installations like driveways and patios are often priced by the square foot or cubic yard, so the thickness and overall size of your driveway could be the most significant factor in the price of the job. There are several details that can influence the cost per square foot though, so the more complex the job is, the higher the unit price will be. A professional installer should be able to perform all the prep work necessary to get the ground ready for the new concrete, as well as the formwork, pouring, and finishing, so the job is generally bid as a whole.
Is Concrete the Best Choice for My Driveway?
Concrete provides a stable surface and can be installed over virtually any soil type with correct preparation and proper drainage. Concrete can be vulnerable to cracking in cold conditions though, so is a better choice for mild climates than for those with harsh winters where frost heaving is an issue.
Concrete driveways can withstand just about anything you can throw at them and last for decades before requiring major repairs or replacement. The material is prone to staining though, so to keep the driveway looking sharp it may be necessary to seal the surface and clean it periodically. You can prevent surface damage by limiting parking of exceptionally heavy vehicles and avoiding the use of snowplows and ice melting products.
Thanks to their durability and longevity, concrete driveways don’t require a lot of special treatment to stay in good condition. Pressure washing or scrubbing as needed, applying a high-quality sealer periodically, and filling minor cracks is about all it takes to take care of stains and blemishes and keep the surface stable and looking sharp.
What Affects the Cost of Installing a Concrete Driveway?
In addition to variations in the cost of labor, your location can affect other aspects of the price of your driveway project. Local building codes may specify the thickness of the concrete and whether reinforcement is required in the material. The standards in your area can influence the cost of both materials and labor, since they affect the volume of concrete and quantity of rebar or wire mesh required as well as the time and manpower needed to get the job done.
The dimensions of your driveway will determine the surface area to cover, and though the cost per square foot may decrease as the size increases, the overall price will go up. More material for both the base and the surface bring up the cost of supplies, and the extra time involved increases the cost of labor. Handling concrete is a time-sensitive job, so as the scale of the job increases the size of the crew must increase accordingly in order to work a large volume of concrete in a short amount of time.
The shape or layout of a driveway has significant influence on the cost of installation, since it determines the complexity of the work. In addition to prepping and compacting the base for the concrete, workers must build forms to hold the concrete in place while it sets up. It can take considerably more time and manual detail work to prepare for and finish an irregular or complex slab than a basic rectangle. Even a simple curve or semicircular design can take up a lot more space than a straight run, which increases both the material and labor requirements of the job.
What Details Will Influence the Cost of My Driveway Installation?
If your concrete driveway is a replacement for an existing surface, the old material will need to be removed before the ground can be prepared and forms built for the new concrete. The existing driveway can generally be broken up with jackhammers or large equipment and hauled away, so the overall size of the driveway and the volume of material to remove will determine the cost of this added work.
All driveways must be built on a stable, compacted base of gravel, but the amount of material and work required to prep the site may be affected by the soil type in your yard. Also, compensating for drainage and slope issues could call for more extensive earthwork that can add several thousand dollars to the bottom line, depending on the requirements.
Concrete driveways are typically at least four inches thick, though some municipalities’ codes may require a five or six inch slab, as well as the installation of reinforcing bars or mesh in the concrete. The requirements in your town or the recommendations of your contractor could call for more material, which can raise the cost of the job by as much as 25 percent.
Concrete driveway finishes have come a long way from flat, dull gray so you can customize your driveway with a variety of textures and stains, from uniform coloring and stamped designs that replicate brick, stone, and tile to custom hand-applied stains, cutting, and etching. Adding a stamped finish could nearly double the cost of the job, while taking things a step further with a custom design could cost more than three times as much as a standard installation.
Preparing for a Concrete Driveway Installation
Talk With the Pros
When planning for a new driveway, talk with several local pros to compare estimates and recommendations so you can find out the typical price range for the work in your area, as well as the most appropriate construction method. It can be advantageous to have different types of contractors price the project, such as concrete, driveway, and general contractors. Make sure that any pro you hire will secure the permits required for the project and comply with local codes.
Choose a Finish
If you prefer a customized look over basic concrete, plan ahead by researching finish options. Armed with some knowledge about techniques and pricing, you can choose a contractor that is experienced with the style you have in mind and compare estimates confidently. Keep in mind that a specialized finish will cost more initially, but you will be looking at your driveway for a long time. While you may be able to stain the concrete at a later point, the best time to add texture is during installation. Replacing the driveway before it is necessary (in order to add texture) can make for an expensive upgrade down the road.
Pitch In if You Can
In most cases, it is cost-effective to have a single contractor handle an entire driveway project, from demo and groundwork to finishing. But, if you need to cut down expenses you may be able to save on some aspects of the job by taking on some work yourself, such as demolition, staining, and sealing. Be sure to compare the costs to the benefit though; driveway specialists are equipped and staffed to handle this type of work pretty quickly. So while you may save a small amount on the cost of labor, it could take you much longer to complete labor-intensive work like demolition, and might even cost more for equipment rental and disposal than it would to have the pros handle the work, depending on the size of your workforce and the time it takes to get the job done.
|$2,100 - $3,500||$5,700 - $9,000||$33,000 - $47,000|
A number of variables will affect the cost of your concrete driveway installation, but to help you plan for the potential cost of the job, consider our examples. A few variations in the scenario can affect the cost of a four-inch thick driveway with wire mesh reinforcement on a level lot in a suburban neighborhood.
A Straight Shot: $2,100 - $3,500
- • Site Preparation: In a new construction scenario, site prep is simplified by the lack of demolition and ease of access to the site. Contractors can jump right into grading for correct pitch, building a gravel base, and compacting the surface.
- • Shape and Size: Minimum width for single-car access keeps the dimensions of this driveway to a 12’ by 40’ straight run, a simple layout for forming and pouring.
- • Finish: A basic surface finish keeps costs low, since no additional materials or time are needed to incorporate a special texture, color, or sealer.
Easier Access: $5,700 - $9,000
- • Site Preparation: On this project, the removal of the existing driveway adds a day’s labor, equipment operation, and disposal to the bottom line. The added work can add as much as $2,000 to the job.
- • Shape and Size: A 20’ width accommodates two cars for the 40’ run in this example. An additional 12’ by 20’ turnaround adds convenience for turning or additional parking, but adds 240 square feet and a bit of complexity to the job.
- • Finish: Dressing up this driveway with a sprayed-on stain and stamped texture adds as much as $3.00 per square foot to the total cost.
A Grand Entrance: $33,000 - $47,000
- • Site Preparation: A full tear-out and new layout make site work a big part of this job. A full day could be needed to prepare the new areas involved in the driveway and form the customized layout.
- • Shape and Size: A double-width, 100’ long semicircle provides convenience by eliminating backing in or out, but takes up a lot of space and material. This layout often costs more than twice as much as a straight driveway on a similar sized lot.
- • Finish: Making a showpiece of this driveway with custom staining and concrete cutting to replicate a tiled surface can add more than $10 per square foot to the cost of a basic finish.
Level of Difficulty
Planning and installing a concrete driveway is an advanced project that requires knowledge of local codes, the ability to compensate for ground conditions, heavy equipment to prepare the site efficiently, and the skills to properly form, pour, and finish concrete. Unless you have experience in the field, the best way to ensure a lasting, high-quality result is to hire a driveway or concrete contractor who has what it takes to get the job done right and in short order.
Driveway Installation Services
If you are ready to talk with local contractors about your driveway installation, get in touch with a few Driveway Installation Pros in your area. The contractors in our network have a proven record of quality work, and are verified to carry licenses and insurance as required by their home state. It’s important to work with a contractor you can trust on a big job like this, and Pro Referral can help you connect with the right Pros where you live.
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