Answers to Home Questions
Question: I have an 80-foot-wide concrete driveway. It is cracked in several places, and I want to know if it can be covered with asphalt. Must I remove the old concrete driveway to lay the asphalt? I am afraid we will be tracking tar oils into the house with the blacktop driveway. What are the pros and cons of an asphalt driveway? Answer: Actually, paving with blacktop over concrete is done all the time. You see it on highways and roadways, when huge paving contractors cut and scrape the existing road and repave it with a smooth, blacktop surface. But in residential applications, it’s rarely done. Here’s why: Concrete driveways have expansion joints because the material moves – expands and contracts – depending on the changes in temperature. Asphalt is paved in one single slab, without expansion joints. Like concrete, blacktop also contracts and expands. It’s just that blacktop is more flexible than concrete and doesn’t move the same way. In roadway repavement, the existing concrete is scraped and treated with large machines. In residential projects, the use of such machines is not cost-effective. So, if an asphalt driveway were applied over a concrete base that was not scraped and treated, the blacktop surface would crack in the same manner as the concrete. Any break, crack or movement in the expansion joint would be reproduced in the asphalt surface. Most asphalt contractors will remove the old concrete driveway and crush the material in a machine on the job site. This crushed material is recycled as aggregate and used to create a porous base for the new asphalt driveway. And because asphalt is porous and allows water to drain, keeping the old concrete driveway intact would cause some freeze-thaw problems. As for tracking tar and oils, it does not happen. Take my word for it. We’ve had a blacktop driveway for 11 years, and before that we had concrete driveways. In terms of tracking dirt and debris indoors, there’s no difference. If you don’t want to replace with asphalt, consider putting a decorative concrete layer over the existing concrete. Q.: I am building a corner shower in our master bathroom and plan to lay tile on the floor and the walls. The thing that’s holding me up is the floor. I need to know how to build the floor so that I have correct slope and a water-tight barrier. Also, if the tiles are 11-inch squares, will it be difficult to lay them where the slope changes. The shower is in a corner and shaped almost triangularly. Do you have any suggestions? A.: Building a leakproof shower pan out of mortar is not terribly difficult, but it does take some experience and knowledge. I could provide information on building one, but the best step-by-step article I’ve come across on the subject was written by Tom Meehan in the August/September 2001 edition of Fine Homebuilding magazine. You can purchase the article at http://www.finehomebuilding.com, which launched a new Web site last month. The site offers online access to more than 1,000 of the magazine’s articles for $5.99 a month. An annual all-access web subscription is $39.95 for nonprint subscribers and $19.95 for magazine subscribers. I’m a huge fan of the magazine, which features articles and reviews by the staff of professional contractors and builders. Now, if it were me, I don’t think I’d build a pan from mortar. Instead, I’d purchase a solid-surface pan made from acrylic or a marble-like material. Or I might consider a leakproof TileRedi pan (tileredi.com), made from a plastic material that can be tiled and carries a lifetime warranty. One reason for avoiding the concrete is that unless you are an experienced and proficient tile installer, it can be time-consuming and frustrating. Frankly, you’re going to be working with materials that are a bit foreign to you, so why push your luck? Take the shortcut. If you don’t care about matching the floor with the walls, then go for a solid-surface acrylic pan, which is durable and affordable. If you want to match the tile with the floor, then the TileRedi product is a snap – compared with building your own slope floor pan out of mortar.
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