Develop a plan for your driveway
You will want to consider a number of things so that the driveway is functional, aesthetically pleasing, and durable. Here are some considerations.
Do a cost estimate of the driveway
To do this, you will have to calculate the amount of concrete you will need, the type of forms you will use, and any reinforcement material you will incorporate in the concrete slab. You should also estimate the cost of any equipment you will rent for grading or finishing, and the cost of labor if you intend to hire workers to help with the project.
Determine the soil bearing characteristics of your project site
Soft, loamy soils or loose, sandy soils need amending to support your drive. This can be done by adding clay to sandy soils, sand or gravel to loamy material, or possibly by mechanically compacting the existing material. If you are in doubt, consult an experienced builder or even a civil engineer before proceeding, since an unsuitable base will lead to failure of the concrete after your investment of time, labor, and money.
Lay out the sides of your driveway
You can do this by driving small wooden or metal stakes at points where the drive will egress the street, then at the end point near your home, then tying builder’s line on them, to help you visualize the path of the driveway.
Measure the width of the drive so that it corresponds with the plan you have made
This may be an appropriate step to consider the width you will build in. A minimum width for a typical residential driveway is about eight feet, but even for a single lane drive, ten or twelve feet is better. For two lane drives, sixteen feet should be considered minimum.
Remove any soil or other vegetation from the driveway location after you have established the edges with builder’s line
If the soil is particularly soft or unstable, you will want to remove enough so that a suitable fill material can be placed under the driveway as you build. In very cold climates, a capillary fill material like crushed stone or gravel is desirable, to prevent cracks from forming and enlarging due to water expansion during freezing conditions.
Determine if there are any underground utilities that should be modified or installed before adding fill material or setting forms
Some typical ones might be conduits for outdoor lighting or power, water lines for irrigation, as well as telephone lines or potable water lines for you home. Your property may also slope in such a way as to require an underground stormwater drainage pipe to transfer surface water from one side of your drive to another.
Install the forms for your driveway
Typically, these will be 1×4 or 2×4 pieces of lumber, anchored with wooden stakes sufficiently to support the form boards. These stakes are driven into the soil with a sledgehammer at a spacing to keep the formboards on grade and straightly aligned. For curving drives, masonite or plywood that is strong enough to support the concrete load.
Grade the fill material or existing soil so that your slab of concrete will be the correct depth or thickness
Usually driveways are at least four inches thick for heavier vehicles or difficult to stabilize soil conditions, thicker concrete is suggested. Grading is done by placing a straightedge or tying a string across the top of your forms and measuring down to the soil, to the correct depth. Remove or add fill material with a shovel. You may also want to thicken the edges, or make them deeper, for additional strength and to decrease the likelihood of cracking.
Re-compact the fill material using a plate compactor
You may be able to compact the soil by driving a vehicle back and forth over it, taking care not to become stuck if it is particularly soft when you begin. The important thing to note, is that the compaction of the soil is what will support the weight of the concrete, as well as the subsequent load of vehicles using the drive, so the importance of having compacted, stable fill material cannot be overstated.
Install reinforcing steel
This can be a mat of steel reinforcing bars tied in place, typically number 4 rebar on 12 inch centers, or 6X6 welded wire reinforcing wire fabric, available at building supply stores. Another option is to have polypropylene fiber reinforcing added to the concrete mixture at the concrete plant.
Placement of your concrete
You will need the proper tools for the job, sufficient help to do it, and access for concrete trucks or an alternative method of placing the concrete in the forms. Wheelbarrowing the plastic concrete the length of a substantial driveway is labor-intensive, so if you cannot get the concrete trucks in a position to discharge their payload directly into your forms, consider hiring a concrete pumping contractor to place the material for you.
Cure the concrete
This is done by creating a moisture retaining barrier on the concrete’s surface, either with a layer of plastic sheeting, or by applying a chemical curing compound to prevent the concrete from drying out too quickly. You should protect your concrete drive from extreme weather conditions for at least three, and preferably seven days, so that it achieves its maximum strength.
Test drive your driveway
After allowing the concrete to cure sufficiently to support your vehicle gives a minimum of three days, preferably more then you will be able to drive your car on it to test its usability.
If you carefully follow these steps you should have a fully working driveway which is safe to use.