When homeowners in Saskatoon build a new driveway or revamp an existing one, many turn to concrete. It’s not just the boring, old gray stuff anymore. Concrete is the one material that does it all. It’s durable, looks great, and is easy to maintain. Innovative companies like Old North Concreteworks are taking it to a whole new level as outside of their flat work, they specialize in concrete flooring, countertops and furniture. The versatility of concrete makes it a favourite amongst Saskatchewan residents.
When it’s time to get that driveway or patio poured, we recommend you consult with concrete professionals in your service area and we at Kijenga can help match you up. There are some basic construction details you should know as we connect you to our certified contractors. Regardless of whether or not you get estimates from our network of pros or on your own, use these standards as discussion points with your contractor so you can be sure your driveway is getting installed for maximum longevity and durability.
In order for your concrete driveway to last for years and years, the first steps in preparing the subgrade are critical. Your subgrade should be evenly compacted. 4 inches of good base gravel is a minimum and it should pack well (not sand). A tamper is recommended to ensure best results and is commonly used amongst concrete professionals.
It should be noted that ground saturated with water needs to be properly removed prior to concrete being poured. If you have a downspout draining in a certain area, make sure you get down far enough to remove this saturation prior to pouring.
Whether you’re pouring your concrete driveway yourself or you’re hiring a professional contractor, you must ensure that a minimum 4” of concrete is being poured. Concrete is measured by its strength capacity. MPa (megapascals) is the metric measurement for psi or pounds per square inch. Your driveway should be poured with a 32 MPa duramix concrete (a specific mix from any redimix concrete supplier). There are cheaper mixes so make sure this is what is being used for your project.
Correctly Placed Joints
Joints are placed in concrete to encourage cracking to occur inside the cut (in a straight line). It’s a common misconception that joints prevent cracking. That’s not the case.
It’s recommended from our concrete professionals in Saskatoon to make sure there are angled cuts off of 90 degree corners as consensus is that it always seems to crack in this location. Cut lines can be incorporated into patterns and designs to be somewhat disguised, but they are a necessary component of the construction of your driveway. Joints should be at least ¼ of the concrete’s thickness. A 1” deep joint should be created in the concrete in a 4” thick driveway. There is also proper spacing that should be followed for the joint placement. On a 4” thick driveway, joints should be spaced no farther than 8’-12’ apart.
There are companies that put in control joints with a groover when the concrete is wet, and others cut them in with a concrete saw the next day. Both have their pros and cons but be sure to ask your contractor what they do and ask them why. It’s also recommended that you get addresses of past clients from your contractor so you can take a look at their actual work.
Bottom line is concrete cracks. That’s just the nature of the beast. We do everything in our power to control how much it does crack and how visible those cracks are. If you see some cracks in your driveway, don’t panic. It happens. That being said, you should inquire if there seems to be excessive cracking or if the cracking seems to be spreading.
– Dan with Old North Concreteworks
A freshly poured concrete driveway should have reinforcement with a minimum of 10m rebar placed at 16” on center. It can be placed at a further distance on a sidewalk, but not a driveway. If the contractor you’re receiving a quote from is offering wire instead of rebar, it’s a red flag. Wire is not good enough for Saskatoon and Saskatchewan given our climate.
Steel bars are often placed in a grid pattern and should be placed on blocks or lifted when pouring to keep it in the center of the concrete. Reinforcing your concrete does not prevent or eliminate cracks.
To eliminate standing water or puddles, all concrete driveways should slope ¼” per running foot away from the home. If proper drainage cannot be constructed, a drain should be installed at the lowest point of the concrete to collect the water.
Now when it comes to getting that driveway poured, do you go with a broom finish, exposed aggregate or stamped concrete? Everyone has their preference and it all depends on the style of your home, the neighbourhood, your budget, etc. We consulted with our Kijenga Certified Pros and here is a breakdown of the top three options.
A gray, broom-textured concrete is the most basic outdoor concrete finish and in Saskatoon, it’s by far the most popular. It is commonly used for sidewalks and driveways and, as the name suggests, involves dragging a broom across the surface of the wet concrete to give it a ridged texture. Not a bad idea for the cold, icy winters of Saskatchewan.
Its popularity lies in the fact that it is a durable and economical finish, as well as one that provides good traction in wet or snowy conditions. For a little extra interest, a colored pigment can be mixed into the concrete to give it a tone other than the basic gray.
Make sure that if you are colouring the concrete, the colour is being added to the concrete truck and not just coloured on top or with a tinted sealer. Eventually, these just flake off and you’re left with a spotted driveway that doesn’t look very appealing.
– Dan with Old North Concreteworks
Saskatoon Average Price: $8-10 per square foot (add $2-$3 for colour)
Exposed Aggregate Concrete
To give concrete an exposed aggregate finish, the surface of the wet concrete is treated with a chemical that stops the outer layer of cement from curing. That outer layer is then washed off, revealing the aggregate within the concrete. Exposed aggregate concrete features a bumpy, pebbled texture, which creates excellent traction when wet. The aggregate, however, often has sharp or pointy edges which can dig into bare feet, making it an uncomfortable choice for a backyard patio. It is a popular choice in certain neighbourhoods throughout Saskatoon.
Our suggestion is that if you want to go this route, make sure the company you hire orders an “exposed aggregate concrete mix” as this has pea gravel instead of large rock and it’s a lot easier on your bare feet. The smaller, smoother stones offer a much better look as well.
– Dan with Old North Concreteworks
Saskatoon Average Price: $11-13 per square foot
Because of the extensive process for finishing stamped concrete, its final appearance can vary. Stamped concrete typically has a pigment mixed into the concrete itself to give it a base color. Additional pigments are often applied to the surface of the concrete to give it depth and character, and then large rubber stamps are pressed into the wet concrete. The concrete takes on the texture of the stamps, which can be patterned with organic or geometric shapes that mimic stone or other material.
The stamping process gives the concrete a very smooth surface that can be slippery when wet so it’s not for everyone. The smooth surface shows wear much more easily than a more textured finish, which may give the concrete a shorter aesthetic lifespan but it looks amazing when properly taken care of.
Stamped concrete doesn’t have to be slippery. It got a bad reputation for being slippery because of concrete companies finishing it too smooth before stamping. If a hand textured finish is applied to the concrete before the stamping takes place, it becomes much more grippy.
– Dan with Old North Concreteworks
Saskatoon Average Price: $12-15 per square foot
How Do I Maintain a Concrete Driveway?
Concrete driveways are very durable and require minimal maintenance. However, we do live in Saskatchewan where we have a number of factors to consider – freezing winters, temperature fluctuations, snow/ice, road salt and more. Properly maintaining your driveway is the key to it’s quality and longevity. It’s a commitment but without taking good care of your investment, you will see a decline in its look and structure.
Maintenance requirements for most types of concrete driveways includes simply cleaning the surface thoroughly once a year with a pressure washer. Then the surface should be sealed. The best way to protect your concrete from moisture penetration, freeze-thaw conditions, color fading, deicing chemicals and abrasion, etc is to seal your driveway annually. If you aren’t sealing your driveway, put it in your calendar and get it done. There are a number of companies in Saskatoon sealing driveways for $0.75 to $1.00 per square foot. Here are a couple vouchers you can find on our online marketplace.
It is best to discuss what type of sealer to use with your concrete contractor. Some contractors offer routine maintenance schedules to care for your concrete. This is beneficial so that the maintenance of your concrete will automatically be taken care of, which reduces the risks of you forgetting or avoiding the process.
Here are the three most important tips that Old North Concrete offered up when it comes to caring for concrete.
- Wash and seal annually
- Take care of it in the winter
- Manage your downspout water
Our winter season in Saskatchewan is the biggest enemy to our concrete. Be diligent in shovelling your driveway and not driving over the snow that is packing it down.
You must do your best to never salt your concrete! It’s extremely important. We have even seen “concrete safe” salt have very adverse effects on concrete.
In terms of downspouts, use extensions. The more water that penetrates under your concrete in summer, creates a greater risk of the concrete heaving in winter and ice building up as a result.
If you’re planning on a concrete driveway this summer, post your project to Kijenga and let’s get you a few quotes from certified contractors, doing it right the first time! It’s totally free, making it super easy to get connected to the best concrete pros in Saskatoon.