Driveway Cracks and Foundation Issues

A Small Crack in Your Driveway Can Possibly Lead to Serious Problems

Image of a driveway with significant cracks in the concrete

If you’re a homeowner you may notice small cracks in your driveway. These are often minor, thin cracks that may not cause any problems down the road. However, there is a chance that these small cracks can lead to potential underlying issues that can affect the stability of your home foundation.

The most minor issues can actually be the cause of greater problems, if not checked. Of course, major cracks should be taken care of right away, but be aware of smaller cracks and the likelihood of them becoming more problematic over time.

Cracks in Your Driveway

While you may see small driveway cracks as nothing important, they can be the first sign that you may have foundation issues. Most driveways are formed out of concrete or gravel, which allow water to move away from the foundation.

Most driveways usually have a base of granite road base, crushed gravel, or limestone; these materials are then crushed and compacted to form a hard surface, before concrete is poured on top of it. It’s very similar to a slab foundation, in which compacted gravel forms the basis prior to the pouring of the concrete. The base is very common in the construction of roads, parking lots, and driveways.

Over time, the base may settle, or may be washed out by excessive water,If the base isn’t properly supporting the concrete layer, cracks and shrinking can occur over time. An improper or deteriorating base is usually the main culprit in concrete cracks.

If you see cracks in your driveway, then water may not be flowing properly away from the foundation and is instead moving towards it. Any type of water build-up can sink in to the foundation and cause damage to your foundation walls, such as bending or bowing. If the driveway hasn’t been properly graded to allow water to move away from it, there’s a chance that you may need to have the driveway replaced with one that is properly graded.

Issues With the Driveway and the Garage

Expansion Joints and Street Creep

There is a misconception that the driveway and your home foundation aren’t connected. They are to some degree and can be can consider separate parts of a larger puzzle, like this: your driveway extends to your garage, the inside floor of your garage is concrete, and the garage is connected to your main house.

Check your driveway for tightly compressed expansion joints, which are usually located between your driveway and your garage slab. They’re usually thin strips of wood or rubber that are inserted between concrete sections and work to absorb any pressure or stress, in order to prevent the concrete from cracking and crumbling. If you notice no separation between these slabs, then you may have what is called street creep. Think of it as a slow chain reaction. Street creep can be caused by extreme pressure such as heavy traffic causing the street to push up against your driveway, then pushing into your garage slab and then into your foundation, eventually affecting your home.

Damage to Wing Walls

Wing walls are another section of your garage that connects to your sliding garage door. If you notice these walls, you’ll see that the driveway concrete is right up against them, with your garage slab directly on the other side. As your driveway wants to expand based on the weather, it can apply pressure to the wing walls and create cracks. You may even notice vertical cracks going through the middle of your driveway, the concrete slabs, and then into your garage slab all the way to the foundation wall at the rear of your garage.

Pay attention to the slab alignment in your driveway. If your driveway was laid down properly, you should notice control joints. The specific joints help to control the pattern of cracking that occurs with concrete. Control joints help prevent the concrete slab from deteriorating in the middle with the intention of cracking in those particular joints. Check your driveway to see if they were installed in a straight line, if they’re not straight, then that may be a sign of street creep.

Sealing the Cracks in your Driveway

There are a number of ways to solve this problem before it gets out of hand. One is to seal your driveway by using concrete crack fillers to help stop any water from moving underneath your driveway. You can use a cement caulk to fill in any cracks as well as any joints or expansion joints that are showing signs of wear.

Sand is another option, but you may find yourself using it repeatedly over time. Sand can gradually deteriorate as the grains will grind against each other becoming finer in the process. Once the sand becomes very fine, it will settle deep into the crack, but it also may get blown away if it’s windy or vaporized if there’s a fair amount of rain.

Preventing Driveway Cracks

There are also preventive measures to help prevent driveway cracking. One is to apply a layer of acrylic silicone, which is a very durable solvent-based water repellent sealer that’s commonly used on concrete driveways. If your driveway is showing signs of damage, you should reach out to a concrete or foundation repair specialist to make needed repairs, which can involve dry packing, epoxy injections, sealing, and routing which can help stabilize existing cracks and prevent them from spreading.

Your Driveway and the Weather

Weather is also a major contributor to a cracking driveway. It’s mostly hot and humid in Central Texas, but it does get cold during the winter. Excessive cold where the ground freezes and then thaws can be a major contributor to weakening the structure of your driveway.

In the winter, concrete will contract, causing existing cracks to open up and allowing for things such as leaves and pebbles to find their way into the cracks. When it’s hot in the summer, the concrete will expand, but the cracks will have a harder time closing as those particular items are still deeply stuck in the cracks.

In colder climates, many people use salt to melt the ice on their driveways; while it does melt the ice it can create cracks and dents, and then when it freezes again, it repeats the process. This is why sand is often recommended instead of salt as it tends to be less destructive to the concrete and the base beneath it.

As mentioned above, the heat and the sun can also be an issue for your driveway. Excessive heat, with temps, often going above 100 degrees can cause your driveway to crack as the concrete heats up and starts to expand. Once the sun starts to set and it cools off a bit, it can return to its original state. Another thing to be aware of during extreme periods of heat is that the asphalt can actually become soft and can easily deteriorate. A brief spritz of water from a garden hose might help it stay cool and retain its shape during the summer.

About Done Right Foundation Repair

Locally Owned, Texas Proud

Done Right Foundation Repair was created over 20 years ago by Chris Felsing with the support of his family. He started with a small team and a big dream, learning the ins and outs of foundation repair as he went. He and his team looked for ways to provide a complete solution to all foundation issues and have worked tirelessly for the past 20 years to master their craft. Our Central Texas locations: Done Right Foundation Repair in AustinDone Right Foundation Repair in New BraunfelsDone Right Foundation Repair in San Marcos