This week, Anthony answers questions about repaving a driveway and fixing slanted floors.
Ask Anthony your home repair questions in the comments below.
Q: Anthony, I have a question. I want to repave my driveway, but don't like the look of blacktop... what can I use (other than straight concrete) and still be able to put up a basketball hoop for my kids? Also—does it matter if I do it before winter or would it be better to wait until spring?
A: Well, let me ask you some questions. What exactly don’t you like about blacktop? Is it the color? The texture? And for that matter, what would be the problem with straight concrete? Color? Look? Price?
The reason why I ask is because for relatively low cost, you can add “colored aggregate” to concrete or even to blacktop to achieve a different look.
Masonry pavement gives you a huge variety of choices. It’s by far the best looking but more expensive than blacktop or concrete. But, more importantly, masonry pavement is NOT “basketball-hoop friendly."
There are also green alternatives, such as recycled rubber and recycled plastic. These alternatives are absolutely beautiful, durable, basketball-hoop friendly, and they can be custom designed for texture, color, pretty much anything. I personally love going green. However, as you may imagine, they can be very pricey. Very pricey.
I found you this link for Asphalt 101, which offers further information about asphalt and other alternatives to check out.
Also, assuming you live in a colder (real winter) climate, yes, I would wait until spring to repave. Winters are too hard on the curing process.
Q: We purchased a home last October. It was built around 1875, and the floors are slanting toward the middle. How big of a project is this to correct and who would we contact to do this? What kind of questions do we need to ask and what should find out from the professional doing the work? Unfortunately, this is not something that I would feel comfortable doing on our own, so we want a professional but have no idea who to look for.
You definitely need to talk to a professional structural engineer.
Since I’m flying blind here, without seeing the structure myself, let me give you some vital information. The idea is not to correct the problem but to maintain it so it doesn’t get worse. This is NOT a job for a non-professional. Let me explain why so when you do have a conversation with a professional, you’ll know what the heck they’re talking about and perhaps be able to impress them with some knowledge of your own.
Buildings, houses, all structures are very much like the human body. It’s a constant fight against gravity. As we all know, gravity (G-FORCE) does not get tired or weaken with age, but just like the human body, buildings do weaken with age. Also, structures have Mother Nature to deal with and are at the will of the earth. Meaning, when the earth below a foundation settles, as it will in time due to vibration, ground water flow, etc, the structure's foundation will begin to sink. When it sinks inconsistently, which is always the case due to uneven weight loads, your structure will experience sagging. To stop these areas in a structure from their natural path, which is down (gravity), you need to create upward force at the foundation level. One way of doing so, and perhaps the most effective, are steel I-beams being held with concrete-filled steel posts, each with their own separate concrete footing.
Simple right? This is called “maintaining” the problem.
Now, very important. Some contractors may suggest jacking up the areas at the foundation. This will be an attempt to “correct” the problem. This is a common solution because they figure they can kill two birds with one stone. Meaning, they won’t have to level the floors afterwards. The floors will level during the jacking process. Great solution in theory, however, what they don’t consider is the outside walls of the structure have been slowly sinking as well, along with every door and window. Jacking up the middle of a structure will cause outward force. Outward force could cause problems.
After the problem is maintained, you can level the floors in a more conventional fashion, such as adding a level secondary floor over the old one. Keep in mind, your ceiling height should not drop below 7’10”, according to most building codes.
This information is strictly meant to give you an idea of what is happening to your home. A professional structural engineer should verify everything we discussed.
Good luck. Please stay in touch along the way.
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