Everything You Need to Know About Your Sunken Driveway

Asphalt driveway

You take special care to paint your trim and gutters. You diligently weeded your garden. You mow your lawn every Saturday morning. The curb appeal of your home should be perfect? until you notice that your driveway has begun to sag like your grandmother’s brazier.

Sunken driveways is a term to describe when your asphalt or concrete driveway develops an unsightly dip in the middle, as if it’s giving up on life and trying to be swallowed into the the earth below. Not only does having issues with sunken driveways make an otherwise perfect exterior immediately look dilapidated, it can also lead to drainage issues impact the structure of your home.

What causes the driveway to give up on life?
Every case is different, but most sunken driveways are caused by the following three issues:

  1. The foundation was not properly laid to begin with. A properly set foundation needs two inches of stone tightly packed together on top of the dirt, underneath your concrete or asphalt driveway. This allows water to drain without the earth below your driveway settling and sinking in. If your driveway doesn’t have a stone foundation underneath it, or if it is not tightly compacted, you will eventually end up with a sunken driveway.
  2. Breaks and cracks in the driveway’s surface were have been ignored. Once a cracked develops in the structure of your driveway, the foundation is no longer safe from water damage. If water can seep into the crack, it will turn the earth below your driveway into a soggy, muddy mess, which compromises the structure of the stone foundation, and causes the driveway to sink in.
  3. There is a broken water or sewer line underneath or near the driveway’s foundation.
    If a water line is only slowly leaking, it can go on for years without being noticed. The water seeping into the earth will have the same impact on the foundation that supports your driveway that a crack in the surface has, and slowly corrode the structure of the driveway.

What can be done about a sunken driveway?

You’ll find dozens of DIY videos on YouTube for quick fixes to your sinking driveway. However, if it’s not done right, this is just a band-aid. Best case scenario, your cheap fix will need to be completely redone in less than three years. Worst case scenario, your repair will lead to further drainage or structural damage and cost you an arm and a leg when it’s time to get it done right.

Your best bet is to bring in a contractor to fix the foundation issue that led to the sunken driveway to begin with. Your driveway contractor will tear out the damaged part of your driveway all the way down to the earth, and reapply a new stone foundation. After using a heavy duty machine to compact the stone foundation tightly, they will lay in new asphalt or concrete surface above it and your driveway will be good as new.

If the sinkhole in your driveway was caused by a water leak underneath, the broken pipe will need to be repaired to prevent the problem from happening again.

How to find a driveway contractor that you can trust.
Having the work done right so that problem is fixed for good, is directly hinged upon finding a contractor who knows what they’re doing:

  • We cannot stress enough how important it is to only use contractors who are licensed, insured, and bonded. Those certifications are there to protect you.

  • It’s a good idea to get quotes from multiple contractors, both to ensure you’re getting a fair market price for the work, and to get a feel for someone you want to work with.
  • Ask for references from other clients the contractor has worked with. It doesn’t hurt to look at other work they’ve done.
  • Never pay the full bill upfront– It’s normal for your contractor ask for a deposit on the work, but consider it a red flag if they want the full payment upfront. Paying the bill before the work is complete removes any leverage you have if the workmanship is poorly done.

Have you ever dealt with the nightmare that sunken driveways give homeowners? Please share your experience in the comment section below!

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