There are many features of your home that can add to its curb appeal. Excellent landscaping can give your home a more polished and inviting look, as can new siding, windows and roofing. But a clean, seamless and wide-paved driveway can make your home look inviting and potentially add to the resale value of the home alongside other external details.
However, depending on where you live, the materials used and how the driveway was paved, your newly installed asphalt or concrete could begin to crack well before the end of its life expectancy. Unfortunately, a cracked driveway can be expensive to fix, and the patchwork involved in shoring up cracks can significantly reduce the curb appeal.
A poorly installed driveway base can result in cracks forming far earlier than they should. If your driveway failed to survive its first freeze-thaw cycle, it may not be properly installed in the first place.
Why Did My New Paved Driveway Get Cracks?
Any paved driveway can develop cracks—it happens naturally for any driveway over time. However, it can be particularly distressing as a homeowner when your newly paved driveway develops cracks and fissures.
Any paved driveway, new or old, develops cracks from regular use (pressure from weight of your vehicles) and the weather. Cold weather is the primary culprit due to an issue called the "freeze-thaw" cycle, which is common in Northeast states like New Jersey and New York,. When the temperature drops below freezing, both concrete and asphalt driveways can freeze and contract. In both cases, this can cause minor cracks to form. However, once the temperature goes back above freezing, paved driveway surfaces will then expand, making those cracks larger.
Continue this freeze-thaw cycle multiple times, and those small cracks will continue to get larger until they're visible. Driving over the cracks can then cause the asphalt to break apart, resulting in potholes. The freeze-thaw cycle is why potholes are far more common on roadways in the winter, for example.
Chemicals containing salt that are used to prevent freezing can also damage a newly paved driveway. While the salt in those chemicals won't damage your driveway, it will lower the freezing point of water and attract more water to the surface. Once that water freezes, there will be more of it on the driveway's surface. Any pre-existing cracks that are large enough can get filled with water, which adds to the damage during the freeze-thaw cycle.
However, summer temperatures can also negatively impact a new driveway. Both asphalt and concrete driveways are susceptible to heat. In very hot summer temperatures, the top layer of the driveway can heat up, while bottom layers remain at a lower temperature. This can cause curling in the driveway material, and those curling stresses can lead to cracks in the surface, especially after you drive over them.
Additionally, severe storms and natural disasters can cause unexpected damage to paved driveways. Earthquakes can cause the surface to buckle and crack, and tornadoes can shear the concrete or asphalt off the ground. Floods can also rapidly erode driveways and rip the driveway material off the surface.
Some Driveway Damage May Be Covered by Insurance
There may be good news if your newly paved driveway is showing damage. Driveways are considered part of your home, as are some other areas outside of the physical structure. As a result, your driveway may be covered by home insurance for damage resulting from named events in your policy that could also damage your home's physical structure.
For instance, damage from a freeze-thaw cycle in the winter could be covered. However, it depends on what's written into your policy. Major weather events or disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and tornadoes that damage your home, will likely also be covered if they result in damage to your driveway.
If you find damage on your driveway, it's best to check with your insurance company to determine if the damage is covered. As a rule of thumb, any damage you may be responsible for won't be covered. Your insurance company also may not cover expected wear and tear, and quite possibly won't cover faulty driveway installation. However, extreme weather events and vandalism may be covered.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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