Sunday, May 26, 2019

Alternative Workout: Concrete

I have a problem. One of many, but we'll just focus on this one here. My driveway isn't draining properly. I had a new one installed three-ish years ago and have for the most part been happy with the job.

The old driveway was long past it's prime. It was narrow and crumbling. Somehow, with my deciding to keep the house in my divorce it was decided that a new and improved slab of asphalt would help the process of moving on. I must here give kudos to my folks, proud sponsors of the improved driveway. When strong second opinions and some financial need occur, go to the ones you can appreciate (and be reminded of "that time when..."), see your folks folks. Digressing...

One main feature of my driveway is that it is nearly flat. It is also about the size of a regulation pickleball court. It allows for the kids and I to engage in basketball, boot hockey, catch, badminton, etc. without having to "game-on/game-off" in the street. The one drawback of its installation is drainage.

Working with the contractor (i.e. sales guy who subcontracts to bottom dollar bid subcontractor and likely doesn't even have his own equipment) we decided that the new driveway would have a slight slope to the side to allow drainage. In the plans he even agreed to cut away a swath of the yard next to the installed slab during the grading which would allow water to make it off of the driveway.

It was apparent that this requirement was not adequately conveyed to the subcontractor. What was only meant to be a couple feet of yard clearance turned into an ugly gash in the middle of my yard that has persisted. Worst of all, it wasn't cut back enough to actually allow for any drainage.

This lack of drainage, along with the natural position of my driveway causing street runoff to come through my driveway with heavier rains, has resulted in what I lovingly call "Lake Davies". A pooling of water nearly an inch deep where the drainage is supposed to occur. This also results in extra silt and mud buildup as the particles drawn from the moving water settle in the lake. So Lake Davies has a beautiful sandy bottom.

Lake Davies does eventually drain/evaporate away, but leaves the sandy beach. A larger concern is during the melt/freeze cycles of spring Lake Davies becomes a pristine sheet of ice; so smooth that Zamboni drivers are left in envy. As people are not anticipating zero friction surfaces walking to my house this is actually quite the hazard.

Another problem is the liquid water finds its way into micro-cracks, particularly along the asphalt edges. The water expands when it freezes and slowly turns the micro cracks into macro cracks and accelerates the natural breakup process of the driveway.

Given I don't like lakes without fish, risk of injury, injury litigation or premature replacement of asphalt surfaces I have decided to do something about the drainage. First, was to take a look at the accumulation of water. Fortunately, this spring was sufficiently wet. I found the low spot and also took notice of where the water during heavy rains actually engaged the edge of the driveway. The result was 15 foot section where water could be actively drained.

Next, I employed my 13 year old, Drew, to dig a trench along the driveway. For some reason he's very eager to dig ditches. I may have to buy him a skid steer for Christmas.  He cut a good, foot deep, foot wide trench along the driveway. From there I noticed that the yard is actually significantly higher than the driveway. However, it does turn into a steep downgrade near as you move towards the property line. I dug another trench perpendicular to the driveway and placed a perforated drain pipe, making sure the water flowed downhill.

Some rains have actually helped to show the trench/drainworks are actually working. There is still a little bit of silt buildup where the water ebbs, but it is manageable.

The next step in the project was to provide adequate diversion of the waters to the drain area in a manner that doesn't allow Lake Davies to occur. Here's where natures miracle: Portland cement and aggregate (i.e. concrete) come in.

I'm first taking care of the wider parts and creating a means of flow to the drain. I poured two cement "wings" graded lower than the drive and sloping towards the drain. I set the forms and got everything level. It probably wasn't needed, but I installed some rebar for added strength.

I needed six bags of premixed concrete and mixed by hand with a shovel in my wheelbarrow (a housewarming gift from my folks 10 years ago). This was a very sweat inducing, muscle burning activity. Concrete is heavy, then mixing it with water makes it even heavier. I actually think the mixing was the worst part; turning over the fine powder and rock to mix with just the right amount.

My back, shoulders and arms burned. I also found myself dripping with sweat and breathing hard. It took me about an hour to do all the pouring and another hour to compact, trowel and level. The end result is shown above. Not too shabby.

Once the concrete is dry enough to remove the forms (48 hours) I will set and pour the middle piece. The drain that is in there currently will be removed. I don't like it's positioning or that there's no basin to keep silt from piling up and clogging the drain. I haven't quite settled on the look of the remainder of the basin, but I'll for sure get to play with sloping concrete. I have the thought of sloping it down and then turning it up before hitting the drain to allow for a silt trap. Ultimately, I'll need to keep it simple.

The remainder of the project will be back-filling in around the drain and more regrading of the yard. From there I'll need to do some topsoil installation and seeding. In general my yard could use some professional TLC. I may have to find my son that Bobcat.

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