How Thick Should a Concrete Driveway Be?

Whether you’re putting in a driveway for the first time or replacing a subpar one, you want to make sure that you do it right.

One question might relate to the thickness of your concrete driveway.

A concrete driveway should be at least 4 inches thick on a 6-8 inch base for standard-sized vehicles. If you’re building a driveway for heavier vehicles, your driveway should be 5 to 6 inches thick. This adds approx 20% to the overall cost but is worth it to ensure your driveway doesn’t crumble with the additional weight.

You may also want to add an inch or two to the edges of your driveway to provide additional support to the main areas where the vehicles are parked.

What is Considered a “Heavy” Vehicle?

A typical passenger vehicle doesn’t constitute a “heavy vehicle.” Neither does a truck unless you’ll be loading it up with a ton of weight on your driveway.

Typically, a heavy vehicle refers to semi-trucks, buses, or other larger vehicles. However, if you plan on parketing boats or other large equipment or vehicles in your driveway, you should plan for a thicker driveway as well.

kid watching huge truck

Does It Matter If I Park More Than One Vehicle on My Driveway?

When it comes to how thick your driveway should be, it doesn’t matter how many vehicles you plan to park on it. That’s because parking multiple vehicles on your driveway spreads the weight out over a wider area.

Four inches of concrete is enough to handle the weight of multiple passenger vehicles spread out over the entire driveway. What it can’t take is a large amount of weight in one area of the driveway.

Should You Reinforce Your Driveway?

The answer here is usually yes. Even if your driveway is thick enough, it will break down and crack over the years. Properly reinforcing your concrete driveway with rebar or other steel reinforcements such as wire mesh will significantly increase the life of your driveway.

Wire mesh is best for driveways that are approx. 4-5 inches thick, while rebar is the right option for those that are 5 inches or more.

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While reinforcing your driveway isn’t necessary, it will lead to a longer-lasting structure with fewer cracks in years to come – perhaps saving you money too.

fresh concrete on driveway

What Can I Pour My Concrete On?

Despite what you might think, you can’t just pour some concrete down where you dug up your grass and call it good. Certain materials will support your concrete better, or else the concrete’s weight might cause your driveway to sink.

Clay, gravel, and crushed rock are excellent choices for shoring up your soil to support your driveway. You’ll want it to be level, and you can add sand if needed to make sure it’s even.

No matter what materials you use to support your driveway, make sure you compress it with a plate compactor. This will prevent some sections of your driveway from sinking after you pour the concrete.

It will also prevent pockets from forming underneath your driveway, which can cause damage down the road. Gravel does sink over time too, so you’ll need to replace it every few years.

Other Tips for Building Your Driveway

Building your driveway isn’t as complicated as you might think. Still, there are some tips and tricks that you’ll need to follow.

Build a Frame

It’s not that hard, but people often overlook it. Your frame is what is going to keep your concrete from spilling out everywhere that it shouldn’t.

It’s the difference between a job that looks like it was done by a professional and one that looks like you need to do it again.

Building a frame isn’t that hard, isn’t that expensive, and needs to be done. Otherwise, your driveway will have tons of extra dips and bends that you weren’t planning on.

It’s also going to give cracks a place to start, leading to a damaged driveway sooner rather than later.

Always Compact Your Base

It doesn’t matter if your base is nothing but rocks; make sure you use a plate compactor to pack it down. This will ensure that the weight of your driveway won’t cause it to sink after you’ve poured it.

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It will also keep your driveway lasting year after year.

driveway resurfacing

You Need Contraction Joints

After you pour your driveway, it’s going to expand. It needs somewhere to expand to. That’s where contraction joints come into play.

If you build in a few spaces for your concrete to expand to as it sets, you won’t have a driveway that starts with a ton of cracks.

Make Sure It’s Flat

Your driveway doesn’t need to be level, but it does need to be flat. After you pour your concrete, you need to take the time to ensure that it’s flat. Otherwise, you’re going to have puddles of water in your driveway more often than not.

Your driveway should also drain out to the street. That way, you don’t have water working its way up under your driveway.

Don’t Forget to Cure

Take the time to protect all of your hard work. If the concrete doesn’t dry properly the first time, you may end up reducing the strength and resilience of your driveway by up to 50%. A curing compound usually isn’t expensive, and it will prevent spills and moisture from soaking into your driveway.

You can also use plastic sheeting or curing blankets, but a curing compound is generally best.

Properly curing your driveway will get it off to a solid start and keep it in excellent condition for years to come. You may get 50-60 years or more out of a properly finished concrete driveway, so it pays to get it right!