Ask Your Question

Angie's List Answers is the trusted spot to ask home improvement and health questions and get answers from service companies, health providers and consumers. For ratings and reviews on companies in your area, search Angie's List.

Top 30 Days Experts
Rank Leader Points*
1 kstreett 240
2 Guest_9020487 110
3 Guest_9190926 105
4 GoldenKid 100
5 ahowell 95
6 KnowledgeBase 95
7 skbloom 80
8 Guest_98024861 70
9 Guest_9311297 70
10 Guest_9400529 70

*Updates every 4 hours

Browse Projects By Category

Question DetailsAsked on 8/22/2013

Does anybody use sand as a base before they pour concrete of a driveway?

I was told by one of the contractor that I needed to put a layer of sand before I poured concrete for the driveway. Another contractor told me that no sand is used because it is the cause for cracks as the concrete moves. I am confused.

Do you have the same question? Follow this Question

4 Answers


The contrator who said sand causes cracks as the concrete moves is wrong, it doesn't mean the other is right either. Concrete cracks no matter what you do, that is why you see regular spaces groves or lines in sidewalks, its a control joint to allow cracking to occur there rather than where it wants.

Otherwise, what is under a slab depends on the ground you are pouring the slab on, some soils don't need anything, some need a lot of help. From American Concrete Institute ACI360R-10 Guide to Design of Slabs-on-Ground 4.5 Design of Slab-support system 4.5.1 General "After subgrade soils have been classified, the general range of K values can be aproximated from Fig 4.3. Adjustments may be made on the basis of local exprience, expected seasonal changes and expected construction conditions. With this information a decision can be made whether to use the existing subgrade (ground as is), improve it (use a compactor to hammer it down)..., use a subbase and base course (gravel and sand)...".

Long story short, a good contractor will know the local conditions and help with your decision, gravel and sand are used with wet conditions or poor soil types to give drainage, support or just to level the ground for the slab and can be used in other places, common in bigger projects. Do NOT believe a contractor that tells you sand causes cracks or that concrete will not crack in some manner.

Answered 6 years ago by Kelsey


Sand is a proper levelling course for use under pavers and ungrouted brick patios and such. It is definitely NOT a proper base for a driveway - it is too mobile, has low bearing capacity, moves about under load especially if very dry or very wet, and will cause structural cracking of your driveway.

The ACI standard quoted by Kelsey is for building structural slabs - not applicable to driveways. The crack control joints he talks about is for shrinkage cracking control so it occurs in a predetermined and not objectionable location, not for structural bearing failure cracking.

The proper way to build a driveway is to excavate (depending on design load) from 1-3 feet down (generally about 12-18") depending on what your existing soil conditions are, place a structural geotextile if still poor (soft or muddy or clayey) conditions at that depth, then place and compact Subbase material (which may be a crushed rock or a gravel, free-draining, typically 2" minus) up to about 3-4 inches below where the driveway surfacing will be placed, then the top fill layer (the Base) is placed and compacted. This should be a free-draining crushed rock material - commonly 3/4" minus with less than 3% "fines" - material passing #200 sieve, and specified gradation so it compact into a tight, dense layer which will bear load without moving or further compacting. Your local building department probably has code requirements for base and subbase gradation and material types, otherwise the American Asphalt Institute and Amercian Concrete institute have recommended driveway gradation sheets on their websites. Your local streets and state highway department also specify certain subbase and base materials and this is what the local crushing plants will produce to, so if you just specify what your local road department specifies this will be "standard" construction materials.

I would guess the one contractor learned on sidewalks and pavers and never learned how to properly build a driveway, or chose sand because it is cheaper in your area. I would not go with that one.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


I strongly disagree with statement regarding sand as a sub-base. Contractors have been using it for years due to it expansive qualities. In other words, it does not expand when it freezes. One reason it is used as a backfill or sub-grade material. As with all material, it has to be placed correctly and compacted properly. Sand needs to remain damp as well as other material before placement of the concrete. If you want to build a road, use gravel, but this does not mean you will not have issues. No one can predict the outcome of the harding of concrete. As they say, it will get hard and crack. Don't be afraid of said. It is not used simply because it is cheap.

Source: A retired building official from Michigan.

Answered 3 years ago by petey


Everyone says concrete WILL crack, but my parent's driveway is 35 years old and zero cracks (or spalling) and they park on their Colorado driveway all year long. I believe there are several factors in creating a lasting driveway and one of them is a solid foundation. True, there are many takes on what is the best foundation. Because of this, I ask that anyone who recommends a certain base take a picture of an older driveway using a particular product: solid ground, crushed rock, pea gravel, soft dirt (which my contractor is trying to get away with), etc....of course, everyone will say it depends where you live and what soil you have. Take pictures: it's the best way to see a long term result.

Answered 2 years ago by seedabeauty

Related Questions

Terms Of Use
Privacy Policy