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Question DetailsAsked on 2/22/2015

flatten a steep concrete driveway

We have a rather steep driveway that is short also. The hour is on a bit of a height, probably 4+ feet higher from groudn level. The house sits in a cul-de-sac and all neighbors are at the ground level.

My question is how best to reduce the slope and flatten the driveway. If we dig out the driveway and flatten it, then
the garage will be at a height and thus needs to be dug out and brought down.
So the follow on question is, can the garage be dug out to match the lowered driveway?

I will be happy if we can lower the garage and top of driveway by atleast 2-3 feet.

How will digging out and lowering the garage effect the foundation of my home? The home is built on a
crawlspace (though the crawl area is not too high). How can the foundation be held together? Will this cause
any structural issues? Does it void the home structural warranty?

How much expense are we talking about - driveway/garage and thus the whole job?

Any other ideas/suggestions?

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1 Answer


If you are really serious about spending some serious money on this, talk to an Architect or Civil Engineering firm who do residential house AND drive plans about options and costs. Your likely options, in no particular order other than roughly cheaper to more expensive from #1 to #5 - #6-#8 were afterthoughts so should have been probably the first three listed but I am just too lazy to reorder them all - #8 probably cheapest, then #6, then #7, then on to the ones listed as #1-#5:

1) to the extent allowed by zoning and property boundaries, relocate your curb cut (where drive meets street - requires permit), likely to minimum distance from furthest away side property line from garage, to allow for a more gradual slope on the drive, angling up the hill to a turning pad before the garage where you would turn into the garage. Obviously requires that the garage have a fair setback from the street to provide room for drive and the turning pad (or take up entire front yard), and likely means a sharp turn before entering/after leaving garage, so requires careful pulling in and out. Commonly, in tight conditions where garage is close to street, you need to go to the point of running the pad along past the garage so you pull up the drive and sub-parallel to the front of the garage, then back into the garage the same as backing into a parking lot parking space. With luck you can make it so the pad in front of the garage is large enough that you can pull in close to the garage and then turn the car 30-45 degrees or so away as you pull up to the garage (so pointing 30-45 degrees away from the garage when you stop), then turn 45-60 degrees while backing up to go into the garage. Obviously takes up more of your front yard for the turning pad (but great place for a basketball goal and small kids riding bikes or roller skating/skateboarding off the street), and more difficult backing conditions (like parallel parking skills) if your garage door has center post rather than wide-open 2-door garage door.

A word on the turning pad idea - reason it is frequently used in tight quarters is cars back into tight spots better than going in forward unless you are ann excellent driver. Backing in you can almost pivot on the inside rear wheel as the front end swings around outside the garage so car can be quite close in front of garage and still get in, whereas pulling in forward on a curve the rear end cuts inside the turn, so if you are not perfectly lined up straight before starting into the garage you need a wider door or risk hitting door frame with the rear side part of the car, so the turning pad needs to stick out in front of the garage by basically the longest length vehicle that will fit in the garage, PLUS its width - so maybe 6' width (pulled up parallel to garage) plus 21-22 feet for full-length SUV or pickup = 28+ feet so say 30' for turning pad "depth" to pull in forward - backing in you can do it in about the csar length + 2 feet or so = 24'+ or so. Of course, less if garage is not deep enough to hold a fullsize SUV or pickup.

2) similar to above but also make so you pull into a turning pad off the end of garage or further back along house (if enough land clearance to property line) to allow or a longer (hence flatter) drive, and come into garage (if adequately sized) off the end of the garage. Means some drive modification plus moving garage doors around to the "side" of the garage, if allowed by zoning regs (some do not allow side or back yard garage entrances), and may still require backing into garage if side clearance to property line is tight.

3) If zoning allows it, build new garage in front of the existing one with just a slight rise from the street (to prevent water drainage/street flooding backup problems), and convert existing one into a workshop or rec room or inlaw apartment or such, which actually gives you added square footage (and resale value) for your money.

4) Same as #3, but add new garage at lower eelvation onto end of existing garage with lower grade drive to it like in #1. Only difference between #3 and #4 is longer new drive and greater likelihood of having to relocate some utility lines to the house, so not a dramatic cost difference, but might be workable if zoning does not allow new garage in front of existing one.

5) lower garage slab as you were talking about, which almost always means either excavating and underpinning the existing foundation piecemeal all around the foundation (including on house side), or digging and inserting support beams under the garage walls (like housemovers do) and then tearing out and rebuilding entire foundation at one time, with new foundation and slab at the new lower level - resulting in a taller garage ceiling and higher garage doors (if you want). Leaves house generally intact (with probably some cracking at the house/garage interface), but does mean that 2-3 foot increased distance from house floor to garage floor means steps up with legal landings, which takes away a good 3-6 foot square platform at door to house (depending on your local code requirements and which way door opens (which can be changed if needed) by 3-4 foot long by 3 foot wide additional space for steps along one wall of garage from the door - or sticking out into garage for a straight-in shot to house. Also a nuisance to go up and down steps if you routinely park in the garaqge and enter the house directly from garage.

Obviously, your situation and local costs affect the relative economics of #2 versus #3 - #5 but tossing out a REALLY gross ballpark I would think #1 you could do for maybe $4000-8000 range if feasible from a layout standpoint, #2 maybe on general order of $5-10,000, #3 & #4 (assuming 2 car garage) maybe $25-50,000 range, and #4 probably in lower end of same range but of course invokes a lot more risk if contractor messes it up, and of course adds risk of cracking house because new foundation will almost certainly settle a bit after construction, relative to the existing house.

On warranty - certainly if you do #5 I would expect the builder to claim that any settlement or cracking anywhere near the garage was caused by your work, so that is an added risk to #5. Ditto to any settlement of the garage area if you do #2.

Bear in mind, anything you do, remember about half of new vehicle sales are pickups or SUV's, so remember if you reduce overhead clearances or garage depth (like with #2 if not a square garage) you may affect saleability. Ditto with large turning pad in front of garage - reducing front yard space may affect saleability, and certainly a tight turn into garage can be a negative - particularly with women drivers because for some odd reason parents tend not to teach them how to parallel park and how to pull into parking lot spaces as well as boys are taught.


You do not say WHY you want to flatten out the driveway - is it icing up or something, because all the above options, especially #2-#5, are a lot of money out of pocket and I am not sure how a lender would look on this for a building loan because you are not adding a lot (if any) of "real estate resale value" to the property with #1, 2, and 5. And unless this is guaranteed to be your retirement home, a lot of money to put in for just a more gentle drive. So,total investment versus how long you will stay in the house, and whether you will likely get any $ back out of your investment is something you might want to talk about with a Realtor. Talk to the one you bought the house from, and maybe show this blog to him/her to get thoughts - most realtors are happy to come out and spend a few minutes talking with clients about this sort of thing in hopes of a future listing for sale, and to discuss resale impact and whether you would be building beyond saleable size for your area (especially if you build new garage and decide to put inlaw apartment or studio over it as well, which would be a substantial square footage enhancement - old garage space PLUS space over new garage).


#6) If icing is the problem, then assuming that the drive meets local building standards for slope (so no claim against the builder possible for defective construction or design, assuming this is a new build bought by you), one possibility that might mitigate your problem, though granted gives a somewhat wearing shorter surface life due to greater freeze-thaw and wear susceptibility (but does prolong actual driveway life), is putting a traction overlay on the driveway. Basically an adhesive with crushed gravel embedded in it called a "chip coat", "chip seal", or "tar and chip" and other names. For concrete drive generally using either an overlay grout overlay or for better bonding an epoxy adhesive coating that has angular crushed gravel scattered over it while wet to provide a "non-slip" surface, though can also use asphaltic chip seal if concrete is sandblasted, ground, or shotblasted first to provide "tooth" or rough surface. Asphalt drive you spray on a tack coat and overlay with same type of crushed gravel. Each costs less than building a new driveway but lasts maybe 5-10 years versus 2-3 times that long for a new driveway. Epoxy likely in $1+ - $2.50/SF range to do depending on type, asphaltic chip seal can run as low as $0.20/SF or so from a contractor who does a lot of it, up to $0.50-1/SF range for normal small jobs. If asphaltic chip seal is done, be sure it is a true hot-asphalt tack coat with the chips immediately spread over the hot surface, not just a spray on sealer or asphalt cutback with chips which will only last a year or two.

Chip seal will show lots of scratches from snow clearing and will peel away if a plow driver does not have his protective skid pads down and catches it with the blade corner, is harder to clear well manually, and is rough on skin if people fall on it and for kids playing on it and falling - like falling on very coarse sandpaper, makes nasty roadburns.

#7) One other possibility, but degrades surface some so shortens drive life a nominal amount, is having it grooved or scarified - can run from about $0.25/SF up to $2/SF range depending on method used - from chain flailing or grid or diagonal saw cuts every inch or two like rumble strips or embossed pattern stamped concrete to full-surface diamond cutterhead grooving like is used on interstate bridges subject to icing. Can be done on asphalt and concrete though asphalt grooves may wear away before asphalt replacement time. May only need to be done in say 3' wide paths up the drive - the "treadways" where the tires roll, not full drive width.

#8 One other alternative if doing this for icing only - consider the cost of overlaying the drive say 5-10 years earlier (for asphalt or concrete) for maybe a couple thousand dollars plus or minus, plus $100-200 of bagged sand and ice melt a year, versus the cost ranges above for modifying the drive or garage. If icing is the only issue, you might (especially if this is not a guaranteed "forever" home so you may move in the typical 5-6 years) just bite the bullet and use a lot of ice melt and traction sand during the winter and wet sweep (versus dry, to avoid dusting house and furnace/water heater) the garage floor more often rather than spent tens of thousands $ that could be going into your retirement or kids college funds.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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