Northland man battling with builder as his new home’s driveway deteriorates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- From a distance Ross Dovel's driveway looks pretty good. But take a closer look. The surface of his two-and-a-half year old concrete driveway is flaking off.

"Quite a few spots all over the place," Dovel said. "Eventually it's going to be almost gravel."

That's upsetting to Dovel and his wife who bought this newly constructed Northland home on 91st Terrace two years ago.

Their driveway is one of many in the same subdivision with problems. Just down the street from their home the deterioration is even worse. Large sections of the surface layer of that driveway have already disappeared.

The house across the street from the Dovels also has issues. The driveway at that house is OK because the homeowners demanded the driveway be repoured before they would take possession of the house.

But the concrete entry to the driveway is crumbling. That's the only section that wasn't repoured.

Dovel knows that most likely within a year or two he will be forced to replace his driveway, and that makes him frustrated.

"It's a brand new house," said Dovel, adding that a new driveway could cost as much as $10,000.

He's complained to the builder who sold him the house. But he said the builder blamed him.

"He just said it's from road grime and rock salt," Dovel said.

But Dovel said he doesn't use rock salt on his driveway, and he usually parks his truck on the street.

Problem Solvers checked with multiple experts in the concrete industry, showing them photos of the damage on various driveways all built by the same builder.

They identified all the problems as "scaling," which can result from too much water used in the finish of the concrete. That thins it out and makes it more susceptible to freezing and thawing temperatures.

The builder, Jim Owens of Owensbuilt, said he has extensive records proving he didn't use too much water while finishing the driveway. He insisted that if Dovel had put a sealant on his driveway he wouldn't be having any problems.

However, our concrete experts said a properly poured driveway shouldn't deteriorate this quickly even without a sealant. But our experts also agreed with Owens that a homeowner can be at fault if a lot of salt is used on a new driveway.

They said the only way to tell for sure what went wrong is take a core sample of the concrete and have it examined in a lab. That can cost more than $3,000.

Our experts also suggested that Dovel coat his driveway with a penetrating sealer. At the very least, that will slow down the deterioration.

But what's the long-term solution? According to Dovel's contract he can take the builder to arbitration and hope he wins. Or he can foot the bill for a new driveway.

For now, Dovel is weighing his options.

Unfortunately, this is a problem we can't solve.

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