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Repairing Your Own Blacktop Driveway

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Repairing you blacktop driveway is easier than you might think. Keep in mind, however, that it's just a temporary fix and that the patches never look as good as a new asphalt driveway.

Asphalt, also known as blacktop, is a less expensive and slightly-easier-to-install product than concrete. However, it also not as durable and sturdy as concrete and requires more maintenance and repairs during its lifetime.
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Asphalt, like tar, is a sticky, viscous, substance that is produced from petroleum. In addition to driveways, asphalt is used on highways across the U.S. as well as for rooftops.

What is most damaging to asphalt driveways is the freeze-thaw cycle that many communities experiences in the winter. When the temperature gets well above freezing, asphalt expands. When the temperature drops, asphalt contracts.

All of the expansion and contraction causes the asphalt driveway to develop small cracks. Adding to the problem is water, which gets into those cracks, freezes up in the winter, and widens those cracks.

The result is potholes like you would see on a city street or highway.

Fixing asphalt is an easy job for a do-it-yourselfer. You must keep in mind, however, that it's just a temporary fix and that the patches never look as good as a new asphalt driveway.

In addition, you may find yourself patching an asphalt driveway every year, especially as it gets older and deteriorates. But the cost is never more than a few dollars and it is better than driving over potholes.

Asphalt repair can be handled in a couple of ways.

Numerous small cracks can be repaired or erased with a complete coating of coal-tar or emulsified asphalt sealer, usually sold in five gallon containers.

Start by removing any dirt and debris with a broom and a garden hose. If you have an air compressor, you can also use an air gun to blow debris out of any cracks. Then wash it down with a hose and allow the driveway to completely dry.

Then coat the driveway with a ready-to-pour sealer, spreading it with a long handled broom and squeegee. Some sealers will require a second coating.

Avoid walking or driving on the driveway for at least 24 hours (again, check the manufacturer's recommendations).

Asphalt driveways with large cracks or potholes can also be spot patched.

Long, narrow cracks should be cleaned out with a wire brush to remove loose debris. Again, an air compressor can also help with removing debris. Then fill the gap with an asphalt patching compound applied with a caulking gun.

Smooth the compound with a putty knife or trowel so that it's even with the driveway surface.

Larger cracks can also be spot patched. Clean out the crack and use a trowel to fill it with a mix of blacktop sealer and sand. Again, smooth it out with a putty knife so that it is level with the driveway.

If the hole or crack is large and runs deeper than an inch below the driveway surface, fill it first with gravel. With large holes, pack down the gravel with a tamping tool or the end of a four-by-four beam, and then apply the patching compound.

Potholes - or large asphalt holes - should be filled with a cold-mix asphalt patching compound. First, remove any loose debris and load the hole with gravel. The top of the gravel should be about four inches below the surface of the driveway. Tamp the gravel so it's compact.

Next, apply the patching compound in several layers, working it into the hole with a trowel. Use a tamping tool or piece of wood to compact each layer.

Apply the top layer of patch and tamp it down. Then, sprinkle sand over the patch, and drive a car over the compound until it is flush with the rest of the driveway. When the patching compound is dry, cover it with a blacktop sealer to blend it in with the driveway and to protect the compound from water.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. February 23, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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