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Patching an Asphalt Driveway

Extend the life of your asphalt driveway with regular maintenance. Patch holes and repair minor deteriorations in your asphalt driveway yourself to save money.

Making these minor repairs is a fairly easy job, and keeping behind maintenance repairs like this will help extend the life of an asphalt driveway.

The main structural component of an asphalt driveway is actually what is underneath the asphalt. A properly constructed driveway will have a stable and solid sub-base (the ground or soil) and a well compacted aggregate base with the correct amount of depth (or thickness) to it. After all that is achieved, a two inch asphalt layer is placed on top of the base for an aesthetically pleasing and smooth driving surface.

General maintenance for an asphalt driveway is very basic. To repair or patch holes, all you need is a good quality high performance cold asphalt patching mix, a few easy-to-handle tools, and a pair of safety goggles, all typically available at home improvement stores.

To determine how much mix will be needed, identify the size of the hole (length and width). Use a two inch measurement for the depth. The bag of patching mix is sold by weight, not volume, so a reliable hardware store associate will help determine how many bags of patching mix you will need based on the size of the hole. Also, some hardware store websites have a calculator on it for such items that will help you.

Prepare the hole before adding the mix

The hole will have to be prepared before the cold asphalt patching mix is added to it (do not open the bag until you are ready to use it). Use a small scraping tool, like a paint scraper, to clear the hole of dirt, debris, and loose pieces of asphalt. The edges of the hole should have stable vertical ‘walls’ to contain the patching mix. Use a hammer, or mallet, and a chisel to create ‘clean’ vertical edges (be sure to wear the safety goggles for this). Asphalt is considered a flexible material, so it will not be like chiseling through concrete. With a good stiff bristle broom, sweep away the debris.

If the hole, or any part of the hole, is deeper than two inches, place angular shaped aggregate in these deeper areas to bring the top of the aggregate base to within two inches from the top of the hole. The cold asphalt patching mix will not cure (harden) properly if it is applied too thickly. After you compact the added stone with a heavy-duty hand tamper, measure the depth. To avoid creating a weak or vulnerable point in the patch, do not have a depth of less than one inch anywhere along the perimeter of a contained hole. If the patch will not be completely contained, such as at the edge of a driveway, the asphalt material placed at the driveway’s edge should be compacted and beveled and should not be less than 2 inches in depth.

Use a quality high performance cold asphalt patching mix

Carefully read the instructions on the bag of cold asphalt patching mix for its proper application. Before placing the patching mix into the hole, make sure any additional angular aggregate that may have been added to the base is well compacted using the tamper. Place enough patching mix into the hole so that it is a little higher than the existing adjacent asphalt pavement. Using the tamper, again compact the patching mix to get it level with the adjacent pavement. Use a carpenter’s level or some other straight object, such as a piece of 2×4, to check for any low spots and add more patching mix if needed. Compact again to level it.

Do not use a sealant on the new patch. To become a permanent paving material, the cold asphalt patching material needs time to cure and that requires exposure to air (this is the reason for not opening the bag beforehand). If a sealant is applied prematurely, the patching material will take longer to cure and will remain ‘soft’ thereby being susceptible to imprints from car tires, shoe heels, bicycle kick stands, and whatever other weighted object day to day living throws at it. Even though asphalt is considered a flexible material, it will become a hard surface if allowed to cure properly. After a minimum of 30 days, a sealant can then be applied to the patching material. Also, at this time, if the temperature is continuously (day and night) 40 degrees or above, a high quality crack filler can be applied along where the new and existing asphalt meet, if necessary.

The crack filler can be applied using a regular caulking gun and smoothed out with a wood shim (which can be thrown away). Filling cracks helps prevent water from getting down into the base material or the soil below, which over time could contribute to the deterioration of an asphalt driveway. Keeping after the cracks should be part of regular asphalt driveway maintenance.

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