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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Repairing the asphalt driveway

by Lili Mounce (with input and a good deal of labor from Doug and Chris)

Our driveway is about 35 years old. Up until this summer, it had never, and I mean never, been pressure washed or repaired, in all that time. (I guess this was an ooops on our part. Oh well, we've been raising 3 kids, fixing up a house that had been neglected, and landscaping an almost acre lot.)

Pressure-washing revealed a lot! Gouges, cracks, outright holes -- you name it. And the washing also forced up lots of the gravelly bits, leaving us with a pitted drive up to the house. But at least the moss was off.
to the left is the resurfaced portion, to the right the washed, but not sealed

This seemed like the perfect summer project. ("perfect summer project," says the wife to the husband.) My husband began looking into repairing it himself. He went online and searched asphalt driveway repair.  He found a lot of good information on Lowe's website, in particular a YouTube video on applying the sealer. We had asked questions of others who've done this sort of thing. After some research, my husband discovered that this was a project he could handle.

The entire project of patching holes, filling cracks and sealing took 3 weekends to do start to finish. The first two Saturdays, hubby spent filling holes and cracks (which were numerous). And the third Saturday, he and our son did the sealing. (With a good deal of cheerleading from me -- "you can do it, yes you can, if you can't do it no one can".)

If tackling this sort of project is one you're considering, for this year or next, let me tell you, the experience necessary for this sort of project is minimal. My husband and son have never done any sort of asphalt work before. Really. And we're not terribly into the whole DIY thing either, so our confidence in this area is not high.

The tools needed are also minimal (which is good, because considering we've owned our home for 17 years, our tool supply is minimal, as well).  We needed a rubber headed mallet (already own), a small scrap of plywood (have plenty of scraps), and a brush and/or squeegie on a long handle for applying the sealer (this we had to buy, but it can be reused next Halloween when I dress up as a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins).

this was the only actual tool we had to buy, the brush/squeegie

My husband used a total of 5 different products.

my husband says this is referred to as "cold patch",  it packs into holes nicely

To fill holes, he used a product known as "cold patch". This is a gravelly substance covered with an epoxy-like asphalt. This works best on holes with straight sides, up to 4-inches deep, any width. For holes deeper than 4 inches, plain gravel can be firmly packed into the hole first, followed by a cold patch fill. According to my husband, the trick is to pound hard, using a rubber mallet on top of a board/plywood scrap, and really pack that cold patch into place, keeping it level with the surrounding asphalt.

what looks like an oil stain on the driveway is actually a cold patched hole

My husband used two different brands and applicators for crack filler. Crack filler is a latex-based product, colored like asphalt, best suited for thin cracks. According to Mr. Hubs, the smaller squeeze bottles worked better than the larger jugs without squeeze application. The squeeze bottles contained a solution that was thicker than the jugs. It had a nice applicator tip. It dried more quickly, and squirted more neatly into the cracks. A "your mileage may vary" sort of thing.

this is the crack filler he thought worked best

The "experts" we consulted with (a contractor we've used for other projects and his nephew) suggested that we just slightly overfill the cracks, so that the solution mounds ever so slightly on the crack. As the filler settles, it spreads and winds up not only filling the crack, but slightly overlaps the edges of the crack.

We accidentally purchased a container of what we thought was cold patch, but turned out to be a container of a sand and tar mix. Hubs used this product with a trowel to fill the deep and wide crack where the driveway meets the road. He says that although the purchase of this product was unintentional, it wound up being quite useful.

The final product that my husband and son used was the asphalt sealer. This can be applied with a squeegie, a long handled brush (much like a push broom), or a paintbrush. A squeegie is really best for an already smooth surface. Our driveway was so pitted that the squeegie left product in the pits, but only skimmed the top gravelly bits. My husband and son chose to use the brush end of the tool, and brushed it on to the body of the driveway. My husband followed after my son, with a paintbrush, to apply sealer to the edges of the driveway. (And I followed after my husband asking "almost done honey", about every 5 minutes. Wasn't appreciated.)

Some tips with the sealer --

My husband said that it's very important to stir up the product with a paint stirrer that reaches the bottom of the bucket. The material settles considerably while sitting on the shelf at the store.

For even distribution and a cleaner application, use a small cottage cheese size container to scoop the sealer from the bucket and pour onto the driveway, working on an area about 2 feet by 2 feet at a time.

All of these patching and sealing materials should be used on a warm day, 65 degrees F and rising, with 2 to 3 days of no rain following.

The result for us is a very good looking driveway that will hopefully last another 35 years. The sealer will need repeating every couple of years. but now that my husband knows just how doable this is, he'll be inclined to tackle it again, and again, and again, as needed.

Now, to get the tarry stuff off the kitchen floor that someone tracked in! Any advice?


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Carol,
      Thanks! I tried to relay all the information my husband gave me.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I agree with Carol and I heartily commend you on already making great strides in checking off projects from your list.

    As for moi, I'm thinking about a NAP!

    Mother Connie

    1. Thanks, Connie!

      You're too funny! Now go take that nap! LOL

  3. It looks terrific, Lili. Your husband and son did a great job especially considering they are newbies at asphalt repair. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Thank you! I'll convey your compliments to my husband and son.

      You know, they approached this methodically. They researched, bought easy-to-use products, then worked carefully. Those steps can be applied to a lot of projects we all undertake.

      Thanks for visiting!

  4. Wow! I'm quite impressed! I'd try Goop hand cleaner for the kitchen floor.

    1. Hi Cat!
      I do think it turned out nicely. My husband chose user friendly materials (such as crack filler with a nozzle instead of just a big jug) and that was a big help, so he says.

      Thanks for suggesting Goop. I'll give that a try.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Congratulations to your family on such a good effort and job. We have done all of these things to our driveway every year or two with various results. Usually you have to fill the cracks and holes a couple of times. The biggest thing is the temperature when you fill them. As the weather cools and the blacktop contracts, the cracks usually open up again. Also, you were right that every year or two you need to reseal. This keeps the little cracks from becoming big ones.
    I hope I'm not being discouraging, but from my experience, keeping your driveway in good repair takes a lot of maintenance.
    Good luck!

    1. Hi June,
      no, not discouraging at all. We've figured that we'll need to return to this every year or two. But at least now, we know that it's not so difficult. It'll be interesting to see what becomes of the repairs at winter's end. Owning a home is all about maintenance, isn't it? But the pleasure in knowing that it is all ours makes it all worth it!

      Thanks for visiting!



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