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Everything You Need To Know About Driveway Repair

Updated on September 7, 2012

Everything You Need To Know About Driveway Repair

Driveway repair is not the simplest of home maintenance tasks, but when you look at the cost of replacing your blacktop driveway, it is a huge investment you should protect. You wouldn't think of leaving your money exposed and neglected - why do it with your asphalt, which is a lot of money already invested? It not only affects the curb appeal of your home, it affects the value of your property! Learning how to look after your parking area doesn't take long, and once you know how, you can maintain it yourself, or know enough to hire someone professional.

Dry damaged asphalt
Dry damaged asphalt

What Causes Damage To An Asphalt Driveway?

Think of your blacktop driveway the same way you would any surface that's exposed to the elements. Sunshine will cause deterioration (oxidation), evaporating away the oils, and the surface becomes brittle. This allows water to seep in and start eroding your pavement. Gas and oil spills will dissolve the asphalt and result in weakened surface. On top of all that, the sand and salt used in winter act like sandpaper and scour the surface, causing even more damage.

How Do You Know Your Blacktop Driveway Needs Help?

The simplest test in the world, you won’t believe how easy this is! Just pour water on the surface, and watch to see if it beads or if it soaks in. Just like a freshly waxed car, a healthy asphalt surface will bead up. If the water soaks in, your surface needs protection. On a newly installed pavement, you will want to watch for the oily rainbow. When you no longer get that, you’re ready for sealcoating.

Cleaning Is Essential To Success!

The first step of driveway repair is to thoroughly clean the surface. If not done properly, the asphalt sealer won’t stick and will start to peel off your asphalt, and all your hard work goes down the drain.

Crack Cleaning System
Crack Cleaning System

How To Clean Your Blacktop Driveway

Since the object is to get the surface clean enough for the sealcoat to adhere, you need to get rid of all plants, dirt, and oil stains. Brooms and brushes, hose or pressure washer, a shop vac or a blower, use the tools you have to get all grit and debris off. Pay special attention to the edges, and remove any and all plants, weeds, and loose gravel. If you have any cracks or potholes, they need to be cleared out of debris as well. For oil stains, use an oil stain remover, commonly called a degreaser. Remember, the sealcoat will only stick if the area is clean! You can also buy or rent equipment that will make fast work of these jobs; everything from leaf blowers to a machine that will clean the cracks and edges professionally!

What To Do About Cracks

This is what separates great asphalt maintenance from careless work. Asphalt cracks are an open invitation to ever increasing damage. The sooner you can fix them, the better. However, temperatures must be at least 60 Fahrenheit and no rain in the forecast for a couple of days. If the cracks are more than half an inch deep after cleaning, you need to fill with coarse sand to bring it up to the half inch deep level. Narrow, small cracks can be patched with cold crack filler, larger ones require hot pour crack filler. Since the hot pour needs to be 400°F, you will need equipment to keep it hot enough to apply properly.

Cold asphalt crack fill is easily applied, and you'll want it to slightly overflow the area. Then tamp it down with a board (lightly greased to avoid sticking), to pack it down firmly. The hot pour crack fill will expand as it cools to fill the area, which is why temperature is so important!

Depending on weather conditions, you'll now need to wait 24 to 48 hours for the crack repair to cure.

Commercial Grade Driveway Sealer
Commercial Grade Driveway Sealer

The Driveway Sealer

Now you're all set to protect your blacktop driveway with a driveway sealer! Make sure you've got enough sealer to do the complete area; running out in the middle of the job will most certainly leave an unsightly line. Be sure to buy a commercial grade asphalt sealer from a reputable dealer. The ones commonly found in stores are often watered down, and don't stand up nearly as well.

Sealer Brush
Sealer Brush

Step 1 For Sealing Driveway

Just like for painting, you want to protect the whole area surrounding where you'll be working. This includes sidewalks, garage door and sides, and retaining walls. Basically, cover anything you don't want to get the black sealer on.

Step 2 Applying The Driveway Sealing

Make sure the sealer is thoroughly stirred, this is essential! You can apply either by hand with a squeegee or broom, or you can use a sprayer. If you’re adding sand for traction, you’ll have to apply by hand. The benefit to working by hand is that there will be no overspray, but it will take longer to do. Start at the top of the driveway and work your way down, spreading the driveway sealcoating as thinly as possible. A thin coat will cure properly, whereas if it is too thick it will not dry correctly. Remember to keep stirring as you go, to keep the mixture uniform.

Mark Off The End Of Your Driveway
Mark Off The End Of Your Driveway

Step 3 Block Off And Let Dry

Use caution tape or sawhorses to block off the end of your driveway to keep people and cars off for at least 12 hours. For better durability and longer-lasting results, apply a second coat at this time.

Final Thoughts On Driveway Repair

Now that you know the proper way to look after your blacktop driveway, you can make the call as to whether to tackle this yourself, or call a professional sealcoating company. With this information, you'll be able to ask the right questions about crack repair, cleaning, and sealcoating, before you hire someone. Whatever you choose to do, don't forget to keep up the maintenance of your asphalt! Usually, the driveway sealer will need to be reapplied every two years. Cracks should be dealt with as soon as possible, to prevent them from growing larger. So go get that bucket of water, pour it on your blacktop driveway and see how healthy your asphalt is!


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