As long as there are homes and cars, there will be driveways—those personal sections of highway that link Main Street U.S.A. with the garages, carports, and backyards of suburbia. And, like the public roads we keep maintained through taxes, your private stretch of blacktop needs care, too. However, you don't need a road crew to get the work done. Keeping an asphalt driveway in shape is less work than you might think. The payoff is a smoother, newer looking surface that's better able to stand up to daily wear and tear.
Although asphalt driveways are amazingly durable, the surface can become pitted and cracks can appear. Once the cracks are in place, you've opened the door to more deterioration through water seepage and repeated freeze/thaw cycles. Fortunately, you'll find your local home center, building supplies dealer or hardware store stocked with many products to stem the tide.
For handling cracks, you'll find tubes of sealant that fit in an ordinary caulking gun or latex crack sealers that are poured into the crack. Slightly larger holes are filled with asphalt patch mix. Serious potholes are best handled with a coarse aggregate filler commonly called cold patch.
After the cracks and holes are filled and leveled, the driveway is coated with driveway sealer. Typical sealers are coal-tar based. This product is also available as a combination sealer and filler with a fine aggregate added to help smooth rough and pitted pavement. A 5-gal. drum should cover about 300 sq. ft., but a heavily pitted, unsealed surface can soak up more sealer. Acrylic-based sealers are also available. In addition to the sealer, you'll need to buy applicators with a brush on one side of the head and a squeegee on the other.
Driveway maintenance products need to be applied on relatively warm, dry days when you don't foresee rain for the next few days. Also, be prepared to keep your driveway out of service for the following day or so to allow the sealer time to dry.
First, prepare the area around the edges of the pavement. Where the asphalt meets your lawn, use an edger to define the driveway edge. If your lawn has substantially encroached on the edge of the driveway, use an ice scraper or flat spade to dig down to the pavement edge and remove the turf.
Check the pavement for any oil spots. Wash these with a solution of detergent and water, or use a specially prepared oil-spot primer or driveway cleaning solution.. Then, hose the area down and let the surface dry. If the driveway abuts the foundation of your garage or house, it's a good idea to mask these areas to keep the black driveway sealer away from the walls.
Dig small holes down to a firm substrate. Then, clean the hole and remove the debris with a shop vacuum. Trowel in the filling product according to the manufacturer's instructions. For shallow holes less than about an inch deep, we used a latex-based patch. The relatively fine aggregate in the typical patch mix makes it a good candidate for fixing depressions and other areas where the repair will have a feathered edge.
Larger potholes require a coarse aggregate filler. Use a cold chisel and hammer to expand the cavity to a uniform shape. Then, deepen it to at least 2 in. Make sure the edges of the hole are firm. Clean the cavity, add a 1/2-in. layer of cold patch, and pack the material in place. Add successive layers, packing each down, until the hole is filled. Lay a piece of plywood over the repair and drive your car over it to further compact the patch.
Dealing with Cracks
Use an old screwdriver to clean dirt and debris from the crack. Then, thoroughly scrub the walls of the crack with a wire brush. Vacuum up the debris. With the crack clean, fill it with crack filler according to the instructions supplied. When the crack is full, use a small trowel to level and smooth the surface.
First, read the instructions that came with your sealer. Also, check the instructions that came with any crack- or hole-filling products for appropriate drying times before sealer application. For our driveway, we applied a coal-tar-based sealer and filler. Use a stick to stir the sealer to a uniform consistency. Then, pour out enough sealer to cover a roughly 4-ft.-wide strip across the driveway. Use the squeegee side of the applicator to spread the sealer across the pavement. With the sealer spread, use the brush side of the applicator at right angles to the initial application to work the sealer into the surface and remove ridges left by the squeegee. Check the sealer instructions for the recommended drying time. On older driveways that haven't been resurfaced, it's best to apply a second coat.
Copyright © Popular Mechanics 2001. Reprinted by permission.