Repairing Asphalt Surfaces

Asphalt, also called blacktop, is an inexpensive material with which to pave a driveway or a walk. Because asphalt is made of gravel and petroleum rather than Portland cement, it is flexible. It also is soft and requires regular maintenance. Every couple of years, you should seal asphalt surfaces with an emulsified sealer, sold in large buckets. Spread the sealer with a long-handled roller or squeegee made for the purpose. This seals small cracks before they get larger. If your asphalt is badly in need of maintenance, follow the steps here to fill potholes and cracks before applying sealer. If your driveway is too far gone for repair, contact a professional contractor for a new drive; laying asphalt is not a do-it-yourself job.

Tools: Baby sledgehammer, cold chisel, putty knife or trowel, shovel, tamper or piece of 4x4, roller or squeegee.

Keep It Warm - Asphalt is flexible when warm and brittle when cold. If possible, wait for the temperature to reach at least 70°F before patching. If you must patch asphalt during cold weather, keep the materials and tools in a warm place until you use them.

1 .To patch a pothole, dig out the hole and add gravel. For a large damaged area, chip away loose asphalt and dig down about 12 inches or until you reach a solid base. Shovel in rocks and gravel to conserve patching material. Tamp the gravel down.

2. Add asphalt and tamp. Purchase bags of cold-mix asphalt patching compound and apply it in 1- to 2-inch layers. Slice the patching compound with your shovel to open any air pockets. Tamp down each layer firmly with a tamper like the one shown or use the end of a 4x4.

3. Mound and tamp. Keep adding and tamping patching compound until it is mounded about 1/2 inch above the surrounding surface. Tamp it firmly with a tamper. Sprinkle the patch with sand to prevent tracking, then drive a car back and forth over the patch to compact it until it’s level.

4. Seal the area. Seal the patch by pouring a generous amount of sealer on it and working it into the patch and the surrounding area. For the best results, use a roller or a squeegee designed for sealing driveways. For small areas, you can use a throwaway paint roller. To achieve a uniform appearance, seal the whole driveway.

1. To patch a large crack, "key" the hole. For cracks wider than 1/8 inch, chisel away crumbling asphalt and “key” the hole, making the bottom wider than the top. Scrape and brush away loose matter. (Cracks narrower than 1/8 inch can be filled just with sealer.)

2. Fill with liquid sealer. Partially fill the crack with sand. Pour in liquid sealer or squeeze asphalt sealer that comes in a caulking-type tube into the crack. Smooth out the patch with an old putty knife or trowel.

3. Mix and apply patching paste. Mix sand with liquid sealer until you get a pastelike consistency. Push the paste into the crack with a trowel or putty knife, making sure to cram it into every corner. Smooth the patch so it is slightly higher than the surrounding surface.

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