How to Tell When Your Asphalt Driveway Needs Repair

By on March 5, 2017

Your driveway is a very important feature of your home. If it’s riddled with cracks or the surface is uneven, a driveway can result in damage to your vehicle, in addition to appearing unkempt to any passersby. Once a homeowner notices signs of damage, they should make repairs ASAP.

There are several factors to consider when making repairs, ranging from expanding the driveway to making it handicap-accessible, with later years in mind.

The Significance of Cracks

Unless a driveway was just recently completed, it’s going to have some undesirable marks and indentations. Normal wear-and-tear is to be expected, though there are some signs to look out for that signify your driveway needs immediate repair.

Perhaps the most obvious signs of a driveway in need of prompt repair are linear cracks. Tough weather and age both contribute to hairline cracks, which can continue to deepen and spread. Much like a tooth cavity, it’s better to get these repaired before they become a bigger and more expensive problem. Dirt and water are elements of every season and when they seep into the asphalt, cracks can grow larger.

According to Kent Hansen, the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s (NAPA) director of engineering, the way to fix this is to clean the cracks of any debris and dirt. Then, have a professional fill it with hot sealer. This is the best long-term solution. Crack fillers sold at typical home improvement stores are only temporary fixes, since they don’t “burn” into the walls of the cracks.

While linear cracks are to be expected, even in a well-constructed driveway, cracks that resemble spider webs or alligator skin are evidence of a subpar job. This means the asphalt installation was low-quality or they used sealers excessively.

The fix isn’t simple, but it’s worth it. You have to remove the asphalt and then re-compact it, filling in the area with new material. Then, apply an overlay so it blends in nicely. This may seem costly, but if left untreated it can be a source of blown-out tires and even bodily injury.

Fading Color

A sign of your asphalt getting old is fading color. This typically isn’t a big concern and is more a byproduct of the elements. Changing color surfaces can be more prone to cracking, though the fade itself isn’t entirely indicative of a large issue. It just means oxidation is hardening the driveway and turning it grayer.

To counter this, just fill the cracks and use a seal coat to cover it up. All driveway owners should do this every three to seven years regardless, though if the color is rapidly changing you should get on it right away.

Still, be sure not to do it too much. This can create even more cracks. Instead, aim for every several years.

Lifestyle Changes

Even if your driveway condition is mostly fine, lifestyle changes could prompt expansion or repair. For example, if you or a family member recently suffered an injury or illness that impacts your mobility, it’s strongly worth considering making your driveway handicap-accessible.

When designing a handicap-friendly driveway, it’s important to make sure the driveway is at least 12 feet wide. Even if it takes away some lawn space, it’s worth it. Using smooth surface material like asphalt is a must so wheelchairs don’t lose control.

Also, be sure to minimize any slopes, as traversing down or up slopes with a wheelchair can be extremely difficult and potentially dangerous. Level access to the home should be present without any steps involved. Work with a professional with handicap accessibility in mind and they will steer you in the right direction.

Driveway Repair Prep

Rather than trying to DIY this, it’s generally recommended to leave driveway repair up to the professionals because it can easily become overwhelming for homeowners. If you’re looking to cut down on costs, make sure to thoroughly research contractors in your area before settling on your final pick. On the day of repair, make sure to clear your driveway so the contractor doesn’t need to play a life-sized version of Tetris to get the job done.

Whether it’s fixing cracks or a fading color — or even expanding a driveway for lifestyle adjustments — maintaining your asphalt driveway can be a reasonably painless process with the preparation tips above.

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