Sealing & Patching A Driveway
The condition of a driveway can have a great deal to do with the overall appearance of one’s home. A stain-ridden, chipped, cracked surface is not only unsafe, it can literally diminish a home’s value. The good news is that it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of energy or money to keep your asphalt driveway in top shape and looking good. What’s more, periodic maintenance done by a residential paving contractor will keep minor problems from becoming major. It can also prevent the costly expense of driveway replacement.
While most residential driveways are concrete, many are constructed of asphalt. Asphalt or “blacktop” is actually a type of concrete in which aggregate (gravel) is held together by an extract of crude petroleum instead of portland cement. Even though asphalt is more flexible than concrete, it is vulnerable to the effects of water seepage and frost which requires periodic maintenance. It is that maintenance that prevents the eventual pot hole.
One of the best ways to keep an asphalt driveway in tip-top condition is to periodically (three to four years) seal it with an emulsified asphalt or coal-tar sealer. Aside from significantly improving its appearance, the asphalt or concrete sealing is a good way to prevent cracks and staining. Although this task can be performed by a professional, do-it-yourself sealers are available at most building, lumber and home improvement centers. These products generally consist of a ready-to-pour five gallon bucket which is enough to cover about four hundred square feet of area.
Prior to applying the sealer it is imperative to start with a clean, dry surface. Dirt and debris should be removed using a stiff bristle push broom. Grease stains can be removed using one cup of laundry detergent in a gallon of hot water. More stubborn stains can be removed using a commercial asphalt cleaner. If you are going to do the project yourself you may want to consider investing in a combination broom and squeegee. The squeegee is used to evenly spread the sealer. Some manufacturers recommend applying a second coat of sealer within 48 hours. It’s best to follow manufacturer directions as more than one coat can cause the surface to become too slick.
Although, asphalt sealer will fill the hairline cracks larger cracks (up to 1/2” wide) should be filled using an asphalt based caulking. The crack should first be cleaned using a wire brush and rinsed with a garden hose. If the crack is deeper than one quarter inch, it should be partially filled with sand. The sand should be packed with water and allowed to dry before applying the caulking.
Cracks larger than one half inch wide should be filled using a mixture of sand and asphalt sealer. Mix the two into a putty-like consistency in a small disposable container such as a pie tin. Pack the filler into the crack and smooth the surface using a metal trowel. Be prepared to top-off the crack if the initial application should settle.
The most challenging, yet most rewarding repair is the pot hole. Potholes are depressions in the asphalt that result from water which has traveled through cracks in the surface and softened the soil below the asphalt base making the area unstable.
For long-lasting results, areas with extensive damage should be repaired by a professional with a hot-mix asphalt patch. Do-it-yourself repairs can be made with ready-to-use cold mixes sold in bags such as concrete. Remove the damaged paving digging down between two to six inches depending upon the extent of the damage.
Deep repairs should be filled with gravel to within four inches of the surface. Tamp the gravel using a four by four piece of lumber. The repair area should be lightly coated with asphalt sealer. Use a shovel and metal trowel to apply cold-mix asphalt patching compound in one inch layers. Each layer should be firmly tamped using the four by four. Air bubbles can be removed using the tip of the trowel.
The final layer of patching compound should be built up to one half inch above the surrounding finished surface. Again tamp the patch using the four by four and lightly cover the area with sand. Complete the process by slowly driving the tire of a car back and forth over the patch until it is level with the driveway surface. The weight of the car will compact the patch into the hole as would a team roller. After the patch hardens, brush on driveway sealer. Allow the area to set for about thirty-six hours before walking or driving on it.
Asphalt maintenance and repair jobs are best done in warm weather where the temperature exceeds 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Asphalt materials are more pliable, set more rapidly and form a better bond in warm weather.
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