Do-it-yourself Blacktop Repair

For homeowners with a blacktop driveway, maintenance is required on a regular basis, particularly as it ages. However, you may not have the money required for professional asphalt replacement. By making your blacktop repair a do-it-yourself project, you can save your driveway, save your money, and buy yourself some time until you can afford to hire professionals.


Wear and tear on the surface is caused by a combination of factors, such as expansion, contraction, and water seepage under the asphalt. Over time, these factors, together with the stress caused by the weight of vehicles, cause cracks. Unless repaired, these cracks will eventually cause the surface of the driveway to crumble.


Protecting the rock base under the blacktop will minimize the amount and speed of surface deterioration. Therefore, It is important to begin repairs soon after cracking begins. Although driveway sealant, which is commonly sold in five-gallon buckets, can repair very small cracks and will provide minimal protection, it is primarily a cosmetic solution. To repair anything more than hairline fractures, more specialized products are required. These products aren't hard to find -- they can be purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store.


The success of the repair product often depends on the amount and severity of driveway damage. Following are some tips for the do it yourselfer on what repair products to use, methods of application, and how to know when it is time to contact professionals.


Localized Areas of Deterioration (Pot Holes)

Small areas of localized blacktop deterioration can be repaired with rock and tar patching material, which is commonly sold in 50-pound bags. First, remove all loose material on the top and recompress the underlying rock base. Next, fill the hole with the rock and tar patching material, and compact to blend to the surrounding opening.


Large Cracks

A good way to repair large cracks is to apply a hot patching product. This product, which is available at your local home improvement store, can be applied by the do it yourselfer or professionally.


When heated, the tar-like substance flows into the cracks, seals the opening, and binds to the sides of the crack. This type of repair is particularly good for a network of adjoining cracks, since it helps stabilize the entire section of degraded pavement. Since hot repair products can become quite sticky in warm summer months, a coat of driveway sealant should be applied soon after the hot repair.


Another repair option for isolated areas of large cracks is to use a trowel patch product. This product is sold in small buckets, and is a mixture of sand and a binding material that produces a very smooth surface. However, because this product has very little flexibility, it is subject to cracking if the underlying rock base is unstable.


Network of Small Cracks

A good option for repairing a network of smaller cracks is to use liquid crack filler. This product, which is available in one-gallon jugs, has a pouring spout for easy application. After filling the cracks, force the material deeper into the cracks by using a flat tool, such as a putty knife or the back side of a shovel. Liquid crack filler is flexible, but over time may begin cracking, depending on the overall stability of the surrounding pavement. Since it requires several hours to cure, do not apply liquid crack filler if rain is in the immediate forecast.


Isolated Areas of Smaller Cracks

A very good option for repairing isolated surface cracks is a caulking tube patch product. With the caulking gun, the material can be injected deep in the crack. After application, use a putty knife to smooth the surface and to spread the repair material filling into any voids that may be in the cracks. This material remains flexible for an extended period, but like other repairs, its longevity depends on the stability of the surrounding pavement and underlying rock base.


Driveway Edge Erosion

As the blacktop ages, erosion often undercuts the blacktop's rock base. As the stability of the rock base decreases, the edges of driveways tend to deteriorate.

A good repair option for this problem is to apply the rock and tar product along the edge. Be sure to remove any grass that may have gotten under the repair material. Then, compact this base area and fill with the rock and tar product. A hand trowel can be used to form a new tapered edge. Finally, tamp down the material to create a solid mass.


Damage Due to Grass

Certain grasses and weeds, such as Bermuda grass, will grow through edges and voids in blacktop driveways. Since it is important to stop this growth before it causes the pavement to crack and separate, check for vegetation on a regular basis. Use weed killer at the earliest signs of these grasses or weeds.


Use a Combination of Repair Products

Sometimes it is beneficial to use a combination of products when repairing a specific area of blacktop damage. Using the products together on the varying degrees of blacktop damage will take advantage of each of the products strengths.


Large Surface Area Damage

When large areas of your driveway have deteriorated to the point that the asphalt is loose and crumbling, it is time to replace the degraded section of the driveway. Repairs to the surface will not hold up to traffic, and will result only in the need to attempt another repair in a very short period of time. For a more permanent repair, the entire degraded pavement needs to be removed and the underlying rock base rebuilt before replacing the pavement. This is a major undertaking, so get a professional asphalt company to do the work.


Apply Sealant after Do-it-yourself Repairs

After completing your blacktop repair, you should apply at least one coat of sealant to your driveway. This sealant will help protect the repair products from traffic and the effects of weathering, as well as give the appearance of a newly paved driveway.


Do-it-yourself Repairs Take Time but Save Money

Driveway repair can be time consuming, but if you have the time, you may want to consider applying some or all of these repair techniques. It is the type of project that any DIY person can do.


Typical Blacktop Cracking


Blacktop Repair Products


Grass Damage on Blacktop Edge


Edge Repair