One of the best attributes of asphalt is that it is flexible, and thus can adapt to the stresses placed on it. However, over time the cycle of changing temperatures and exposure to sunlight can cause asphalt to become brittle. Cracks and holes will then begin to form in the asphalt. If you have an asphalt surface that has begun to crack, you can extend the life of your asphalt with a few repairs.
When to Fill Cracks
The success of filling cracks will depend on what type of cracks you have. Most cracks can be filled unless you have alligator cracks, which look like a spiderweb of cracks separating small chunks of asphalt. If you have any areas of alligator cracking in your asphalt, you have to remove the chunks of asphalt and patch the hole left behind.
Begin with a Deep Cleaning
Before you begin making repairs, you must clean the surface of your concrete. Scrape off thick layers of dirt or sand with a shovel. If you have areas where grass has grown over your asphalt, use a flat-nosed shovel to cut the grass away. Once you have removed thick layers of dirt and grass, sweep and power wash to remove finer layers of dirt and debris. If you find any oil or grease stains, use a commercially available asphalt cleaner to remove them. Companies like James Young Paving would have more information about these products.
How to Fill Cracks
Before you try to fill any cracks in your asphalt, you must first pull out any weeds that have grown up in the cracks. Use a pressure washer to clean out loose dirt and pebbles that have gathered in the crack. Any loose or organic material left in the cracks can cause your patches to fail, so be thorough.
If you have cracks that are smaller than a half inch, you can fill them with a crack-filler. Simply pour the filler into the crack. If you have cracks that are larger than a half inch, fill the crack to within a 1/4 inch of the surface of your asphalt with a closed-cell plastic backer rod, then apply a cold-mix patching compound. You can find ready-to-use patching compound as well as rubberized crack-filler at a home improvement store.
Filling Holes in Your Asphalt
Just as is the case with cracks, you will need to remove any plants and debris before you begin patching. Once you have removed loose materials, use a chisel to break off any weakened sections of asphalt around the edges of your hole. You may then begin patching:
1. Paint the edges of the hole with an emulsified asphalt solution, which will help your patch to bond with the old asphalt.
2. If you have a deep hole, pour in a cold-mix patching compound two inches at a time. Tamp down the compound to remove air bubbles and to compact the compound. Continue adding tow-inch layers in this way until you reach the surface of your asphalt.
3. Mound an inch or so of patching compound on top of your patch. Tamp the compound down until it is level with the surrounding asphalt. Thoroughly compacting your patch will give it a greater chance of success.
Once you have repaired all of the damage to your asphalt, your final step should be to paint on a sealcoat to protect your driveway from further damage. Sealcoating can be a big job, so you might want to hire a paving contractor to do the work for you. As long as the damage is not too widespread, repairing your asphalt is a viable way to extend its life.