Asphalt is a flexible, lower-cost hardscape alternative to concrete for driveways. While asphalt can last for decades, it does need occasional repair and maintenance.
Repairing an asphalt driveway is necessary when the surface is extremely rough and crumbling, wide cracks develop, or when potholes open up or the edges crumble. The longer you wait, the worse these problems become. To avoid costlier repairs in the future, learn about asphalt repair options, both DIY and professional.
How to Know When It's Time to Repair Asphalt
Slightly rough surface
Color changed from black to gray
Rough pitting, difficult to sweep
Cracks wider than 1/4-inch
Except when new, asphalt is rarely in pristine condition. Is this normal or does the asphalt need to be repaired?
Normal asphalt will be lightly pitted, not smooth like concrete. If driveway sealer or filler has been applied in the past, the sealant may be peeling in sections. It's normal for asphalt to change from black to gray within a few months of application. The asphalt may have some hairline cracks.
When the asphalt needs to be repaired, the surface may be so rough that materials are chipping away or it is difficult to sweep. Cracks may be wider than hairline width. Deep potholes down to the base gravel may have developed, and edges are crumbling away.
DIY vs. Professional Asphalt Repair
Asphalt can be repaired with do-it-yourself methods like sealing cracks, adding trowel patch material, and filling large holes with cold patch. When an asphalt contractor repairs the asphalt, they may spot-repair it, resurface it, or replace it entirely.
DIY Asphalt Repair
You can repair your own asphalt driveway to extend its life by sealing cracks, troweling on patch material, filling potholes, and surface-sealing it. Depending on the condition of the asphalt, you can use any of the repairs individually or all steps in succession as a complete DIY asphalt repair project.
Repairing your own asphalt is not complicated, but it is physically intensive and you need to carefully stage the steps.
- Seal the cracks with asphalt filler or sealer.
- For shallow depressions and low spots up to 1-inch deep, smooth on a thick, paste-like material called trowel-on patch or trowel patch.
- Add the cold patch filler in larger holes up to 2-foot square by 4 inches deep and firmly tamp it down.
- Apply the driveway sealer/filler to the entire surface with a broom or squeegee.
Holes more than 2-foot by 2-foot wide are difficult to repair successfully with cold patch asphalt. Asphalt that is severely crumbling on the edges is also difficult to repair since the asphalt edge continues to crumble. For more than just a few spot repairs or resurfacing, call an asphalt contractor.
Depending on the condition of the asphalt, the asphalt contractor will repair the asphalt, resurface it, or replace it.
- Repairing: On potholes, an asphalt contractor will cut back asphalt to get to a stable edge in order to add hot-mix asphalt. Cracks will be repaired with asphalt filler/sealer.
- Resurfacing: Asphalt that's only moderately deteriorated can provide a good base for additional asphalt. A sticky tack coat is applied, then an overlay of hot-mix asphalt is applied to a depth of up to 2 inches.
- Replacing: All of the existing asphalt is removed. Base material can often remain. Up to 8 inches of sub-base and asphalt are added and compacted with each subsequent layer.
Cost to Repair an Asphalt Driveway
Do-it-yourself asphalt repair is substantially less expensive than professional repair: up to 75-percent less. But professional repair methods are more thorough and should last longer than DIY asphalt repairs.
DIY Asphalt Repair
The cost of repairing your own asphalt, from crack sealing to driveway sealer/filler, runs between $450 and $600. This cost is comprised of three buckets of sealer at $35 to $45 each, two buckets of trowel patch at $25 each, four tubes of asphalt sealer at $4 each, nine bags of cold patch asphalt filler at $20 each to fill three potholes, and a tamping tool at $60.
Asphalt driveway repairs done by an asphalt contractor may cost from $1,000 to $3,700 for 600 square feet of driveway. Each pothole filled will cost about $100 to $300 per hole, depending on the size. Full replacement will cost from $2,800 to $6,500.
Repairing vs. Replacing an Asphalt Driveway
Less than 20 to 30 years old
Hairline cracks or none
25-percent or less in poor condition
Solid gravel base
Level or properly sloped
More than 20 to 30 years old
Large cracks, difficult to fill
More than 25-percent in poor condition
You can usually repair asphalt, either with spot repairs or resurfacing, if less than 25-percent of the asphalt is in poor condition. The asphalt should be less than 20 to 30 years old and its surface should be relatively clean. The surface can exhibit small cracks, but large cracks may make it impossible to repair the asphalt. Good asphalt will also be level or it will be gradually sloped for drainage.
Asphalt usually needs to be replaced when the asphalt itself is in such poor condition that it does not qualify as a sufficient base material for new asphalt. Poor ground conditions, leveling problems, and water issues also point toward asphalt replacement over asphalt repair.
How to Repair an Asphalt Driveway by Yourself
Plan in Advance
Plan well ahead since the entire timeline for this type of repair is three months. The cold patch asphalt needs a significant amount of time to cure before the driveway sealer/filler can be applied. Plan to fill the cracks, trowel on the patch material (if needed), and fill the potholes in one session, followed at least three months later with driveway sealing.
Kill the Weeds
Apply herbicide to weeds growing through cracks in the asphalt and give the weeds a week or two to die off.
Fill the Cracks
Cut dead weeds with a string trimmer. Scrape out the cracks. Use a shop vacuum or leaf blower to remove debris from the cracks. Apply asphalt filler/sealer with a caulking gun.
Trowel on the Patch Material
With a trowel or a wide drywall knife, apply the trowel-on patch to low spots. Let the patch material cure for at least 48 hours.
Fill the Large Holes With Cold Patch
Pour the cold patch into holes as deep as 4 inches. For deeper holes, add base gravel to reduce the hole depth to 4 inches or less.
Tamp the Cold Patch
Cold patch asphalt must be firmly compacted for it to cure solidly. Let the patches cure for 3 months before applying driveway sealer/filler, though it can be walked on and driven on immediately afterward.
Clean the Asphalt
Clean off the asphalt by sweeping it with a push broom or by using a leaf blower. Dry cleaning methods are preferable over power washing to prevent trapping water under the sealant.
Add the Driveway Sealer/Filler
Sweep or squeegee on one or two coats of driveway sealer/filler.
Best Season to Repair an Asphalt Driveway
DIY and professional asphalt repairs have slightly different seasons because the materials are different: cold asphalt for DIYers, hot asphalt for contractors.
DIY Asphalt Repair
Avoid temperature extremes, either hot or cold. While hot weather helps the cold patch asphalt pour easier, the filler can remain in a viscous state for a long time before it cures. When outside temperatures are too cold, the cold patch will not pour freely.
Hot mix asphalt should be laid in warm seasons for better workability, so spring and summer are better seasons for laying asphalt in most area. Cold temperatures decrease hot mix's working time.
Is it better to resurface or replace an asphalt driveway?
Unless the driveway is in extremely poor condition, it is usually better to resurface an asphalt driveway than to replace it. Existing asphalt can be a good, solid base for new asphalt. When the asphalt is replaced, the entire asphalt layer down to the gravel base is removed. If there are drainage or sloping problems, the gravel base might be enhanced with more gravel or it might even be replaced.
Can you put a new asphalt driveway over an old one?
Yes, in many cases, you can put a new asphalt driveway over an old one. If the old driveway is deteriorated but still in substantially good condition, an asphalt overlay can be laid on top of the old asphalt. Asphalt overlays are up to 2 inches thick and less expensive to install than full-depth asphalt.
Can you replace a portion of an asphalt driveway?
Yes, you can usually replace a portion of an asphalt driveway. The deteriorated section can be cut out or otherwise removed and filler or new asphalt added to that area.
Pavements. U.S. Department of Transportation
Asphalt Repair. Home Depot
How Much Does It Cost To Repair An Asphalt Driveway? HomeAdvisor