How To Repair an Asphalt Driveway

Barricade tape (image) for a newly-sealed driveway to keep cars away. The sealant must dry. David Beaulieu
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 day, 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20-50

Does your asphalt driveway have cracks, in which lovely (or not so lovely) weeds have made their home? Have you had a scary moment of tripping on an almost-pothole in your driveway? Are you tired of looking at the unsightly jigsaw puzzle it's slowly becoming, but you're not yet ready to do the full maintenance to reseal the surface? It's important to tackle those cracks before they become serious holes that can compromise the integrity of your driveway.

Do-it-yourself asphalt driveway repair, if done in time, can save you a lot of those headaches later. Of course, as with any DIY project, the devil is in the details. Let's go over what it takes to do the job correctly.

Choosing the Right Asphalt Patching Compound

Repairing asphalt driveways and fixing concrete driveways both entail similar work, but asphalt is a more specialized product than concrete. That means the materials you shop for to do a repair on asphalt will likely be less familiar (well, to most of us, anyhow). So be prepared to put more effort into choosing the right product for the job.

Concrete driveway repair can be accomplished through an application of—you guessed it—concrete, which is readily available at home improvement stores. In addition, whether the crack is 1/2 inch wide or 2 inches wide, you can still fill it with plain old concrete. Thus you can keep it nice and simple; although, if you wish, you can buy more specialized products.

But shopping for the patching compound for asphalt driveway repair is a bit more daunting for beginners. You will not be using hot asphalt, but rather, a product meant to fill in small cracks in asphalt. The size of the crack matters in determining what product you must purchase for asphalt driveway repair. You can repair cracks that are less than 1/2 inch with "crack filler," a product sometimes available in handy cartridges. Cracks 1/2 inch or wider require "asphalt cold patch," a product sold by the bag or can.

Use these patching compounds only when the temperature is warm enough. Make sure to consult instructions on the product label for the exact temperature required. For example, instructions for the Latex-ite crack filler say it must be "at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit and rising" to apply the product. However, you can use Crafco HP Concrete Cold Patch at any temperature between 30 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

With the shopping out of the way, we can turn to the work involved in repairing asphalt driveways.

Before You Begin

Note that these instructions pertain to asphalt driveway "repair," by which we refer to do-it-yourself projects that involve minor cracks (2 inches wide or less) in the pavement. More serious damage means you should contemplate replacement, which must be handled by professionals.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Garden hose with a strong spray attachment, or a pressure washer
  • Small trowel or shovel
  • Steel tamper (for larger areas)
  • Cones or tape (for larger areas)

Materials

  • Weed killer
  • Sand
  • Asphalt patching compound
  • Asphalt sealant
  • Crack filler (for cracks less than 1/2 inch wide)

Instructions

  1. Clean Out the Cracks

    Cracks in asphalt driveways can easily lead to weeds taking advantage of the space. Begin the process of repair by getting rid of those weeds. Pull them by hand, trying to pull up as much as you can.

    You must also get rid of any debris that might have collected in the crack. Using a pressure washer or a garden hose with a strong spray attachment, clean the cracks thoroughly. Allow some time for the area to dry.

  2. Apply Weed Killer

    Even the best patching job can be compromised by hardy weeds growing back into the same spot. Prevent this issue by applying weed killer to the crack. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how long to let the weed killer do its work before you move on to the next step.

  3. Fill in Small Cracks

    If the crack is less than 1/2 inch wide, fill the space with crack filler compound. This is often sold in tubes. Simply open the tube, press the tip to the base of the crack, and squeeze or press a plunger. Continue to fill the crack until the filler reaches the level of the surrounding asphalt or slightly higher. Smooth it down with a small trowel.

  4. Fill In Deep Cracks

    If the crack goes deeper than the shallow surface, fill it with sand to within 1/4 inch of the surface. Tamp down the sand with a steel tamper or something sturdy and small enough to get into the crack, such as the handle of a small shovel. Continue to add sand until the tamped-down level is within 1/4 inch of the surface.

  5. Apply Patching Compound

    Apply the appropriate patching compound. This often involves pouring the compound directly from a bag or bucket or scooping it into the crack with the use of a small trowel. Apply a thin layer and tamp it down with a steel tamper, then apply more until the patching compound is level with the surrounding asphalt. Finish the application by smoothing the compound out well with the trowel or the back of a shovel.

  6. Let the Asphalt Repair Cure

    Follow the manufacturer's directions on how long to allow the asphalt patch to cure. This might require several hours or even days before you can drive on the area. If you have made a very small repair, it might be easy to avoid. A larger repair is a different story. Mark it off with cones, tape, or some other way of reminding yourself to stay away from that area until the curing is complete.

  7. Apply Sealant to the Repaired Area

    Choose an appropriate sealant for your driveway and follow the manufacturer's directions to apply it. It's okay to simply seal the area of the patch to protect it until the next full driveway maintenance.

    Tip

    This is specifically a repair job, which is not the same as that referred to when we speak of sealing an asphalt driveway. The latter is maintenance that needs to be done periodically, regardless of the state of repair that your driveway is in; that is, it is preventive in nature.