A definitive guide to driveway repair

driveway-repair-guide

 

Your driveway is a valuable asset on your property, allowing you to safely park your car off the street and near your house. You probably use your driveway every day, so it’s only natural that it will show wear and tear over time. Consistent use, coupled with exposure to elements like sun, rain and ice, can cause damage like cracks and chips in asphalt and concrete. 

Driveway repairs are the answer. This guide explains how to fix various issues yourself, ensuring your blacktop driveway always looks its best.

 

Signs your driveway needs a repair

The first step in any driveway repair? Recognizing that there’s a problem! Some types of driveway damage are more subtle and tougher to identify than others. Familiarizing yourself with typical signs of driveway damage can help you determine whether you need to do a repair or a replacement. 

Here are a few common signs of driveway damage, what they mean, and whether you can repair them:

  • Water penetration: One of the earliest signs that your driveway is struggling is how it holds up against water. If moisture beads on the driveway’s surface, the asphalt or concrete is well-maintained and intact. However, it’s damaged if the water seeps into the driveway instead of sitting on top of it. Applying a fresh coat of sealer is usually enough to minimize water penetration and save your driveway from further damage.
  • Cracks: Cracks can form in asphalt and concrete over time, often starting as hairline fissures. You can fix cracks if you catch them early. If not, the cracks will usually worsen, becoming larger or even leading to potholes.
  • Crumbling: Asphalt and concrete driveways can get brittle and crumble over time. Unfortunately, a crumbling and flaking driveway isn’t one you should repair. In these cases, it’s usually best to replace the entire driveway.
  • Potholes: A pothole indicates advanced damage. Potholes generally start as cracks and form without prompt crack repair. This can be bad news for your car because you can damage its suspension if you drive through a pothole. Fortunately, you can fill potholes.

What causes driveway cracking?

Understanding what causes cracks can help you maintain your concrete or asphalt driveway, preventing damage from happening in the first place. It’s worth noting that driveways aren’t built to last forever. The average concrete driveway can last anywhere from 25 to 30 years with proper care, while an asphalt driveway can last 15 to 30 years (assuming correct installation, proper maintenance and average usage).

A driveway will likely need replacing after it reaches the end of its life span — 30 years at most. In addition to general age-related deterioration, a few other factors can result in driveway damage (and shorten the driveway’s life span if not addressed). 

Here are some of the most common issues that cause driveway cracking:

  • Tree roots: Tree roots can grow far-reaching under the ground, especially for large trees. If roots get too close to your driveway, they can place pressure on the asphalt or concrete and cause cracks or holes. You might have to consult a tree-removal expert to eradicate the vegetation if this is a major issue. Another option is to install a root barrier between the driveway and adjacent trees.
  • Freezing temperatures: The freeze-thaw cycle can be a killer for driveways in winter. If water gets into a small hole in the driveway’s surface and freezes, it will expand and widen the crack. The crack gets wider with each freeze-thaw cycle. A sealant can help keep water from penetrating the asphalt or concrete surface, and fixing small cracks fast can keep them from becoming large cracks or potholes.
  • Chemicals: Like lawn fertilizers, chemicals can cause asphalt or concrete to deteriorate over time. It’s important to minimize the runoff of chemicals from lawns by hardscaping or using organic lawn care products without harsh chemicals. A sealant can also help by providing a protective barrier against chemical solutions.
  • Sunshine: The sun’s heat can make asphalt soft, causing it to be more susceptible to damage. Meanwhile, ultraviolet rays can cause the asphalt to fade and weaken, becoming discolored. Sealants can also protect against heat and UV rays.
  • Heavy vehicles: Concrete and asphalt are extremely durable materials. However, they can develop fissures if faced with extreme pressure. Heavy machinery or vehicles in your driveway can cause damage. For example, if you have landscapers or contractors on your property, any heavy-duty vehicles they park in your driveway can be a problem. Try keeping heavy vehicles off of your driveway.

 

How to repair concrete cracks

Concrete driveway repair is a multistep process. It’s important to do the job on a warm day when the sun is shining and there’s no chance of rain for at least 24 hours. 

Here’s what to do (note the different processes depending on the size of the crack):

  • Prep the area by sweeping and pressure-washing it.
  • For small cracks (less than a half-inch deep), fill the hole using a concrete crack filler. Then use a pointing trowel to smooth the filler and press it into place.
  • For deep cracks (more than a half-inch deep), fill the hole using a cement patch. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to mix the patch. Wet the crack before applying the patch. Then apply the patch using a pointing trowel. Apply it in layers, making sure no layer is more than a quarter-inch thick.

​​You can also use these techniques to fix other parts of your property, like concrete patios and walkways.

 

How to repair asphalt cracks

Asphalt driveway repair is slightly different from concrete driveway repair. Again, make sure you do the job on a warm day when there’s no chance of rain for at least 24 hours. Then follow these steps (again, note the different approaches depending on the crack’s size):

  • Prep the area by sweeping and pressure-washing it.
  • For small cracks (less than a half-inch deep), fill the hole using a caulk gun and crack filler. Then use a putty knife or trowel to smooth the surface.
  • For deep cracks (more than a half-inch deep), fill the hole using an asphalt patch. Then tamp down the patch to firmly put it in place.

 

How to seal-coat an asphalt driveway

While small driveway repairs are fairly straightforward and cost-effective, you shouldn’t have to deal with this DIY project frequently. A sealant can protect against diverse causes of damage, from water penetration to UV rays. This process can be especially useful in diverse climates, such as places with harsh winters with a lot of snow and ice. Let’s walk through how to seal-coat an asphalt driveway.

Thoroughly clean the asphalt

First, prep the driveway. Use your garden hose with a pressure nozzle attachment or a power washer to get rid of dirt, pollen and other grime on the driveway’s surface. Then apply a driveway cleaner to dislodge any remaining grit and use a stiff-bristled broom to eliminate any remaining sap, oily film, car fuel and other dirt. Finally, thoroughly rinse the driveway and let it dry completely.

Coat the edges of the driveway

Start by coating the driveway’s edges to ensure a safe and even sealant application. Lay down protective tape along the edges so the sealant can’t spill over and leak onto your property. Then apply a heavy coat of sealant to all four driveway edges using a large brush. The material should fill all the pores in the asphalt.

Evenly spread the seal coat

You can apply a sealant to the rest of the driveway once you finish the edges. Start at the top to one side, and pour the sealant onto the driveway to create a giant upside-down U shape. Then spread the sealer using a large driveway squeegee, working from one leg of the U across the driveway to the opposite leg.

Allow time for the seal coat to cure

After the first sealant application, wait overnight, and then apply a second coat. You need to wait at least 48 hours for the sealant to cure and harden. Don’t drive or walk on your driveway during this time, and keep kids and pets away. Placing buckets at the four corners of your driveway with caution tape looped between them can help.

 

How to repair holes in your driveway

Driveway holes can’t be fixed with the same repair method used for cracks. Beware that the larger the hole is, the shorter the repair will hold. A replacement might be a more logical solution if your driveway has a lot of huge holes. 

Take these easy steps if you’re just dealing with one or two smaller holes:

  • Fill the hole with gravel up to 4 inches below the driveway’s surface.
  • Pour concrete on top of the gravel so it’s level with the surface.
  • Use a magnesium float to tamp the concrete down firmly and smooth it with a flat trowel.

 

Driveway repair FAQ

Do you still have questions about driveway repair? These frequently asked questions provide answers to some of the most common queries on the topic.

What’s the difference between resurfacing and seal-coating a driveway?

Seal-coating is a preventive measure that involves applying a protective sealant to the driveway’s surface. It serves as a barrier that keeps water and ice from penetrating the driveway and causing cracks. Resurfacing is a repair measure. It involves applying a fresh material layer to the existing concrete or asphalt. Also referred to as an overlay, this top layer hides the pavement beneath to conceal cracks and potholes.

Is it worth it to resurface a driveway?

If your driveway is extremely damaged, you might be wondering whether resurfacing is the right option — or is a total driveway replacement a more logical solution? Alternatively, if your driveway exhibits minor damage, you might be trying to decide whether you should resurface or seal it. Which option is right for you?

Sealant isn’t as durable and long-lasting as liquid asphalt (an aggregate of oil and tar), so you’ll have to reseal regularly. A new surface, however, should hold for some years. That said, sealant offers good protection against damage from heat, chemicals, UV rays, water and ice. However, resurfacing is a good option if your driveway is extremely damaged. A concrete/asphalt maintenance specialist can advise on the best choice if you’re unsure.

When is the best time to seal-coat a driveway?

Sealant can protect against many factors that cause driveway cracks and other damage, including the sun’s rays, lawn care chemicals, and water or ice. Sealant needs to be applied properly (and at the right time) to maximize its impact. Wait at least 90 days after new driveway installation for the concrete or asphalt to cure and harden. Apply the sealant as soon as possible after this period has passed. In general, it’s best to apply sealant in the summer months. It needs to be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit for the sealant to cure.

 

Discover how Cinch can protect your home systems and appliances from costly repairs

Driveway repairs are generally low-cost and easy — it’s a DIY home improvement project that can quickly boost your property’s curb appeal. However, other home repairs are more complicated and costly. 

A comprehensive Cinch home protection plan for built-in home systems and appliances can help cover replacement and repair expenses for essentials like your clothes dryer, doorbell, garbage disposal and more. Find out more about Cinch and get a quote here.

 

Elements like water, tree roots, chemicals and sun exposure can damage your driveway over time. This guide to driveway repairs can help you with DIY fixes.