When it comes to your asphalt surface, the best way to protect your investment is to learn how to correctly repair and patch it before any cracks or potholes form. That way, when the inevitable does happen, you’ll be prepared and know how to address them before they escalate into larger, more costly repairs. Asphalt patching is a simple, straightforward, and cost-effective process that anyone can do, as long as you have the right materials and equipment on hand. In this definitive guide, we’ll briefly cover why potholes and cracks form and what the difference between cold and hot patches are, then provide you with the asphalt patching steps you need to follow for a successful repair.
Why Cracks and Potholes Form in Asphalt Pavement
The most common causes behind the formation of cracks, and potholes are water damage from poor drainage, vehicle oil leaks that erode the pavement’s surface, and extreme changes in temperature that cause the pavement to contract and expand. When cracks form, water seeps into them, breaking down the asphalt’s base layers. If the water freezes, it can widen the cracks, and even cause potholes to form. If these issues are left unaddressed, the asphalt’s surface can weaken further and be more susceptible to ongoing damage. This is why it is essential to learn asphalt patching and to keep the right materials on hand - cold patches and crack fillers - for quick repairs.
Asphalt Patching: Cold or Hot Filler?
As the names suggest, the main difference between cold asphalt filler and hot is their temperature. Generally speaking, a cold asphalt filler is going to be ideal for those who are patching non-commercial repairs, and for those who are new to asphalt patching (homeowners, new business owners for example). Since cold filler or patches can be applied straight from the bag, they don’t require specialized or exceedingly expensive equipment to get the job done. Hot asphalt fillers, on the other hand, must be heated up before application, which does require specialized equipment. It also must be handled carefully, and should only be used by trained professionals looking to make permanent repairs.
Where to Begin With DIY Asphalt Patching?
If your asphalt surface only has a few minor cracks or small potholes, completing DIY asphalt patching is going to be a more cost-effective option for you. The steps you need to take are dependent on whether you’re repairing cracks or potholes, so refer to the appropriate section below.
Asphalt Patching for Minor Cracks
- Clean Out The Cracks: The first step to take here is to clean out the cracks. Make sure you remove any loose rocks, debris, or weeds that are inside. If the cracks are hairline cracks, we recommend that you purchase a crack filler compound, as this will fit into cracks that are less than ½ inch wide. This saves you from having to widen the cracks.
- Apply Weed Killer: The second step is to apply weed killer into the cracks. You don’t want the weeds growing back in the same spot and breaking through your newly patched area. Grab any kind of weed killer and follow the instructions on the back of the bottle.
- Fill In Small Cracks: Fill in the small cracks with crack filler compound. Open up the tube, place the tip of the tube into the base of the crack, and then squeeze it to fill the crack up with the compound. You’ll want to fill the crack until it reaches the surrounding asphalt level or slightly higher. If you go slightly higher, you will need a small trowel to smooth it out.
- Deeper Cracks Need Tamping: If the crack is on the larger size, you’ll want to fill it in with sand and then tamper down the sand with something solid, like the handle of a trowel or shovel. Add sand until it is ¼ inches away from the surface of the asphalt, and keep tamping it down (pressing it down) until you reach this number.
*Note: if you’re using asphalt patching filler that comes in stick-form (already dry), then you will need a heavier object like the end of a hammer to push it into the crack. You will also need a propane torch to melt it so that it seeps into the crack.
- Apply Your Asphalt Compound: Now you’ll apply your asphalt patching compound directly from the bag/bucket by scooping it out and placing it into the crack. You’ll want to add a thin layer of this compound, then tamp it down, and then apply more and repeat the process until the asphalt patching compound is level with the surrounding asphalt. Once this is done, follow the asphalt patching compound’s instructions on how long to leave it for it to cure (harden and dry). We also recommend that you mark the area with cones or tape to remind you to stay off the area until it is cured.
Equipment and supplies needed for crack repair: crack filler, asphalt patching compound, weed killer, a small trowel or shovel, a steel tamper, and potentially a propane torch and leaf blower or garden hose/pressure washer.
Asphalt Patching for Small Potholes
- Cut the Damaged Area Into a Rectangle: Not only is the asphalt surrounding the pothole likely to be damaged, but a rounded patch doesn’t last as long as a rectangular one. In addition to this, a rectangle makes it far simpler to calculate how much filler you’ll need to use. If you don’t have an asphalt saw, a mallet and chisel work just as well, as long as you make sure the edges are angled at 90 degrees.
- Clean Out the Hole Completely: Debris, plant life and anything that doesn’t provide a solid base for the asphalt needs to be removed. Pull out any large debris, including what you’ve removed with your mallet and chisel, and use a broom to remove the rest. Any plants you can’t pull out completely can be doused in vinegar in order to prevent them from growing back through your patch later.
- Restore the Foundation of the Hole: Using sand or coarse gravel (never round pea gravel), fill in the hole, leaving about an inch at the top for your patch. If you have any small pieces leftover from chiseling out the edges of the hole, you can add these as filler as well. Make sure to tamper the base as you fill it so that it’s as solid as possible, as this will give your patch the longest lasting results.
- Begin Filling the Hole: Working in layers of about a half inch, begin filling the hole, tampering as you go to eliminate the possibility of any air pockets. Additionally, this will result in a more solid, longer lasting patch. Continue adding and tamping layers until your patch is just to the point of overflowing, bulging out slightly above the surrounding asphalt surface.
- Tamper the Patch: Finish up your patch by making it level with the surrounding asphalt. Assuming you don’t own a vibrating plate, a simple metal tamper, though slow, will get the job done. Alternatively, a well oiled piece of plywood can be laid down and driven over by a car to speed up the process.
Equipment and supplies needed for pothole repair: coarse gravel/sand mix, asphalt saw or hammer and chisel, a shovel, cold asphalt patch, a vibrating plate or plywood, brush or roller, and sealcoat.
Following either of these processes, you’re going to want to add a layer of sealcoating on top so that the new repair isn’t exposed to the elements. If you leave this step out, you’ll end up with an asphalt patch that becomes dry, brittle, and susceptible to new damage. If you’re repairing potholes during the winter time, apply the sealcoating in the springtime. Finally, for business owners, don’t forget to line stripe the newly patched area to replenish any line markings that have been covered by the new patch!
When Is It Time To Hire an Asphalt Patching Professional?
If your asphalt surface has extensive damage in the way of multiple large potholes or several large cracks, it may be time to hire an asphalt patching professional. Asphalt patching is a delicate process and if not done correctly, can result in an uneven repair job that will not last. If you’re unsure about your asphalt patching skills, don’t have the necessary equipment, or have extensive damage that needs hot asphalt filler, then it’s best to hire an expert. If you have any questions about asphalt patching or would like a free quote, contact our team here at DCPLM. We’re more than happy to help you make your repair job a success.