Pro Tips for Asphalt Crack Repair

April 22, 2019

Performing asphalt crack repair at the first sign of damage to your commercial parking lot or blacktop driveway is the best option for keeping that pavement strong and secure, and for reducing the need for repaving or outright replacement of the material. Property owners can often fill in small cracks and potholes on their own, while larger chips and other such damage may need the attention of an asphalt paving contractor.

Pro tips for asphalt crack repair:

  • Sweep away dirt and dust
  • Remove vegetation
  • Use cold asphalt patching for small holes and cracks
  • Overfill the damaged area by an inch or so
  • Tamp down the patching material
  • Allow the patch to cure for 24 hours before driving on it

There are many more details involved in filling cracks and other such damage in asphalt, and it's also good to know when you want to call a professional and have them fix pavement holes, spalling, and the like. It's also helpful to know some basic tips for keeping asphalt in good repair and avoiding any such damage in the first place! If you have an asphalt parking lot or residential, consider some helpful advice on maintaining its surface and for repairing minor damage and cracks.

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Asphalt Crack Repair How-To

To repair cracks in asphalt, you first need to understand the types of damage that generally appear in this paving material. Not all damage in asphalt, concrete, and other such pavement is alike, and you don't want to try to repair those various type of damage in the same way either! Consider the most common forms of asphalt damage you might see in a parking lot or driveway:

  • Alligator cracks are surface cracks that run along the top of asphalt, resembling an alligator's back or a spider's web. Alligator cracks appear on very dry pavement so you might also notice that the paving material seems brittle, gray, and faded under those cracks.
  • Potholes are at least two inches deep and are missing chunks of asphalt.
  • Sinkholes are similar to potholes, except that a sinkhole is a significant impression in the pavement and won't necessarily be missing actual chunks of asphalt. If that impression is less than two inches deep, it's often called a birdbath rather than a sinkhole.
  • Chipped asphalt refers to cracks that allow two sections of pavement to separate from one another. It's important to note this difference, as the patching compound used for minor, hairline cracks might not be the right material to use for actual chipped sections of pavement. That patching compound is meant to fill holes, not join two pieces of asphalt together!

To repair these forms of damage to asphalt, you might need to fill in the broken area, widen the patching material, heat it, and then allow it to set and cure. Note a few additional, specific tips for patching various asphalt damage and how to repair cracks in asphalt:

Leave Hairline Cracks in Asphalt to a Professional

Hairline cracks refer to minor imperfections along the surface of asphalt. While these imperfections and cracks might seem unimportant, note that hairline cracks can allow asphalt to absorb moisture and other damaging debris, and also eventually grow and spread to become deeper, more severe alligator cracks or outright chips. Hairline cracks also don't typically appear in just one area of asphalt but are usually spread across the entire surface of a driveway or parking lot.

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Rather than trying to fill in all these cracks and imperfections with patching compound or other tips for how to repair cracks in asphalt driveway, it's best to call an asphalt contractor and have your driveway or lot covered with a fog seal or slurry seal. These seals consist of a thin, runny type of asphalt spread or sprayed over the existing pavement. This slurry then seeps into those cracks and forms a solid surface.

Fog seals and slurry seals are not only effective at filling in large areas of hairline cracks, but they also improve the appearance of asphalt and restore it to its original dark, consistent color. Fog and slurry seals also provide a layer of protection between asphalt and sunlight, moisture, and other such elements that tend to increase and spread that damage across the surface of the pavement. This type of asphalt crack repair can prolong the life of your property’s asphalt overall.

Filling Cracks in Asphalt

If the cracks in your property's asphalt are larger than hairline cracks, consider filling them during spring or fall rather than summer or winter. Asphalt tends to expand and contract during very hot and cold weather, so asphalt driveway crack repair in summer or winter can result in the pavement pulling away from the patching material.

Clean out any loose debris from the crack, and remove any vegetation. It can be good to rent a heavy-duty vacuum or other similar asphalt crack repair equipment to clean the cracked area completely and ensure there is no residual dirt and debris.

Fill the broken space with cold asphalt filler, and be sure to overfill it by an inch or so. Use a small blowtorch to heat the asphalt patching compound, so it becomes malleable and seeps into the current asphalt.

Once the patching material has become soft and warm, allow it to cure for a full day. You might notice it seeping and settling into the crack during this time, and this allows for a more level and even fix of your damaged asphalt.

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How to Maintain Asphalt

  • Hose down the pavement regularly, to remove surface dirt, mud, silt, and other damaging debris. Hosing down asphalt also keeps this paving material cool in the summertime, so it's less likely to become brittle and then crack, chip, or spall.
  • Arrange for regular asphalt power washing for your driveway or lot. Asphalt or concrete power washing with detergents meant for paving materials will remove damaging motor oil and other automotive fluids, fertilizer and other lawn care treatments, snow removing salt, and other corrosive, harmful chemicals and residues.
  • Ensure that you or your landscapers use snow blowers with skid plates, which provide cushioning between a snow blowing scoop and the asphalt below it. These skid plates will help prevent scraping, scratching, and otherwise damaging the asphalt during wintertime clearance.
  • Use non-corrosive snow clearing salt, sand, or other such materials. Ensure that the product you choose advertises as being safe for asphalt.
  • Seal and repair cracks and chips as quickly as possible, to keep them from getting worse over time.
  • Have your property's asphalt seal coated every year or as often as recommended, to add a protective barrier between the pavement and damaging sunlight, inclement weather, and the like.

Should You Replace Asphalt With Concrete?

Once your property's asphalt becomes so severely damaged that it needs outright replacement rather than asphalt crack repair, you might wonder if you should replace it with concrete. While both paving materials have their advantages, note some reasons why it's good to opt for asphalt instead:

  • The naturally bumpy texture of asphalt provides added traction, reducing the risk of accidents, collisions, and the like.
  • The bumpy texture of asphalt also makes it difficult for moisture to freeze against the surface of the pavement so that you may spend less money on wintertime salt, snow blowing, and the like. Asphalt is also often less slick, therefore safer for walking and driving in the winter.
  • Asphalt's porous construction allows it to absorb sound waves and vibrations, creating a quieter environment outside your home or office!
  • Asphalt cures very quickly so that you can often drive on it within 24 hours of installation. Concrete typically requires several days, if not a full week or even longer, to set and cure properly. This delay can disrupt your business or keep you from being able to use your residential driveway during that time.
  • The dark color of asphalt reduces glare from summertime sun, and also provides a better backdrop for painted lines and other such markings, making them more visible to drivers.
  • Dark asphalt is also less likely to show stains from motor oil and other such substances, so your driveway or parking lot looks more presentable over the years.

Related Questions

When should you replace asphalt on your property?

Don't keep filling in cracks and potholes in asphalt, but have the material replaced when it's covered in damage, has become completely dry and brittle, or has faded over the years. New pavement will provide a stable surface for driving, protecting your property and vehicle traffic.

When should you call a contractor for needed asphalt crack repair?

When your property's asphalt results in lots of cracks or numerous potholes, you don't want to keep filling these with over-the-counter patching materials. Call an asphalt contractor to repair that damage properly or note if it's time for new asphalt altogether.

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