Your driveway, like your house, can easily become an eyesore if you neglect it.
But it doesn't take much effort or money to keep an asphalt driveway in top shape and looking good. Also, routine driveway maintenance will keep small problems from becoming big ones and postpone the major expense of replacement.
All a driveway needs is periodic attention, such as filling cracks and potholes and applying a couple of coats of sealer.
If your driveway was installed by a good paving contractor, it's about four inches thick and was well-rolled on a substantial sub-base. If so, it has probably stood up well and all it may need is occasional sealing for cosmetic purposes.
If, however, your driveway was installed by an unscrupulous paver and is only an inch or so thick, then it's probably already falling apart. Sealing and patching will help its appearance, but they only postpone its inevitable deterioration.
Several forces act against even the best driveways, and here's what typically happens:
Temperature cycles, especially freezing and thawing, cause the driveway to expand and contract over time.
Although flexible, a driveway has a limit to how many expansion-contraction cycles it can take. Eventually, small cracks open in its surface and water seeps through to the sub-base.
Periodic wettings compact and settle the soil, creating a significant void under the pavement. Ultimately, the weight of an automobile will crush through the spot, causing a pothole.
Or, water trapped in cracks below the surface turns to ice during a freeze. Water expands when frozen and enlarges the cracks. Gas, grease and oil drippings act as solvents and damage the pavement by dissolving the asphalt, particularly during hot weather.
It's important to prepare your driveway before sealing it. As does any coating, sealer bonds better when applied over a clean surface. Also, patches and repairs last longer if they are made first, then protected by two coats of sealer.
Begin by using a shovel or ice scraper to scrape off lumps of grease and dirt. Pull grass or weeds out of cracks, trying to remove their roots as well. Otherwise, scrape them off flush to the surface. Use a knife or trowel to dig out the roots and dirt, and enlarge the hole to receive patching material.
Use a stiff broom to sweep clean the driveway and check for areas where grease, oil or gas drippings have marred and softened the surface. Scrub these spots with a driveway cleaning solution or with warm water and household detergent. Use a stiff scrub brush and spray rinse the area with a garden hose.
Small holes and depressions are repaired with asphalt driveway patching compound. This paste-like material contains small aggregate (gravel).
For a small hole, chip out all the broken blacktop material around the edges to about two inches deep. Brush out or vacuum loose material and fill the hole with compound to about 1/2-inch higher than the surrounding pavement. Use the end of a short length of 2-by-4 as a tamp to compact the compound until it's level with the pavement.
If the hole is shallow and dish-shaped, complete the packing by placing a board on the compound and hitting it with a heavy hammer. Finish the repair by tapering the compound to a feather edge with a trowel.