Constant sun exposure will wear away the oils in your asphalt, and freezing and refreezing during winter causes cracks. To combat these elements, it’s important to fill cracks and reseal your driveway every 1-3 years. If you live in an area that sees extremely cold winters or hot summers, it’s best to reseal every year. That way, coming home won’t start to feel like an off-road excursion.
Note: Filling small cracks is easy, but resealing your entire driveway yourself can be a big project. Contractor prices vary by location, but you can typically hire someone to do this job for $.10-$.20 a square foot.
Free up your driveway. Several of these steps require lengthy waiting times when you cannot use your driveway. Before beginning this maintenance process, make sure you have another place to put your cars!
Check the weather. It’s best to perform repairs to your driveway on a day that’s 55 degrees or warmer – your sealing materials will form a stronger bond with the existing asphalt at these temperatures. Also check the weather to make sure it isn’t going to rain, which will weaken the seal.
Inspect your driveway. Before you apply your sealer, take a good look at the surface of your driveway. Hairline cracks are fine – they’ll be taken care of by the sealer – but cracks that are 1/8-inch or wider should be noted and filled. Also look for depressions, which can collect water and lead to cracks.
Fill large cracks. Remove loose material from around the crack with a wire brush. Once you’ve loosened it, brush it away with a broom and use a garden hose to wash away the dust. For cracks 1/8-inch to ½-inch wide, fill them with crack filler, which is available in cans and caulking cartridges and costs about $10 at your local hardware store. For deep cracks, it’s a good idea to fill it with sand up to ¼-inch from the top before adding your filler. For cracks that are wider than ½-inch, it’s best to use an asphalt cold-patch, which comes in a bag or can and costs about $15 at your local hardware store.
Fill depressions. First, clean any depressions with a broom and wash the area with soapy water to remove excess oil. Rinse the soap off with a hose and remove any standing water (a little dampness is fine). Then, use a trowel to spread asphalt cold patch into the depression until it’s level with the rest of the driveway. Smooth the surface and then tamp it down with a metal tamper or wood board.
Let it dry. Allow your crack filler and asphalt cold-patch to dry for 24 hours before sealing your driveway. Note: Some products may suggest you wait longer than this –always follow the specific product instructions if this is the case.
Clean your entire driveway. Before applying sealer, it’s a good idea to clean the surface of your driveway. Sweep off as much dirt and dust as possible and then rinse your driveway with soapy water to remove oil. This can seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it to get a good seal.
Prepare your asphalt sealer. Asphalt sealers generally come in five gallon cans and cost about $30 at your local hardware store. One can covers about 250 square feet, so if you have a large driveway you’ll likely need several cans. The best kind to purchase is a “sealer/filler” rather than just a “sealer” because it works better on hairline cracks.
Apply the sealer. Before you begin, stir the sealer thoroughly to make sure all the ingredients are well-mixed. The best applicator to use is a squeegee/brush, because you can spread the sealer with the squeegee side and then work it into the asphalt with the brush. The most effective way to spread your sealer is to add two thin layers that dry quickly, rather than one thick layer. Just note that you must wait for your first coat to dry, which can take up to 12 hours. This strategy is slower, but it provides a better seal. Note: Make sure that you work systematically as you spread your sealer to avoid needing to step on areas that are still wet!
Let your driveway cure. Generally, your sealer needs to sit undisturbed for 24 hours before it can be used again. However, this time can vary so check the label of the asphalt sealer you used for the exact time you need to wait. It’s also a good idea to put a barrier around your driveway to prevent accidental damage from cars who don’t know you just sealed your driveway!