Everything to Know About Asphalt Crack Repair
A Comprehensive Guide to Asphalt Crack Repair
Ideally, your asphalt driveway and parking lot consist of a smooth, non-cracked surface that’s pleasant to drive and walk on. Right after you lay the asphalt and, several months later, protect it with a topcoat, your asphalt should remain in good condition.
With that said, this isn’t always true. Sometimes cracks form in your asphalt, and they’ll need to be repaired in order to extend the lifespan on your driveway. If you wait too long to fix them, the problem will worsen, and those cracks will turn into potholes.
But now on to the important questions: Why do cracks form? And how can you fix them?
Why Asphalt Cracks Form
There are many reasons why asphalt cracks. Everything from seasonal changes to standard wear and tear can do a number on your asphalt. Here are some of the most common things that cause those cracks to form:
- Standard Aging – Like everything else, asphalt has a particular life span. No matter how well you care for it and how many layers of topcoat that you add, eventually, the bonds that hold the asphalt material together will begin to break down. When this happens, cracks will appear on the surface.
- The Freeze Thaw Cycle – Winter weather can do a number on your asphalt. When the weather is cold, the materials within the asphalt contract tightly. Then, as snow and slush begin to fall and then melt, the water will run down between the asphalt materials, causing cracks. During the span of an average winter, where this happens numerous times, your asphalt can end up becoming quite damaged.
- How Summer Months – Just like the cold, hot weather can also damage your asphalt, causing cracks. The heat from the sun causes the materials that make up your asphalt to expand. The pressure from the expansion can lead to cracking. Then, when you add in the rainstorms that tend to go along with hot weather, it’s no wonder that your asphalt ends up cracked in places.
- The Earth Itself – Nothing on the ground is as stationary as it seems. Standard asphalt driveways are usually laid on a bed of gravel. Over time, this gravel can move as the ground shifts. As the gravel starts to wear away, it will leave the asphalt with an uneven surface underneath. This weakness leads to cracking. In addition, earthquakes can also lead to cracked asphalt, because the ground shifts and shakes wildly, even buckling in areas.
There are just a few reasons why your asphalt may crack. The most important thing to remember is that the cracks are just the beginning, and will lead to potholes and further damage the longer that you put off fixing them. This is why it’s important to keep an eye on your asphalt and prepare to fix those cracks sooner rather than later. Whether you keep the materials on hand or need to purchase them when it’s time, you’ll need to repair your asphalt.
Best Time to Fix Cracks
Even though you might be tempted to repair your asphalt as soon as you see those cracks forming, you shouldn’t. In order to the repairs to be successful, you’ll need to wait until the temperature and weather are perfect.
- Temperature – Since extreme heat and cold (notably winter and summer, depending on your climate of course) tend to produce temperatures that can damage your asphalt, they are obviously not the best time to repair those cracks. Instead, you’ll need to wait until the temperature ranges between 50 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit for several days in a row. This makes spring and fall the best seasons. Remember: if it’s too hot or too cold, the crack filler won’t adhere properly, leading to additional problems.
- Weather – On top of keeping an eye on the predicted temperatures, it’s also important to have the right weather patterns for several days in a row. You want nice, dry weather that isn’t too humid. Rain can harm the crack filler, causing it to wash away in some cases. In order to make your repairs stick wait until your have two to three dry days predicted in a row. Then it’s time to take case of those cracks.
Once you have the right weather, it’s time to start to fix your asphalt surfaces. If the weather seems like it’s too hot or cold, or even too rainy, just wait.
How to Prep for Crack Filling
Before you can bring out the crack filler and start to take care of those blemishes on your parking lot or driveway, you first have to prep the surface. In order for the crack filler to do its job, you’ll need the area to be as prepped as possible. This usually consists of four steps:
- Clean the Area – Since you’ll be applying the crack filler into the crack, it makes sense to have the inside of perfectly cleaned. Remove any weeds or grass that have grown up through the crack. Also clear out any bits of asphalt or gravel that have found their way inside, along with any dirt. Some of the best tools for the job include a small trowel (yes, the kind used for gardening), a screwdriver, a wire brush that’s small enough to get into the crack. For those working bigger jobs that need better efficiency, a heat lance or a or a crack cleaner machine works great!
- Wash the Area – Use a hose or power washer in order to remove any remaining bits of dirt and gravel from the crack. The power of the water should be enough to take care of these remnants, but be careful not to have the water pressure set too high, because you might end up accidentally making the crack wider than it already is.
- Dry the Area – Now you need to let the area dry. It needs to be perfectly dry in order for the crack filler to properly stick. You can sit back and let nature do its thing, as the dry air will allow it to dry on its own, or you can speed things up a bit with a leaf blower. Whatever it takes!
- Repeat as Needed – Once you have one crack cleaned out and have allowed it to dry, it’s time to repeat the process on all of the other cracks in your asphalt. Keep going until all of those cracks are prepped and ready for filler.
Now that your cracked areas are prepped, the next step requires you to fill those cracks in order to add to the lifespan of your asphalt. You have a few different options to choose from. Read on to find out the next steps in the process.
Best Ways to Repair Asphalt Cracks
There are several different methods that you can use in order to fill in the cracks in your asphalt. It all comes down to the size (width) of the crack itself. Although you should be able to take a general measurement of the crack simply by looking at it, for some that are in between in size, you may find yourself getting out the measuring tape. No matter which method of measurement seems right for you, here’s how you can fill the cracks.
Generally defined as a crack that’s between 1/8 and 1/2 inch wide, a smaller crack is, obviously, easier to fill. You’ll need to use an asphalt crack filler that consists of a rubberized emulsion material. As far as tools go, get out your caulking gun, a trowel, and a putty knife, as well as some protective gloves and eyewear.
For smaller cracks, this cold pour crack filler works great.
Start by mixing the crack filler until it’s the right consistency. It should be somewhat liquid, but not overly so. Then, pour it into your caulking gun, and apply it directly to the crack. If you don’t have a caulking gun handy and instead have a steady hand, you can pour the filler into the crack by hand. Just be careful not to get it all over the surface of the driveway, as it can stain.
Once the filler is in the crack, smooth out the top of the surface with the trowel. You can also use a putty knife for this same purpose, or, if you feel like getting a little “hands on” with it, your gloved thumb or forefinger. After the crack is filled and the top is smoothed out, simply let it dry. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a day or two, depending on the type of crack filler used. Remember that you can’t drive over the crack until the filler has fully dried.
For larger cracks, particularly those over a half-inch wide, you’ll need to take a different tactic. Since these cracks tend to be deeper than the narrower ones, there are a few different steps to this process. The tools that you’ll need for these larger cracks include a tamper or a medium-sized wooden post;
whichever will help you prepare the crack before you lay the asphalt repair compound, like the DIY Alligator Crack Filler into place. Since this is a larger job, you’ll need to use an asphalt melter as well.
Even though you cleaned out the crack, removing leaves, plants, debris, rocks, dirt, and other things, you’ll need to put a little gravel into the bottom of the crack if it’s very deep. Make sure that you choose a type of gravel that’s angular and small, in order to have it stay properly in the bottom of the crack. Things like pea gravel that are rounded and tiny are more likely to move around and won’t provide the kind of base that you need for the crack filler. They’ll only make the problem worse.
Once you’ve added two inches of gravel to the bottom of the crack, tamp it down. It if sinks more than half an inch, add a bit more gravel and then tamp it down again. You need to have a good surface for the crack filler to adhere to.
At this point, it’s time to prepare the crack filler. Since these larger cracks require a hot asphalt repair compound, the filler needs to be placed in the melter so that it’s properly prepared. Follow the instructions on the package carefully, then, once the crack filler is ready, place the crack filling machine over the crack.
Tamp the hot asphalt down immediately with the tamper or post. Like with the gravel, if it sinks down, add more crack filler, and then tamp it down again. Repeat this process until the crack is flush the rest of the asphalt surface.
This type of crack filler will take longer than the other kind to cure and harden, so it may be a day or two before you’re able to drive on the surface again. Also, keep in mind that you won’t be able to apply another layer of topcoat over the entire surface until the crack filler has completely cured, which can take a few weeks to a month.
DIY Alligator Crack Repair
Alligator cracks, those tiny cracks bunched in a single area that resemble an alligator’s skin or a spider’s webbing, are a sign of issues with the layers under the surface. If the substructure, like gravel, under the asphalt begins to move and shift, it will create a weakness that allows these small cracks to form. Although the ideal method of repair involves getting help from a professional asphalt repair surface, since that entire section may have to be torn up and repaved, there are a few DIY options.
First, you can fill in those small cracks using a rubberized emulsion crack filler and the method described above. Second, you can remove the cracked area and apply a patch filler. However, both of these are essentially Band Aids that camouflage the main issue (the subsurface) and will only add a little more time to the lifespan of your asphalt.
Sealcoating is designed to help protect your asphalt. Otherwise, the sun, rain, and other natural elements can break down the bonds that hold your asphalt together, allowing additional cracks to form. As you can imagine, this will lead to the need for more crack filler, and create more work, as well as take away from the lifespan of your asphalt.
Once you’ve filled in the cracks in your asphalt, you need to properly protect the crack filler and the asphalt itself. Depending on the type of crack filler that you’ve used, you may have to wait a bit for the filler to set before applying a layer of sealcoating to the surface. However, once you’ve done so, your surface will be better protected, and you’ll have less cracking to deal with.
Other Forms of Crack Filling
In addition to these manual methods, you can also use a crack filling machine. These machines are handy when you have a larger surface and a lot of cracks to fill.
There are several different types of crack filling machines available. Some of them come with a melter attached to a push handle and an applicator, meaning that all you need to do is pour in your cold process asphalt compound and let the machine do the work. You’ll need to tamp down the filler once it’s been applied to the crack, but the rest is done by machine.
Our customers love the RYMA-V3 crack filler machine, which is one of our best selling crack filling machines. Easily apply up to 400 feet per hour or 3200 ft per day!
Or step it up with the RY10MA-PRO melter applicator and tackle up to 4,800 feet per day!
In addition, there are melter ovens and kettles, which don’t have the push handles or applicators, but are handy for preparing the asphalt filling compound. You’ll need another method of application, but if you need a lot of crack filler, this is the best way to prepare it.
Adding Crack Repair Services to Your Asphalt Maintenance Business
If you run an asphalt business or a construction business that handles asphalt, consider adding asphalt crack repair to your list of services. There are plenty of driveways and parking lots out there that have cracks in need of repair, and the owners of those properties either don’t have the time or the know-how to fix them.
Since asphalt crack repairs can be done fairly quickly, depending on the number of cracks and their widths and depths, of course, and are easily bundled with additional services, like sealcoating, this can become a lucrative option for companies that handle asphalt pouring and similar services.
In order to keep your asphalt in the best possible condition, you’ll need to proactively take good care of it. This includes filling those cracks when the weather is right. No matter the size of the crack, you can fill it, and prevent it from expanding and becoming a large pothole, which is a win-win in everyone’s book.