Driveway upkeep and maintenance
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Wed., Sep. 14, 2011
School has started, and the fall season is here. That means less sunny weather, cooler temperatures and more rainy days. If sprucing up your driveway isn't on your project list, take a slow walk around, and a good long look at the driveway surface. Look especially for cracks of all sizes. If you find even one crack that is one-quarter inch in width, it should convince you that the time to repair and maintain is right now. Stains, depressions and erosions are also telltale signs that a repair is needed.
The quality of your DIY driveway facelift project will be determined by the amount of surface preparation you do and the quality of the products you use. You should not need any special tools, except the long-handled applicator “squeegee” sold with the sealer products. Most homeowners have what they need in their tool shed, garage or basement.
Sweeping with a stiff-bristled broom will remove surface sand and gravel, and make the surface ready to receive the patch materials and sealer. Clean all the cracks out with anything that will remove loose materials - sand, asphalt chunks and small stones. Thoroughly “sweep” the entire driveway surface with a stiff pressure stream from your garden hose. (You don’t need a pressure washer, and, in fact, it's probably not a good idea to use one on this project.) Let the driveway dry off completely - maybe a day in the sun - before you begin to repair cracks and seal the surface.
Unless your driveway and your vehicles are pretty new, you almost certainly will have some oil stains. Mix up some common detergent and water in a bucket, and use a stiff brush to eradicate the stains as much as you can. Rinse the area clean with the garden hose. If you cannot get all the stain to disappear, you can get a primer to coat them with, just as you would paint over a stained wall.
Cracks and holes need to be filled, and vegetation needs to be removed before the seal coat can be applied. Use an asphalt patch material with stone aggregate mixed in to patch any holes. Clean out the area well. Then square off the sides and edges. You can use a length of 4-inch post to tamp down the stone at the bottom. Then apply layer after layer of patch material, tamping each one until the surface is even with the driveway. For large potholes, let the last layer of asphalt mound up a little. Lay a scrap of plywood over the mound, and drive over it with your car. Repairs such as these should be allowed to “set up” or “cure” for a week or more before you apply a coat of sealer.
There is a wide variety of products for filling cracks. Use quality products (you get what you pay for), and use a solution appropriate to the size of the crack to be filled. Some repair products are quite liquid, while others need to be applied with a trowel or caulk gun. Don't try to fill large cracks with filler alone. Reduce the size of the crack with a filler material made of urethane. Let the repaired area dry for about 24 hours.
Once the cleaning and repair preparation is complete, applying the sealer is probably the easiest part. Be sure to purchase enough sealer to cover your entire driveway, so you don't have to stop the process to run to the store for another 5-gallon bucket. Stirring the sealer material, even though it says it is liquid, can be tedious and tiring. It is best to use an electric drill, equipped with a stirring attachment. Each time you have to open a new bucket, be sure the contents is mixed to the same consistency as the last one.
Pour the mixed sealer at the top of the drive, and use the squeegee to even it out, moving from one side of the driveway to the other. Putting more than one thin coat on the asphalt is better than trying to get it done with one thick coat. Let each coat dry thoroughly, and wait 24 or even 48 hours after the job is finished before you reintroduce the car to the driveway.
This project takes time, and it's just plain messy. But your once-new driveway surface will need a touch-up probably every three or four years. Your diligence and attention to preparation and product quality will reward you with a longer maintenance cycle. Over-zealous homeowners who apply sealer too frequently will find that it simply adds layers that will want to peel over time. Wait until you can actually see the small stones in the asphalt before applying another maintenance coat.