Over the course of some twenty years as a restaurant owner and manager, I have been fortunate, (and unfortunate), enough to be able to do a lot of the repairs and maintenance to the grounds and buildings myself. Like a lot of other business and homeowners, quite a bit of the process has been through trial and error. I learned early on to at least consult some kind of professional before attempting the job. I was lucky enough to operate mostly in a small town where the hardware store guy had been around for awhile and wasn’t shy about sharing his knowledge with you, especially if you bought your materials from him. Then a huge Wal-Mart came to town and he went out of business. I quickly found out that the sixteen-year-old working in the paint department wasn’t quite the same.
One of the most important aspects of running a successful restaurant is curb appeal. Dead grass and bushes and a parking lot full of potholes and cracks that jar customers out of their cars isn’t very appealing. Spending thousands of dollars for a professional resurfacing isn’t very appealing to the bottom line either. So, on several occasions, I decided to seal and patch the parking lot myself. How hard could it be? Well, other than pumping out the grease trap, it was one of the hardest and nastiest jobs imaginable.
Take sealing the lot for example: The process had to be done at night when the restaurant was closed, and during the heat of the summer. The first thing that you had to do was to spend the first night thoroughly sweeping the parking lot. One time I hired a couple of college frat guys to do the job. The next morning I was greeted by a huge stack of beer cans sitting right next to a big mound of dirt. Next task was to find someone who had a pickup truck big enough to haul the house-sized tank of Mac 52 asphalt sealant. After hauling the Mac 52 to the site, it was then just a matter of draining the thick, smelly, tar-like substance into buckets and then dumping it out on the lot. It was then spread with long-handled stiff brushes. The work was hot and exhausting, ruined your shoes, and caused you to blow dark masses out of your nose for several days thereafter. The smell lingered on for a week. One helper decided to wear shorts because of the heat. Big mistake. He ended up in the hospital the next day with an allergic skin reaction on his legs. Even with three people working, the process usually took all night. On one job, with the daylight quickly approaching, we just grabbed the giant tank of Mac 52, opened the drain, and then ran around the parking lot with it, frantically trying to spread it after the tank ran dry.
Patchwork was a little bit easier: We used cold patches at first, but sometimes we were lucky if they lasted for a month in high traffic areas. We usually tamped the stuff into the hole by having one of the workers drive their car back and forth over the patch several times. We finally broke down and hired a company who used heated patches. They didn’t seem to last very long either. But when you patched the holes as best you could and then put some fresh sealer and stripes over it, at least the parking lot looked new for awhile.
Homeowners generally don’t have the means to heat a large quantity of patch material and the only option for them is to use a cold patch, which is available at most hardware and building supply stores. Professionals will tell you that these patches will only last a year or two at best, but some of the newer materials hold up almost as well as the hot patches.
The first thing you need to do is find all of the parts of your driveway where the asphalt is beginning to fail. Wet your driveway with a hose. This will make weak spots easier to detect. Try to push a screwdriver into these areas. If you can’t dislodge anything with the screwdriver, sealing will probably take care of these imperfections.
The key to a long-lasting patch is to remove all of the damaged asphalt and using the right material. Using a chisel, dig out as much of the loose material as you can. Don’t be afraid to dig too deep. Use a blower or wet/dry vacuum to get all of the smaller particles out of the hole. Make the sides of the hole as vertical as possible to give the new patch a good surface to cling to.
Fill the hole to about a 2″ depth. If the hole is deeper than that, use crushed gravel to fill it to a 2″ depth. Fill the hole slightly overfull, making sure than there are no voids. Even a small void will cause the fill to fail prematurely. Then tamp it down with a 4×4 post so that it is level. Don’t seal over the new patch until it has had at least a month to cure.
If your driveway is the size of a parking lot, hire a professional.