Asphalt is an inexpensive and durable material often used for residential driveways. Made with a petroleum base, asphalt provides a hard surface for vehicles and lasts for many years with periodic maintenance. Asphalt can often develop cracks, however. These cracks can be repaired with a variety of compounds, some of which require the use of a propane torch to melt the material.
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About Asphalt Driveways
Asphalt uses bitumen, aggregates and binders to produce a dark-colored, semi-flexible paving material. Many types of asphalt mixes are used, depending on the amount of traffic and the type of weather conditions the paved area will be exposed to. Asphalt can be cold-mixed or hot-mixed. A number of ingredients added to the material can increase its ability to withstand wear and weather. Because of its low cost and quick installation, it is commonly used for residential driveways, as well as for road surfacing in communities. Asphalt generally lasts about 20 years, according to the Asphalt Driveway Company website. Factors such as climate, use and frequency of maintenance can affect its lifespan.
Over time, asphalt loses its initial elasticity and begins to crack. This cracking allows water to seep into the material, which then expands and contracts with normal thawing and freezing cycles, degrading the material even further. Repairing these cracks when they are small is easier and less expensive than waiting until the damage becomes large and dangerous for vehicles and foot traffic. Homeowners generally can repair small cracks on their own. Large cracks, however, may require expensive repairs done by an asphalt contractor.
Crack Repair Options
A number of compounds are available for repairing asphalt cracks. Some of these are liquid crack fillers that are poured into the crack and allowed to dry. Another type of crack filler is a rope-like material that is packed into the crack like a putty and then heated with a propane torch to melt the material which then cools into a solid form. This type of crack filler is the easiest to use, with the least amount of mess. It does, however, require that the user have some experience in the operation of the propane and torch equipment.
Torching Asphalt Driveways
Homeowners must thoroughly clean cracks and remove debris before attempting asphalt repairs. To repair cracks less than ½-inch wide, first fill them with sand up to ¼-inch of the surface of the asphalt, according to This Old House writer John D. Wagner. When using the latex rope-like compounds for crack repairs, lodge the materials into the crack, packing it firmly. A rubber mallet will help to wedge the material into the crack. After this, apply a propane torch to the filler for 20 to 30 seconds to allow it to melt, then leave the material to dry for approximately 20 minutes. The filler can then be treated with asphalt sealer.