One thing we don’t anticipate when buying a home is just how much work it actually is keeping it all together. Nobody is foolish enough to think owning a home is dead simple but I can’t be the only one to underestimate the amount of work and cost home ownership comes with aside from the mortgage. I live in the North East. Winters are cold with snow and ice, summers are hot with downpours and humidity. Mother nature really beats the hell out of your property most of the year. Things break down, rot, wash away, heave, fall over, crack and sometimes just disappear (if you’re gardening keep an eye on your vegetables). One morning I discovered a new weed growing in a most unusual spot which is really saying something for a weed; those things grow anywhere. This one was growing straight up from a half-dollar sized hole halfway down my driveway, which, by the way, is an extremely long driveway; somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 feet long. “That’s not good…” I said aloud to myself. Upon further inspection I found out I was correct; this really wasn’t good. Not only was there a weed sprouting through a small hole, a closer look revealed most of the dirt below the hole was missing. This was the dreaded, “sinkhole”.
It wasn’t long before the asphalt began to cave in. We drove to avoid that part of the driveway but the driveway, although long, is not very wide, maybe 8 or 9 feet. Before long it was difficult to avoid which meant it was time for a fix.
I had been putting this off because I knew this could easily cost me $2k. To get a company out here, dig up this section of the driveway, refill, lay and roll the asphalt wasn’t going to be cheap. I wrestled with the idea of fixing this myself. I knew it would be laborious but that didn’t scare me. I’ve shed my share of sweat, drained my share of blisters and trimmed my share of fingernails that were so packed with dirt it was the only way to make them look presentable. What made me hesitate was I wasn’t really sure I knew what I was doing. But, I thought, “how bad can I screw this up? At the end of the day the worst that could happen is I still have to pay someone to repair my driveway that I tore up.” In that respect it made sense. So, I said, “let’s do this”, had a cup of coffee, threw on some “yard-work” clothes and did what any sane person does before starting a job in which they have no experience; I googled.
Google was really helpful even though I had a general Idea of what I needed to do. There were three things on my mind
- Remove the asphalt to expose the sinkhole
- Fill the sinkhole with dirt and pack it down tight
- Patch the hole with asphalt and pack that down
To Remove the asphalt it appeared I was going to need an “asphalt saw”, according to my research. I didn’t get a great picture of that but you can see it off to the left in the picture below. This one I was able to rent from Home Depot for around $150 for 4 hours. These monsters can be described in three ways; loud, loud and dirty, so wear old clothes, eye protection and ear protection.
These saws have hose hookup so that water is constantly cooling the blade. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have a hose long enough to reach where I was working. What I ended up doing was bringing down a couple 5 gallon buckets of water and every so often I’d douse the blade to make sure it didn’t warp. Not having a constant flow of water helped me discover another reason this hookup was there; dust control. If you aren’t able to hookup a hose like me I recommend wearing a mask as well. It got really dusty really quickly.
I learned pretty fast that I had to make several cross-hatched cuts because this stuff is heavy. A few extra cuts saves your back, just let the saw do the work.
After the first day I was feeling better about the job but I was still worried about the next part. I had to fill the hole and “patch” this vacant strip of asphalt. Any normal human being probably recognizes this is much larger than a patch job now. But, I was determined to see this through.
While googling how to deal with this problem I stumbled upon a product called “cold patch“. It had really good reviews and I found a few youtube videos of people using it including the guys from This Old House so I decided I’d give it a shot. It would probably have been faster to call a company and have them deliver some asphalt but I figured it wouldn’t be cheap and I’ve never worked with “hot asphalt” before so I decided to make another trip to Home Depot. I calculated that I would need at least 10 – 50lb bags so that’s what I started with. I also grabbed a tamper while I was there.
Now I still needed fill the hole with a base and I wasn’t really sure what to use. What was there after I ripped off the asphalt was just plain old dirt. I estimated I’d need a yard to fill what was gone and bring the entire spot up to between 1″ and 2″ relative to the surrounding asphalt. Fortunately, when my wife went to the landscaping company to get the “dirt” they recommended we try graded gravel as this was a common base for paving. This stuff worked out really well. We had it delivered and they were able to drop it right on the spot so all I needed to do was spread, fill and tamp.
I was in the home stretch! Now I just needed to add the cold patch and pack it down. If you remember I stated earlier that I’d need at least 10 bags which was definitely true. In the end I needed 15 bags. But when I was done I was really satisfied. Quikrete states that cold patch can be driven on immediately and that doing so actually helps it solidify so I had my driveway back as soon as I finished.
Quikrete also states that while it should be fully cured in 90 days it’s best not to apply any type of sealant to it for at least a month. We’ve been driving over it now for a couple weeks and it’s holding up very well. I plan to seal the entire driveway just before the fall. Hopefully that will repel the water for a while. This was a satisfying project and I’m proud of myself for getting it done but it’s not something I want to do every summer. At least not patches of this size!