Sealing the Driveway

Blog, Home, Outside / Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

When we bought our house, the driveway was sorely in need of an update. The blacktop was pitted and crumbling. It was clearly neglected for quite some years. I checked back on Google Street view and found that the driveway looked the same both in 2007 and 2011. I’m not sure if it had been touched at all since 2011 but it certainly didn’t seem so.

After last winter, the whole length of the driveway appeared to have gotten worse. It could have been the ice getting into the cracks and expanding or it could have been the fact that I was diligent in shoveling and keeping it clean. The big old metal shovel I was using, while great for getting down to the bottom layer of snow, did have a tendency to snag on the driveway and I assume I just made the problem worse.

This Spring, I resolved to reseal the driveway before the snow fell again. The past couple weeks, that is what Ellie and I focused on. 

Driveway Resurfacing with weeds

This all would have been a whole lot easier had we done this at the beginning of the season. Plenty of weeds were growing through the cracks. We took a morning to pull as many as we could. After pulling, I tried going over the remaining weed bits with a blowtorch to really kill the plants, but I was having a lot of trouble getting my blowtorch to light outside. Instead, Ellie made some weed killer and went over all the weeds. It wasn’t perfect but we called it good enough because pulling weeds is bad enough, but pulling them out of cracks in pavement is even worse for some reason.

Driveway Resurfacing after weeds cleaned

After an hour or two of weeding, I switched over to cleaning the driveway. First, I took the leaf blower I got from my father-in-law and set it up for its highest power setting. I went up and down the driveway multiple times to get all the dirt and debris off it. At one point, I had to switch the leaf blower to leaf sucker-upper because the amount of material I was pushing around built up so much it slowed down the whole process. Once I got down to the street, there was a sizable pile of dirt that I blew into the street. The weekly street cleaner could clean it up better than I could. 

Once the driveway was blown clean, I pulled out the pressure washer I also inherited from my father-in-law. He had bought it to clean of their wooden porch. It is small and manageable, about the size of a backpack with the hose and sprayer coming off it. There was a lot of dirt left over after blowing off the driveway, most of it had settled deep in the cracks. It was slow going too. Every time I thought I had a patch cleared, the water would pool in the patch because it happened to be a low spot and the pooling water brought dirt from elsewhere with it. Again, it was slow going, but I eventually got through it.

Driveway Resurfacing cleaned

Then I had to stop for the day because rain was suddenly in the forecast. After washing, I wanted to patch the larger cracks but the bucket of patching compound said not to put it down if rain was coming in the next 24 hours. So we held off on patching until later in the week. Ellie and I got out on a nice sunny evening and started patching. The patch was a mix of sand and tar and we had to spread it with a trowel and smooth it out. We didn’t really know where to begin. There were so many deep cracks and wide cracks and pits and they ran into each other and into smaller ones. It was a labyrinth of cracks. We spent a whole bucket of patching compound on a relatively small area of the driveway. I had to run to the store and get another bucket to finish another day. 

After the patching compound got the biggest issues with the driveway, I used a bottle of driveway tar sealer stuff to fill the lesser cracks. It was slow going and like icing a cake. I should mention that both the patching compound that the liquid tar sealer needed 24 hours to dry before anything could go on top of them. So once I was done, I waited until the next day to put the sealer down.

Driveway Resurfacing patched

When I initially bought the materials needed for sealing the driveway, I bought four buckets which according to the labels should be enough for two coats. However, after the first coat I had to run out to get two more to know I’d have enough to cover everything. Apparently, the coverage doesn’t take into account a driveway in as bad of shape as ours.

Putting on the sealer was the easiest part of the whole process. It took a bit to get the hang of, but once we did we made quick work of it. I would dump out a line of the sealer and then Ellie would come after me with a squeegee to move it around. For me, there was a lot of standing around as she moved the sealer into place.

The first coat we put on was relatively thin. As it dried, we noticed it started to crack or separate where it had filled in the larger cracks. This concerned me because if cracks remained after sealing, it’s likely the sealer would crack once there was ice added to the equation. I hoped the second coat would fill it in and put my mind at ease, but it didn’t. The second coat went on thicker than the first, partially because I had some extra sealer to work with. Again, in the areas where it pooled to fill the pits and cracks, it cracked as it dried. Maybe that’s normal, but I don’t like it. I’ve already said to Ellie, it’s likely that I’ll put on another coat next year, just to be safe and finish rehabbing our driveway.

In the end, it took maybe 10-12 hours over the course of two weeks to do our driveway. A lot of time was spent waiting for good weather and waiting for whatever we did to dry. I’m mostly pleased with the result because it’s a vast improvement over what was there. Ultimately, we would prefer to have the driveway redone altogether in concrete or brick but right now it isn’t in our budget. As long as this effort gets us to the point where we can have it redone, I’ll be happy.

For what it’s worth, the whole project cost about $190. We spent $10 on a squeegee. $40 went to the patching compound and the tar sealer. And then about $140 went to the 6 buckets of sealer. It would have been maybe $20-30 less if when I bought the two extra buckets of sealer they didn’t have only the cheapest option and the most expensive option in stock. It didn’t break the bank, fortunately!

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