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The blacktop at the street end of my driveway is cracking after only 3 years (see photo below). (I think the repaving was poorly done.) The rest of the driveway has no cracks but is not perfectly flat. I have filled in some of the cracks with a sealer that is applied by melting with a blowtorch, but some of the blacktop edge is already loose, not attached to anything.

I am thinking of trying to cut off the last 6 inches of the blacktop and replacing it with cobblestone? Or with something else? But I do not know much about asphalt.

Would such a repair work? Would it save the rest of the driveway or just create more problems? Is making the repair as simple as cutting a straight line with a circular saw and putting in the cobblestone? Or do I need to protect the cut edge from the weather?

I live in New York State where there are many days above and below freezing.

Thanks.

end of driveway by street

  • 5
    Asphalt will crack at the edges. Even after only 3 years, especially upstate. Go take a look at any of the roads around you. It may not crack quite so quickly if there's a concrete gutter that it's butting up against, but when there's a somewhat free edge, it'll go. Also, if you're planning on doing anything to the road itself, make sure you talk to the city - they may have rules about what you can and can't do. – FreeMan Nov 24 '20 at 16:32
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Asphalt is only as good as the base it's laid on.

The fact that you appear to have vegetation growing out of the cracks implies that the base may be a bit iffy right there.

There's no particular benefit to ripping up 6 feet of driveway and changing to cobblestone if you have a few inches deteriorating - since your picture only shows a small area, and the usual pattern is cracking near the edges, I'm guessing a much smaller area is actually cracked.

Changing to cobblestone does not magically solve anything - cobblestone is also only as good as its base, and is normally a lot more expensive, and it's hard to clear snow from effectively, which is needful in New York State. They can be very slippery and are inherently uneven.

An effective fix in any case will be to remove the damaged area, fix the base so it's solid, and then put (whatever) on top. Whatever could be new asphalt, concrete, or cobblestone. A solid base is excavating down below any traces of topsoil and filling with compacted "road base" - crushed stone including the fine dust, ideally, but that varies somewhat with locale and what's available. Compaction is important. When the base moves, the surface cracks.

One more possible factor is that the asphalt at the edge needs to be laid in "full thickness" - if the base is not cut down at the point where it butts into the road/street surface and you have a thin or tapered layer at the edge, failure is assured.

  • Ripping up some of the driveway and replacing it will only move the problem to the new edge, not fix it. – FreeMan Nov 24 '20 at 17:42
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    I disagree. Cutting back to an area with a solid base and repairing the base under the failed part is the way to fix it. Your argument becomes "the only way to fix it is to pave the entire planet so there are not edges" which is patently absurd. Edges need proper support, and then last for quite a while, but not infinitely. – Ecnerwal Nov 24 '20 at 17:53
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    Sorry, sir, absurdity was patented ages ago - you cannot apply for a new one based solely on paving the planet. I see your point, though I would think that state highways would be given proper bases, but I see plenty with broken edges where I live in the upper Midwest. – FreeMan Nov 24 '20 at 17:56
  • @FreeMan, I lived in Iowa for 40 years and have seen plenty of shoddy highway work, to the point where it needed replacing the year after or even the same year it was resurfaced. This is also avoiding some of the more high traffic areas, with some low traffic roads lasting a decade or more. – computercarguy Nov 25 '20 at 16:57
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All pavement has edges, and you can't really protect them other than preventing standing water and significant ice buildup in the gaps.

In your case I'd do one of two things...

  • Make parallel cuts across the driveway and remove a strip of asphalt around the damage. Fill it with cold-pack or hot mix if you can source it cheaply. Seal the entire driveway during your next favorable weather opportunity.

  • Do as you suggested and fit pavers into such a channel. You'll want to acquire the pavers, lay them out, trace them and cut to fit. Use good substrate, well compacted, and leave the pavers about 1/4" proud of the asphalt surface to allow for settling. I'd still seal the rest of your asphalt eventually.

Note that the torch-melt stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be. (See what I did there?) It's not something that the layperson can do well since it takes a lot of heat to melt it and keep it melted as it flows into a crack. I just use the jugs of pourable sealant, letting them dry and filling again where shrinkage is severe. I skim the pour with a trowel to flatten it well, so there aren't raised trails all over. Then go over the whole thing with a high-quality coating.

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I recommend getting a few quotes from some paving companies. They will know how to best make the repair. However, keep reading.

I live in Upstate NY.

It sounds like you've never done asphalt but if you're interested then you'll need the following supplies:

  • 7" Circular saw with at least 10 amps of power (make sure it's corded, batteries will die too quickly). If you have a wet circular saw then that's even better since it will eliminate dust.
  • Segmented diamond blade for dry cutting
  • Aquaphalt 6.0
  • Flat shovel
  • Metal rake
  • Tamper
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Water (a hose or a 5-gallon bucket will do)

Now make a cut in your driveway parallel to the crack staying at least 2 inches away from the crack. Make sure you're cutting a solid base and not in the middle of another weak spot. The asphalt should only be 1-2 inches deep but it's okay to set the saw to maximum cutting depth since it's just gravel below the asphalt.

Use the square shovel to remove some asphalt up to the road edge; put in wheelbarrow for later disposal. If the road edge is perfectly vertical then remove the rest of the cut asphalt. If the road has a lip that goes under your driveway then you should request permission from the town to make a cut on your driveway to remove the road lip so that the new asphalt has a vertical surface to adhere to. If you cannot acquire this permission then that's okay because Aquaphalt has great performance even at shallow depths. Why a flat vertical edge is desirable.

Install the Aquaphalt. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use the fifteen dollar bags of garbage asphalt that is sold at most retailers; seek out the Aquaphalt. You can seal after 24 hours.

  • If there is crushed stone under the cracked driveway and I cut away the last 6" of the driveway that has cracks, will the Aquaphalt fill stay in place or will the Aquaphalt just pop out and not stay in place? – Yehuda_NYC Nov 25 '20 at 15:35
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    @Yehuda_NYC If there is crushed stone beneath then that's great, just make sure you can apply at least a one inch depth of Aquaphalt 6.0. If you're depth is less than one inch then seek out Aquaphalt 4.0 for best results or dig deeper. If you have insufficient gravel then dig down into the dirt about 6 inches, apply 4 inches of gravel, and 2 inches of Aquaphalt. This product will gladly stay in place at a width of 6 inches. I've used it to patch 2x3 feet and it's an utterly superb product. I am not endorsed by them but I regret every minute I wasted using the cheaper bagged stuff. – MonkeyZeus Nov 25 '20 at 15:53
  • @Yehuda_NYC The only place I would be worried are the edges which meet your lawn. Dig into the dirt and set up some 2x4 railings so that you can properly compact the product without having it haphazardly spill into your lawn. – MonkeyZeus Nov 25 '20 at 15:56
  • @Yehuda_NYC It's water-activated adhesion that makes the product so magical. I haven't had so much as a single granule go missing from my Aquaphalt patches. The cheap bagged stuff is losing granules daily from basic foot traffic and wind. – MonkeyZeus Nov 25 '20 at 15:58

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