I live in the Northeast, and we have lots of hard winters. My driveway had many cracks with most under ¼ inch in width, but a few larger. So last summer, I cleaned those cracks with jets of water, let them dry and filled them in with patch fillers. Some I got from Home Depot (Latex-ite 1 Gal. 2X Premium Blacktop Crack Filler). I also got a little bucket of trowel patch filler from Walmart for the bigger cracks. Anyway, I applied all these per their instructions early last summer. A couple weeks after that I then sealed my driveway with a product from Home Depot: (4.75-Gal. Ultra Shield Driveway Filler Sealer), again per the product's instructions, and with two coats.

A harsh northeast winter later, I have been dismayed to see most of my cracks are back to their state where they were before I patched anything. A few repairs that were done in the shade seemed to fair better. Yea we had 75” of snow or so that I only used a shovel to clean up with, no salt etc.

Anyway, do you have any recommendations for how I can do this right?

Update, here are some pictures:

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  • If you still haven't found satisfying answer can you post some pictures because they would show pattern, length of those cracks. May 20, 2015 at 11:05

5 Answers 5

  • Option A: keep doing what you did, and expect it to fail every winter; be pleasantly surprised if it does not some years.
  • Option B: tear up the driveway and put a proper base under it. The lack of a proper base is almost certainly why it self-destructs in winter.

If you can stand the annual work, Option A can be done for MANY years before you begin to touch the price of Option B.

"A proper base" will depend in part on the underlying soil (a good deal of which may need to be removed and replaced with compacted rock and gravel) but is generally a firm, well drained foundation.

If you're really independent-minded there is also Option C: tear up the surface and change to gravel/rocks rather than a hard-surface driveway - takes some annual raking, but immune to cracks for the most part.

Edit, Add: Depending both on the existing grade and soil type, you might get some benefit from digging a French drain (drain pipe under rocks) down both sides of the driveway to help keep water from going under it sideways, and help remove any water that does get into it, at less cost than the full dig up and replace the whole surface. If you have porous soils (sandy, gravelly) this will help a lot, if you have clay it will be of more limited benefit.

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    Or a brick driveway. Anything other than a single monolithic hard surface.
    – iLikeDirt
    May 19, 2015 at 19:15
  • So the french drain is fine in a cold climate? I do have sandy soil and the driveway slopes down about a foot every 20 feet or so. Option B is so expensive, so will try option A and hope I get 15 more years out of it. May 19, 2015 at 21:13
  • @OffTheGold Put it deep for best cold climate performance. Below frost line would be best, but if practical concerns mean that won't be an option, then go as deep as you can.
    – Ecnerwal
    May 20, 2015 at 0:51

If your driveway is anything like mine, you can't. The cracking is caused by expansion/contraction, which is especially bad in winters where we get a ton of snow. Water can get into the existing cracks, find it's way down below the surface, and then it freezes, which causes more cracks. It can also depend on the grading around your driveway.

I live up in the NE too, and I've been sealing my driveway every year for the 4 years I've been in this house. It always looks just as bad after another year. But, it doesn't look much worse, which is probably about all you can ask for. I've resigned myself to having it done professionally at some point in the near future... for now, just keep on sealing it every year to try to save it for as long as you can.

  • Thanks, just keeping it looking nice and functional is my goal. May 20, 2015 at 12:22

Think outside the Box ..... instead of fighting those cracks every year, why not do what some of us Landscapers do .... that is to say a driveway is a pathway on your property, it's job is to move people/vehicles/bikes/lawn mowers etc.across it, there is nothing stated that says "All driveways must be solid" in any Design book that I have seen/read and I've been a Landscape Designer for 30yrs. So go with the flow of those cold NE winters and widen the cracks(2"-4") in your driveway, replace the gravel with a sandy loam soil and plant with a short compact tuff groundcover .... Irish moss comes to mind, you can walk on it, drive on it, roll a dolly loaded with boxes on it (UPS guy) ... will it take 75" of snow? ... I'm thinkin not .... of course the look is an informal look, a pathway thru the forest feel and if this isn't your style of landscape or looks completely out of place in the neighborhood then it probably isn't a way to solve your situation but it is always fun and good to think outside the box for answers . .... enjoy and good luck with your driveway

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    Thanks, interesting suggestion, but I am afraid my shovel may get in caught in the cracks while shoveling. Still I will keep it in mind. May 20, 2015 at 12:21

The products you used last year are good for filling in pieces of broken pavement, but won't completely fix stubborn cracks. The cracks you are seeing are fairly typical, especially for the climate you are in. The reason why they are forming is that the earth below your driveway is moving, due the expansion and contraction caused by the change in weather.

There is little you can do from preventing the movement, short of total replacement which would cost several thousands of dollars. Instead of fighting against mother nature and physics, the best thing you can do is fill the cracks with a flexible blacktop crack repairing caulk. The caulk will expand and contract with the change of temperature, and is much less likely to fail.

  • Thanks, can you recommend any specific products? Mar 18, 2016 at 17:34
  • Something similar to this would work homedepot.com/p/… There are many similar products that do the same job. Mar 18, 2016 at 17:54

I'm in Minnesota (90*F+ in summer, -30*F in winter), and my driveway looks identical to yours. The problem isn't so much poor substrate, but extremes of temperature. Older asphalt simply doesn't flex enough to handle the seasonal expansion and contraction we see here. Even the city streets with ideal substrate have the same problem.

The fix is a more robust, highly flexible crack filler. You don't want a liquid that's also a sealer--you want a caulk that's thick and gooey. You can then seal over that if you like.

  • Thanks, I will keep this in mind. Can you recommend any products? Mar 18, 2016 at 15:30
  • I suggested the same thing below in my answer. Mar 18, 2016 at 15:47
  • @OffTheGold I have only owned my home for a few months. I'll be looking for something this spring myself.
    – isherwood
    Mar 18, 2016 at 15:57

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