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From LDN's Fall Home Improvement Magazine

Preparing your asphalt drive for winter

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[October 03, 2013]  A well-maintained asphalt drive lends beauty to your home and yard. That black patina seems to set off all the colors around your house and gives your house real value. At one-third to one-half the cost of a concrete drive, asphalt may be the way to go. But an asphalt drive needs to be properly maintained, especially before the winter months when temperatures plummet, when plows and shovels scrape snow and ice, and when water is everywhere.

Maintaining asphalt is much more than maintaining that deep, jet-black color. Both concrete and asphalt drives age, but unlike concrete, asphalt can be rejuvenated and kept alive with proper maintenance.

Maintenance of an asphalt drive involves three basic things: (1) replacing or patching sections of asphalt that are failing or have failed, (2) cleaning and filling the cracks, and (3) sealing the asphalt as a solid unit.

Water is the enemy of an asphalt drive. So it stands to reason that maintenance activities are concerned with preventing water from penetrating the asphalt surface.

An asphalt drive that is showing its age can be grayed, cracked, have sections that are thinning or areas that no longer have asphalt in them. When the cracking is severe, it is called "gatoring" because it takes on the appearance of the scales on an alligator's back. Gatored sections cease to have any flexibility or strength, and they allow water to penetrate below the asphalt surface. Gatored areas are on their way to the next phase of aging: asphalt thinning and death.

Asphalt thinning comes about when there is little left to keep the aggregate bound together. Asphalt death is when there is no binding left and what you have left is black or gray gravel.

Dead sections of asphalt should be cut out and replaced. Some people choose to patch potholes that have resulted from gatoring. A very good patch material is available at Logan County Hardware. It has smaller aggregate (rocks) and it sticks together really well. After filling the hole, you are instructed to run over the fill with your car tire to press it down. The whole idea is to prevent further erosion by keeping the water out.

Some asphalt companies apply a thin veneer of asphalt to the top of failed or failing asphalt, creating a "bump." But the better solution is replacement.

When you have severe areas such as dead asphalt or gatoring, it may be best to work with an asphalt maintenance expert, such as John Barrick of Barrick Enterprises. Barrick specializes in maintaining and restoring asphalt drives and parking lots, with the right equipment, techniques and materials. He approaches dead asphalt by cutting out the area and installing new asphalt. Barrick is meticulous in making the whole job appear as though it was never patched in the first place, and given the lasting quality of his work and the price of the materials if purchased at retail, Barrick may be a real bargain.

When doing it yourself, the second step in maintaining asphalt drives is to clean out all the cracks and then fill them so that the surface becomes waterproof. All the weeds and dirt need to come out of the cracks for a superior seal. Pressure washers may be used, but one must be careful not to inflict more damage while cleaning. Barrick's workers use a special "crack-cleaning" tool with a wire brush that gets out all the weeds, moss and dirt, preparing for sealing. Gatored areas may be sealed or replaced as necessary.

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The crack-sealant material is thicker than the surface sealant, and while filling the cracks, the sealant must remain flexible to keep the surface water-resistant in the constant expansion and contraction that comes with daily and seasonal temperature variations.

After the dead areas are replaced and all the cracks sealed, it is time to seal the surface of the asphalt. Alexander Lumber in Lincoln has a good selection of asphalt sealants for the do-it-yourselfer, along with the tools to do the job. The sealant must be applied while daily temperatures exceed 55 degrees, and the closer it is to 80 degrees, the better. New sealant must also be applied with enough time to dry before it rains, since coal-tar sealants do not become water-resistant until they are thoroughly dried.

Barrick Enterprises buys the raw materials and makes their own secret-formula sealant. Drives and parking lots that Barrick's have done tend to stay black longer than those done by any other sealing firms or do-it-yourselfers because of his secret-formula sealant. John Barrick says that a properly sealed drive should not be resealed every year. His sealant is made to last for four to five years. The material used to seal a drive makes the asphalt able to shed water, but also to retain water underneath. If sealant is applied too often, then the moisture makes it soft underneath until the asphalt itself begins to fall apart and the whole drive needs replacement.

If you are going to call Barrick, it is best to call early. Toward the end of the season, when temperatures are beginning to dip, he gets busy. If you are going to patch, crack-seal and seal the surface of your drive yourself, it is best to get started right away.

When the job is done right, winter can bring on its worst. The properly sealed asphalt drive can resist the rigors of plowing and shoveling, continue to shed water, and live on, enhancing your home and property.




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