Take a stroll around any suburban or city neighborhood this time of year and you'll undoubtedly see two problem areas on just about everyone's property: driveways and sidewalks.
Some of them look as though they were used as the space shuttle's launching pad.
The ravages of winter take their toll on sidewalks by cracking concrete and bricks, and on driveways by causing pits and erosion. Now that it's warm out again, you can get these unsightly problems fixed in a jiffy.
First, let's talk about blacktop driveways and how they can be repaired; concrete driveways can be patched in the same way as concrete sidewalks, which we'll discuss in a minute.
Minor cracks and shallow pit marks in blacktop can be fixed with a special waterproofing sealer available at paint and hardware stores. This sealer will form a strong, elastic film that will prevent water, gasoline, oil and road salts from seeping into the asphalt and destroying it.
A 5-gallon can of sealer will coat 200 to 300 square feet, depending on how porous your driveway is and how thickly you apply it. You can sweep it on with an ordinary pushbroom.
If you have more than minor cracks, but not actual craters, first sweep a layer of dry sand over the entire area. Then remove the sand from the smooth surface, leaving the sand in pits and crevices. Apply sealer over the whole driveway.
For the bigger holes or badly eroded parts of your driveway, you need a cold-mix asphalt patching compound. This product requires no mixing or heating and can be used right out of the bag.
First, dig out any loose material from the bottom of the hole. If it's an especially deep hole, add some gravel or stones and tamp them down well to provide a good foundation. Fill the hole with patching compound to about 1 inch below the top.
Tamp down firmly with the end of a 2-by-4 board. Then add more patching compound until you're an inch or so over the top. To tamp down this last bit you can drive your car over the patch several times. Now apply a coat of sealer and your driveway will be ready for the fiercest elements.
The easiest way to make repairs to a concrete driveway, patio or sidewalk is to buy premixed concrete. You can mix your own (1 part cement, 2 parts sand, 3 parts gravel) if you're on an economy kick, but the premixed variety will save time and trouble.
When buying these ready-made materials, remember that there are three types: sand mix, mortar mix and gravel mix. Sand mix is used for small patching jobs; mortar mix is used for brick and cement block repairs and gravel mix is best for large holes in walks or driveways.
Here are some tips for working with concrete:
With a cold chisel and hammer undercut the crack, making it wider at its deepest part than it is at the surface. This will ensure a good bond and keep the new concrete from falling out.
Use a stiff brush to get rid of all loose particles and chips.
Wet down the crack and surrounding area thoroughly. This will allow the new concrete to set properly. The area should be completely damp but no water should be visible.
The new concrete can be mixed in a wheelbarrow, on a piece of plywood or even directly on a sidewalk or basement floor.
Pack in freshly mixed cement using a small trowel. Tamp it down firmly and smooth off the surface.
Keep the concrete damp for several days. You can cover the fresh concrete with burlap or straw and then periodically sprinkle on a little water to keep it from drying out.
With large sections of a sidewalk or driveway to replace, use gravel mix; sand mix is all right for smaller problems. The hole or crack should be at least an inch thick at its thinnest point; if it isn't, chisel out some of the old concrete.
After the concrete is poured, it should be leveled off by dragging the edge of a long, straight board across the top. Allow the patch to harden slightly and then rub with a wooden float (a trowel with a wooden face). For a smoother finish, rub a second time with a steel plasterer's trowel.
If a thin layer is all that's needed, there are two types of concrete patching materials that will work well. One has dry powdered cement that you mix with water. This product features a special vinyl binder that is added to the cement, giving it a much stronger adhesive quality. The other product uses a liquid latex solution instead of water.