A: The quote you received is indeed high. Carl Morris, one of the owners of M&M Distribution, which sells asphalt-repair products online as Asphalt Sealcoating Direct (800-689-2098; asphaltsealcoatingdirect.com), laughed and said nothing in the picture you sent would explain why a repair would be so expensive.
But Tyler Montgomery, manager of Academy Sealers in Sterling (703-870-3840; academysealers.com), which presumably is the company that gave you the estimate, because its name is in the picture, said the only way his company could repair “degradation” like that in your photograph is to replace the area with new asphalt, which is costly. The issue, he said in a follow-up email, is that the cracks are too narrow for any material the company uses. The company does fill cracks wider than a ¼ inch with liquid crack filler, but for narrower cracks, it just coats the surface with sealer, which seals out water but doesn’t make them disappear. And expansion gaps between asphalt and a concrete curb, like you have, can’t be filled, he said.
It might seem puzzling that narrow cracks are hard to fill, while wider ones are easier. But if the filler material needs to expand and contract as the asphalt heats and cools with the weather, there must be enough material to accommodate the tug and pull.
There are different minimum and maximum widths among the three basic types of asphalt crack fillers: hot-melt filler sold in rope form, cold-pour liquids and caulk-type products. Although a company that specializes in sealing asphalt might not use all three of them, you can get what will work best on your own, especially because you have such a small area to repair. And you also have the option of widening the cracks with a screwdriver or other tool.
How do you choose the best patching material? Latex-ite, which makes all three types of crack fillers and sells them through Home Depot, says on its website that the hot-melt kind — which it sells as Pli-Stix Permanent Blacktop Joint and Crack Filler — is the only one that’s permanent. It comes in two diameters: ¼ inch and ½ inch. The narrow rope fills cracks ¼ inch to ½ inch wide, and the wider rope fills cracks ½ inch to one inch wide. You can cut pieces of rope and place them side by side, or slice pieces lengthwise to make narrower strips to fill — for example, a section that’s ⅜ inches wide. Unfortunately, the narrow rope is sold only in 60-foot lengths ($15.20 at Home Depot), so you will have much more than you need. If you’ve seen any neighbors repairing their driveways, you might ask if they have leftovers or volunteer to share.
To melt the rope, you’ll need a propane torch, such as the Bernzomatic Propane Torch Kit ($20.97 at Home Depot).
If you don’t like the idea of having to melt a filler rod in place but you’re willing to widen the cracks so they are ¼ inch to ½ inch wide, you could instead use a liquid crack sealer, such as Latex-ite Premium Blacktop Crack Filler ($6.36 a quart at Home Depot). This product comes in a jug with a narrow tip, so you can apply the gooey material right from the container.
With both the hot-melt and liquid fillers, cracks shouldn’t be deeper than ½ inch. If they are deeper, fill the bottom of the recess with fine sand, then add the patching material. Foam rope backer rod also works as the deep filler, but it’s only available in large quantities.
If widening the cracks seems too onerous, you can go with a caulk-type patching material, such as Latex-ite Crack Filler for Asphalt Driveways ($3.98 a tube at Home Depot). It’s suitable for cracks under ¼ inch, with no stated minimum width. It won’t hold forever, but application is quick and easy, and if the material pops out, you can always clean out the cracks and redo it.
With any of these patching options, be sure to read and follow the instructions. Pay particular attention to temperature requirements and preparation, including making sure the surface and interiors of the cracks are dry and clean. Also note that crack sealers generally go in the crack and shouldn’t be left higher than the surrounding surface or smeared across it.
Sealing the cracks, whichever way you do it, should greatly extend the life of the pavement by helping to keep out water, especially in winter. Trapped water freezes and melts — and therefore expands and contracts — as the weather changes. And that can cause additional cracking.
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