Asphalt is a common, durable material that covers streets, driveways, allies, walkways, or parking lots. It is made of concrete mixed with sticky petroleum products that give it some flexibility to support a lot of weight. When your asphalt driveway or pathway shows small to medium cracks, you can easily repair them over a weekend. Timely repairs maintain the seal on the asphalt and will prolong the life of the pavement.
Cracked asphalt results from soil that has eroded, freezing nights followed by warm days, or stretching tree roots. Manageable cracks, around 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) wide, are mostly cosmetic. Over time, leaving many fissures in your asphalt will allow water to penetrate the seal and damage the asphalt's structure. If your driveway looks like a cracked mirror, with many connected fissures, a simple repair will not be effective. Demolition and repouring of asphalt is the only long-term solution.
To repair cracks, wait until the weather is warm and dry, as the malleable asphalt will adhere better to the patch material. Most mixes recommend application only with a temperature above 60° F (16° C). Allow two days to complete the patching process.
On the first day, prepare the pavement with a thorough cleaning. Dig out weeds, roots, rocks, sand, and other dirt with a weeding trowel, screwdriver, wire-bristle brush, or chisel. Dive as deeply into the crack as you can go. If there are some broken pieces of asphalt, remove these as well. With a high-pressure hose nozzle, spray water along the crack to drive all the loose debris out. Let this wet area dry overnight.
The next day, prepare the patch. Patching compound comes pre-mixed in tubs, just like wall spackle. For a small crack, apply one coat of paste with a trowel. The rubbery patch will flow into the crack and you can level the surface. This may dry in as little as a few hours. It probably won't be necessary to reseal the entire surface.
Larger cracks may need some sand as a base. Push damp sand deep into any cracks around 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) wide. Bring the sand up to within 1/4 inch (.6 cm) of the top. Now you can use the patching compound as before with a wide trowel. Sometimes it's called asphalt caulk or tar. Trowel the mixture flat. You'll probably want to re-seal the asphalt with an appropriate sealer after the patch has dried. This will prevent future cracks, as well.