A durable fix for a sinking driveway apron
It's normal for asphalt driveways to sink
a bit over time. But when your driveway
has sunk to the point where it's 4 or 5 in.
lower than your garage floor, it's time to
fix it. If you don't, water will pool in the
depression, seep into the soil below, and
eventually destroy the driveway.
Asphalt companies charge about
$1,000 to dig out the old portion and
install a new apron. Concrete contractors
charge even more. But you can rebuild
your asphalt driveway apron yourself.
The entire job takes a full day and it's not
much fun. But the materials and tools
only cost about $250, so the savings is
You'll need a diamond blade for your
circular saw, a tamper, a pry bar and a
short square-blade shovel. Plus, you'll
need enough cold patch material to fill in
the trench you make (sold at home centers). To figure out how many bags
you'll need, refer to the depth and width
tables on the bag. Finally, you'll need
mineral spirits and rags for cleanup.
Cold patch cures by solvent evaporation,
and it takes about 30 days to reach a full
cure. So the best time to do the project is
during an extended warm, dry spell. You
can do it in spring or fall, but cold
weather and rain will greatly extend the
This is a messy job, and no matter how
careful you are, you're going to get tar on
your clothes and shoes. You can't wash
off the tar with soap and water. So wear
old clothes and shoes that you can toss
into the trash when you're done. If you
have to go into the house during the
project, leave your shoes outside so you
don't track tar into the house.
Here's how to make the repair.
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Cut out the sunken area
Cold patch works only when it's compacted
and “keyed” into at least two
vertical surfaces. So don't think you can
build up the driveway height by pouring
cold patch on top of the old sunken
asphalt—the patching material will just
break off in chunks. Instead, you'll have
to cut out the sunken asphalt (Photo 1).
After it's cut, lay a block of wood on the
soil at the edge of the driveway, shove a
pry bar under the old asphalt, and pry
against the wood block. The old asphalt
will lift up and break off in sections. Remove all the cut asphalt and scrape off any caulking material
sticking to the edge of the garage floor.
Next, build a starter row of patch material (Photo 2). Once the
starter row is in place and tamped, apply additional patch
material in 1-in. layers (Photo 3). Resist the temptation to completely
fill the area and compact it in one fell swoop. You
simply can't exert enough compaction force with a tamper to
properly key it into the vertical surfaces—the patch material
will just creep out the sides when you drive on it.
Once your tamped layers are level with the garage floor, add
a final topping layer. Then lay down wood scraps and use your
vehicle to do a final compaction (Photo 4). Clean all your tools
with mineral spirits and dispose of the rags properly to prevent
The instructions say you can drive over the patch immediately.
But tires may still make slight depressions in the asphalt
until it's fully cured, which takes 30 days. So leave the plywood
in place for a few weeks at least.
Fix a driveway with pavers.
Pavers Are Another Option
Another approach to fixing a sunken driveway is to make an apron from paving brick. It's attractive, you can do it yourself, and you can easily reset the pavers if the soil settles again. Follow these steps:
- Snap a chalk line parallel to the garage door. Make sure it's out far enough to include all the settled asphalt. Lay out a row of your paving bricks, starting against the garage floor slab to position the chalk line at a full brick.
- Cut through the asphalt (it's usually 2 to 3 in. thick) along the chalk line. Be sure to wear hearing and eye protection.
- Remove the asphalt and dig a 12-in.-deep trench. Angle the wall of the trench slightly under the remaining asphalt. Rent a plate compactor and run it along the trench at least four times to compact the soil. Line the sides and bottom of the trench with landscape fabric. It's available from landscape suppliers.
- Spread a 2-in. layer of Class V or other compactable gravel, dampen it and run the compactor over it four times. Continue to spread and compact the gravel in 2-in. layers until it's 3 in. below the existing driveway.
- Install paver edging along grass edges and spread a 1-in. layer of coarse sand. Don't compact it.
- Set your pavers, compact them with the plate compactor and fill the joints with sand. Be sure to use joint stabilizing sealer to keep the sand from washing out.