Potholes are the bane of any road. No matter how well-paved a road or lot might be, damage happens, water can infiltrate, and freezing can allow it to pry whole chunks of asphalt free. One option is to repave the whole area, but this can be labor-intensive, cost-prohibitive, and wasteful for one pothole. The other option is to repair the hole itself. Here are nine tips for smooth, long-lasting pothole repairs:
A dentist doesn't just pack filling material into a cavity — they drill and clean out the area first. A pothole is very similar. Use simple tools like shovels and rakes to remove loose debris, sticks, or litter. Next, pressure washes the hole to remove smaller, more stubborn grit. This will ensure that the surface can bond properly to the filling material, and help eliminate gaps and inconsistencies that will allow water to infiltrate again.
Once the pothole has been properly emptied and cleaned, measure the length, width, and depth. This will let you know how much filling material you'll need in order to ensure a smooth, even fill, and whether asphalt alone will be able to do the job.
Not all filling material is suitable for all situations. You may want to place a backer rod in order to reinforce the repair and save sealant. For shallow potholes, asphalt sealant alone may be enough. For deeper ones, you may need other materials. The kind of traffic the pothole experiences will also have an impact on the best patch material to use.
Cold patch asphalt is the cheapest, quickest, and least durable method, but also may be the most suitable for fixing potholes in cold weather. Their primary job is to make the road or lot safer and keep the hole from worsening until the weather warms up and it's possible to make a more permanent repair with hot asphalt. It involves filling the hole with cold asphalt mix, then compacting it either via a hand tamper, or a car tire.
This might seem obvious, but larger potholes will probably need a full repair versus a quick patch job if you want the results to last. The whole surface area needs to be removed down to the sub-grade, then re-filled with hot asphalt. The subsequent patch should be slightly higher than the road surface after compaction since it'll compact further through the action of traffic.
A little prevention can save you a lot of trouble. Infrared technology heats pavement, readying it for asphalt mix and rejuvenator. This is a good strategy for small potholes and cracks that may become holes in the future. It can help restore the function and appearance of the pavement without requiring a full repair.
Ideally, all pothole repair jobs would allow ample time for a good repair. Unfortunately, some high-priority repairs need to be able to support traffic pretty much immediately. Spray patch jobs involve cleaning the hole with a pressure washer, spraying a coating of binder on the sides and bottom of the hole, and then spraying asphalt and aggregate onto the binder. The force of the spray compacts it as it goes, and, after a layer of aggregate, the pothole is safe for traffic.
The subgrade is the foundation of pavement. If it's too soft, it needs to be mitigated before a repair can be made. When a pothole happens over an area with a soft subgrade, it's necessary to remove the pavement, remove soft soil, and replace it with sand, gravel, crushed rock, or quarry dust. (Some research suggests that a combination of incinerated sewage sludge ash and cement may also be useful as a stabilizer for soft subgrades.) At that point, the area may be re-paved. This is a complex, challenging repair. If it isn't done properly, on a stabilized surface, the damage is likely to reappear.
Potholes often start as cracks. Keeping moisture out of cracks can help maintain the integrity of the rest of the pavement, and delay the formation of holes. Fill the crack with liquid asphalt from the top to the bottom, slightly lower than the surface of the pavement. Work carefully to avoid air bubbles, since voids will weaken the repair.
Potholes are pretty much inevitable, but they can be minimized with good paving practices. When they do arise, a good repair can help delay the need for complete repaving. Following these tips and using the right techniques for the right situation can help your pothole repairs be stronger, smoother, and longer-lasting.