Q&A / 

How to Patch Potholes

Winter weather can create mayhem with concrete or asphalt driveways, sidewalks and aprons. Potholes are usually the biggest repair job of all and with a few tools and some readily available products, you can make permanent repairs to your hard pavement surfaces.

The most common reason potholes re-appear is because the shape of the hole being filled resembles an ice cream cone - it’s wider at the top than it is at the bottom. If you want your pothole repair to last forever, like a filling in your tooth, you need to do what dentists do - make the hole slightly wider at the bottom than at the top!

Watch a video of me patching a pothole in a blacktop or asphalt surface:

Degree of Difficulty: hammer-2-5

Step One: Gather the needed tools. If planning to repair blacktop, you’ll need a 20-ounce hammer, a wide masonry chisel, goggles or safety glasses, work gloves, and a tamper. If repairing concrete, you’ll need all of these, a wheelbarrow, a wood or magnesium float and a small shovel.

You may discover it pays to have an old circular saw or a hammer drill to help you shape the sides of the hole. The saw can be outfitted with an abrasive blade that will make fast work of shaping the hole.

Step Two: Wait for the weather to moderate. It’s ideal if you can have daytime temperatures that are in the 50-65F range. If patching concrete, be sure the weather will not drop below 32F for at least three days after you do the repair. 

Step Three: The hardest part of the job is to trim the edges of the pothole so the sides of the asphalt or concrete are angled. Remember, you want the bottom of the hole slightly larger than the top.

Step Four: The depth of the pothole should be at least two inches. If it’s deeper, that’s okay, it will just require more fill material.

Step Five: Once the sides of the hole are shaped properly, remove any loose material from the bottom of the pothole. Use a tamper, scrap 4x4 or any other tool to compact the material in the bottom of the hole. You don’t want sand, soil or any other material in the bottom of the hole. It’s best to have crushed compacted stone in the bottom of the pothole before the fill material is added.

Step Six: If patching asphalt, there are different patching materials available. Some are sticky emulsion products that pour from a bag. They’re easy to work with. A newer product is not sticky, and is added to the hole like you’d pour cereal into a bowl. Read the labels on the products for maximum thickness or layers before compacting. Often they say to put in in 1 or 2-inch layers.

Step Seven: If patching concrete, mix new concrete patch material making sure it’s not too thin. It should be the consistency of sticky oatmeal. Slightly dampen the inside of the hole to be patched. The patching material will bond permanently if you paint the existing concrete with cement paint. You make cement paint by mixing powdered Portland cement and pure water to a paint consistency.

Step Eight: Compact the fill materials and or finish them so the texture of the patch matches the surrounding pavement. Asphalt repair compounds require simple compaction. Concrete repairs require you to use a wood or metal float to make the surface sandy. You do this by patting and rubbing the concrete repair material with the wood or metal float. Protect the patches for 24 hours for the fill material to harden.

Summary:  You can make lasting pothole repairs if you just take the time to enlarge the hole at the bottom and compact the base material before you add the patch. I guarantee you the patch will last if you do these simple things!

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