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How to Patch a Hole in your Tarmac

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 9 Jun 2015 | comments*Discuss
Tarmac Drive Patch Patching Repair

It's a sad fact that a patch in tarmac, like many other drive surfaces that are laid wet, will almost certainly show whatever you do. But there are a number of methods available, and it's certainly cheaper than Relaying The Whole Surface.

Pre-Mixed Tarmac For Smaller Holes

For patching small holes, the DIY householder is probably better off using pre-mixed bags of tarmac available from builders' merchants. Although this is more expensive per square metre and you won’t get as good a finish as with proper tarmac, you won’t have all the mess and fuss associated with manipulating hot tarmac.

The pre-mixed tarmac is blended with a retardant that prevents the tarmac from setting, and exposure to the air kicks off the setting process. It's best to allow the bags to warm up before they are opened, as it helps the tarmac flow. There is no need for blowtorches or anything like that, just leave the bags in a warm room for a few hours or overnight.

Clean out the holes to be patched, removing any loose material and moisture. Then pour the tarmac mix in, tamping down and levelling in the same way as ordinary tarmac. Because of the retardant, which takes a while to evaporate, the patch will take a number of weeks to harden properly, and even then may not be as hard as the surrounding surface, so take care with sharp pointed objects.

Larger Jobs

The second method of repair is, of course, to get proper tarmac in. This will almost certainly be cheaper and more worthwhile for a series of patches or a larger area.

With big holes you should cut out a rectangular area surrounding the patch using a power saw. Then chip out the remaining old tarmac with a cold chisel or bolster, or with a jack-hammer for a larger area. The sides of the hole should then be treated with cold pour, a jointing compound, to keep water out of the exposed areas.

Hot tarmac can then be spread into the hole and levelled with a heavy roller, which can be hired for the day if necessary.

Getting Hold of Hot Tarmac

The biggest problem is likely to be getting the tarmac. A delivery of a small amount of tarmac can be prohibitively expensive, as suppliers prefer to carry full loads. You could spread the cost by coordinating with neighbours who need to patch their drives, but all of them must be ready to take the tarmac when it arrives, so they will need to commit to doing the initial preparation on the day.

If you are lucky, you might find a local supplier who will load an amount into a trailer or pick-up for you to take home and apply. If you do this, apart from the fairly obvious point that you should line the load bed to avoid the tarmac messing it up for ever, you will need to cover it with tarpaulin and old blankets or sacking to keep it hot during the homeward journey.

Keep Off!

With both methods it's best to keep cars and feet off the area for a while. This will prevent tarmac and aggregate sticking to them, and being spread around the rest of the drive and into the house.

For more information on tarmac, read our articles The Art of Laying Tarmac and Tarmac Options For Your Driveway And Patio.)

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I was taken in by a cowboy outfit who have now disappeared.They took off the 35 year old Tarmac with a JCB and dugout the driveway to I guess eight/10 inches.They put one layer of stones and compacted it, then another layer and rolled it with a 5T roller.Then they laid the bitmac. I'm not sure that they put the 5T roller over all the Bitmac as I saw them use a hand roller in places and the compacter round the edges. The drive looks OK when dry.When it rains the drainage is poor - some pools form - but the big concern is that the rain seems to go through the bitmac where it pools.It's now four months since it was laid and I still smell the Tarmac smell especially this week when we've had some warm weather.I've thought of using a sealer to make the surface more waterproof but understand that the Bitmac may still be curing. Would you advise sealing and if so when ? Thanks
maceo - 9-Jun-15 @ 9:32 PM
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