How To Patch A Pothole Before It Becomes A Pit

Having a nice, smooth driveway or parking lot can go a long way to increasing the value of your property. While proper installation and choosing the right grade of pavement for your climate are crucial, so, too, is taking care of any issues that may crop up over the life of your asphalt. In areas with temperature extremes or high precipitation, the occasional pothole is just a fact of life--but that doesn't mean you have to take potholes sitting down. Use this handy guide to patch small holes before they cause a larger problem on your property.

Identify the Full Issue

The most obvious way to identify a pothole is to see a visible hole in the ground, but the truth is that potholes really start much sooner than this. Early symptoms of a looming issue include:

  • Large or small depressions in the pavement
  • Striated cracking that ripples outward from a depression
  • Areas that collect water after rain
  • Discolored areas of pavement

While these signs can point to other areas, they are early indicators of a pending pothole. This is the point in time when you want to repair the issue, as preventing a hole is easier than patching it.

Quick Tip: Not sure if you have a true depression in the ground? Use a level tool directly across the center of the area. Slight sloping to one side or the other is likely to be due to natural hills or inclines; sloping on either side of the depression is probably the start of a pothole.

Once you've identified the hole, measure it and mark the perimeter off with chalk. The outside edges should be flush with level pavement whenever possible.

Clean the Depression or Hole Thoroughly

Cleaning the area--whether it's just a small depression or a full-scale hole--is extremely important. Debris and dust must be removed before you re-pave the area, or the asphalt patch may not seal correctly. When this happens, you are more likely to experience further cracking, as moisture and the elements can get up under the pavement.

Using your hands, remove any large debris or paving chunks. Pebbles and rocks should also be swept away. Then, using a hose or pressure washer, blast the center and the area directly around it to remove smaller dust and dirt. Allow this to dry completely before progressing.

Quick tip: If you're having trouble getting water out, try using a push broom. Alternatively, a large microfiber towel does an excellent job of soaking up water.

Use a Pothole Patch Kit To Fill the Hole 

Part One

For this step, you'll need to pick up a pothole patch kit from your local hardware store. The mixture usually comes in a large bucket and may be easily mistaken for a tub of paint. If you aren't sure, ask a clerk to help you locate it. Pothole patch kits come in a variety of asphalt colors, so be sure to match yours as closely as possible for the most natural look. For larger depressions or big holes, expect to use four or more patch kits.

Part Two

Once you have your patch kit ready, simply open the buckets and dump the patch kit into the center of the hole. Don't worry about being neat--you'll fix that in the next step. Just create a small mound in the center, similar to a simple sand castle.

Part Three

Using your hands or a paint scraper--or even a large stick--spread the mixture evenly over the hole. Ideally, you want to achieve a total height that's at least 1" or so higher than the edges of the hole itself. This may seem odd, but you'll fix the ridge in part four. For now, just try to even the mixture out as much as possible, pressing it down when you can. 

Part Four

For this part, you'll need a large, flat surface--you need to compress the mixture with sharp, hard hits. An asphalt tamper is best for this, but any large, heavy flat surface that's easy for you to hold will work just fine. In a pinch, you can use a 4 x 4 beam.

Standing above the pothole, repeatedly hit the mixture with the flat side of your chosen object. Your goal is to get the asphalt tamped into the hole as well as possible, creating flush edges along the exterior diameter. When you're satisfied with the result, stop and set the tamper down.

Quick tip: Always spread your asphalt from the inside pit or hole outward. This will ensure that you get a smooth, even surface with no indentation in the middle.

Seal the Exterior Edges with Crack Seal

Although your pothole may look better, you aren't done quite yet. You still need to seal the edges for the sake of durability and permanence. This is done with asphalt crack sealer, something you can purchase at your local hardware store, too.

Most driveway crack sealer comes in a long tube with an applicator. Using this, squeeze a thick line all around the edge of your tamped-down mixture. Then, using the paint scraper you used previously to spread the mix, scrape it from the inside edge to the outside edge to smooth it. Your goal is to create a complete, intact cover over the edge.

Quick tip: Asphalt crack sealant takes two to three weeks to dry or seal completely. If possible, you should keep cars, foot traffic, and other stress away from the pothole fill until it's fully cured, as these may compromise its structural integrity.

Although potholes are a part of life for most Americans, fixing them really isn't difficult with an understanding of the process. Using the guide above, you'll have your driveway or lot looking great again in no time. For questions about your asphalt pavement, or for assistance with repairs or replacement, contact an asphalt paving contractor in your area today by visiting a site like