What is the Best Way to Fix a Pothole?

pothole in the road collecting water

The dreaded pothole

As you’re driving down the road and your car hits a pothole (or actually, your car “falls into” a pothole), and then another and another, etcetera, etcetera, do you wonder to yourself “who pays for pothole repair and why aren’t they repairing these?”, isn’t part of your property taxes go towards pothole repair? Or is there a pothole repair company to call? 

No doubt about it, potholes are an evil that we must deal with every day, no matter where you live, work, or even in your own driveway. Potholes are here to stay folks, even if just for a short while. Just how much do you know about potholes and how pothole repairs are done? Probably not as much as you think, and we will answer some commonly asked questions with answers that will educate and inform you about these menaces. 

What is the best way to fix a pothole? 

Potholes typically are created by the roadways freezing and thawing. A crack gets started, water seeps under the top layer of asphalt, freezes, and thaws. Drivers are playing “dodge the pothole” or driving right through it and damaging the front-end or blowing out tires. 

Almost every day, you can find either a city road crew, county road crew, or state road crew patching potholes. The standard method used for pothole repair to dump a shovel or two of asphalt and go on to the next pothole. This method is an accepted and widely used one. Low tech – yes. Fast – yes. Effective – yes, for the time being. 

Just as with anything, there are improvements out there, such as infrared technology. This is using infrared heating panels that pre-heat the pothole and the surrounding area. The pothole is filled with warmed asphalt and the pothole and that surrounding area are raked then flattened by a roller.

Because the process is heating the road and the existing pavement around it, it creates a thermal bond, eliminating a cold joint where the patch doesn’t adhere. This eliminates any chance of water seeping under the asphalt to freeze, thaw, and reopen the pothole. While this method is new and hasn’t gone widespread yet, hopefully, it will one day make its way to your road with pothole repairs that last.

When it comes to how to repair a pothole in the gravel driveway and how to repair a pothole in an asphalt driveway, while it still a matter of water seeping under the upper layer as we described above, the pothole repair process is different.

  • You first need to be certain that there isn’t any foreign debris and loose stones in the hole. While you may think anything in the hole will fill it towards pothole repair, it also makes it difficult to level the driveway.
  • Next, you want the sides to be solid, so if they aren’t with a shovel, dig down around the sides until you reach a solid edge. This will make sure the filler gets compacted in the hole.
  • Once you have cleared the hole of debris and firmed the sides, fill the pothole with coarse gravel, leaving 3 inches from the top empty for a gravel driveway and 4 inches for a dirt driveway. Pack the gravel down with a 4×4 wooden post or steel tamper.  or a 4×4 wooden post.
  • Water the area down and compact some more in the same method described above. Repeat this process of pack/wet/pack until you have compacted the dirt to the level desired. If your driveway is gravel, fill those 3 inches with matching gravel, creating a small mound that will be smoothed to blend with the surrounding area, then rack and blend.

What are the 5 construction methods used to fix potholes?

To make the roadways better and less bumpy, there are 5 different construction methods that are used for pothole repairs, making for a smoother future. The process needs to start with asphaltic patch materials that contain an aggregate and a binder available in cold or hot forms at the asphalt plant. 

  • Throw-and-roll: This is the most basic and common method for pothole repair. The asphaltic patch materials are placed into the pothole and packed down, usually by driving a heavy vehicle back and forth over it. This method has a high rate of failure, meaning the hole will reopen in a short time. 
  • Semi-permanent: This is a better method than the name suggests for pothole repairs. The pothole is cleared of any debris and water and the sides are trimmed back so they are a clean cut. Then the patch mix material is placed in the hole, packed down using a vibratory plate or vibratory roller.
  • Spray-injection: This method requires specialized equipment. Any debris or water is blown out of the hole and then a tacky binder coat is sprayed on the bottom and sides of the pothole. Next, an aggregate and asphalt are blown into the pothole and covered with an aggregate layer.
  • Edge seal: The throw-and-roll repair method is used for pothole repairs by filling the hole and it is compacted down by a heavy vehicle. It is finished off by laying a ribbon of tacky asphaltic material along the edges so that the patch and surrounding payment are overlapped. Sand is then spread of the tacky product so that cars can drive over it.
  • Full-depth roadway: This has proven to be the most efficient method for pothole repairs, it is also a complex method. The process begins by pulverizing the old asphalt, mix it with cement and water, and compact it to create a base that will have asphalt or concrete. In the end, it is replacing old pavement with new pavement that is made of recycled pavement.

How much does it cost to fix a pothole?

This is an age-old question, probably as old as having roads became standard. And the answer is different depending on who you ask. It is dependent on which of the methods we’ve discussed in this article is used, or some other method. It depends on the location and the size of the hole.  Here are some general numbers regarding the cost of pothole repair:

  • The American Society of Civil engineers estimates to repair the highways and bridges in this country, the cost is just under $3 trillion.
  • Vehicle repairs are the number one result of potholes for replacing/repair ribs, shocks, struts, frontend alignment per person, average $400 a year per driver.
  • American business is expected to lose as much as $200 billing by 2022 due to bad roads.

Can you fix potholes in the winter?

You know how you need to do preventive maintenance all along for your home to make sure bigger problems aren’t created – like roof repair? The same would be if we build roads in a way that pothole repairs wouldn’t be an issue.

Unfortunately, that’s not where we are, so to answer the question: Winter weather impedes pothole repairs. However, there is a temporary fix using a cold patch asphalt. So, yes, depending on whether the road is covered in ice or snow, a temporary fix is possible. 

A patch over a pothole

Can you fix potholes yourself? 

In your own driveway, yes. On public roadways and streets, no. Believe it or not, being a good Samaritan and using your own materials to complete a pothole repair on a road you travel can get your fined, ticketed, and in some cases, thrown in jail. Why? 

Well, first, you pay taxes for this to be done, remember? Second, it is a safety issue. What if you’re bent over doing pothole repair and an inattentive driver comes flying down the road, looks at their cell phone for a split second?  You guessed it, not a pretty ending for you or that person, and it also opens the city/county/state up for lawsuits. 

Okay, so if the city, county, and state would just do what they say they will do with the money we pay in taxes and do the pothole repair, that would make life easier. However, it doesn’t look like it will happen overnight. So, what can you do, since you can’t make pothole repairs on your own? Attend community meetings, vote your voice for those you believe will take this problem seriously. Other than that, be aware, drive slower and encourage others to do the same. Reach out to eSquared Asphalt Maintenance for pothole repair in Waco and Temple, TX by dialling 254-716-8685.