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Parking Lot Maintenance Tips: Hot vs. Cold Asphalt Crack Repair and Sealing

Potholes and cracks in asphalt are dangerous and unsightly. They can lead to vehicle accidents, property damage, and pedestrian injuries. When you notice a crack, seal it as soon as possible using cold or hot tar. 

Which should you use? How long will it last? How do the extremely hot and cold Albertan temperatures affect your choice? This article will answer these questions and more. 

The importance of sealing asphalt cracks

Cracks in asphalt can damage the pavement, causing vehicle damage and be unsightly and unprofessional.

When large, deep cracks form in the asphalt, water can penetrate the layers and reach the sub-base granular materials. This can damage the asphalt, requiring extensive and expensive repairs to larger sections of the road. Sealing cracks before they reach this point is a critical maintenance tip to keep your parking lots and roadways as smooth and accident-free as possible (often extending the life of your asphalt by double or triple). 

What is hot tar crack sealing?

Hot tar crack sealing is recommended for larger crack widths and areas. Rubber cubes of crack filler (containing bituminous material for added thickness) are melted down and applied to the crack while hot. For larger pothole-like areas, we’d recommend using a special device with a thicker tar material in order to properly fill and seal the asphalt with more rigidity. This process is usually performed by a hot tar melter and application machine but can be done by hand. 

We recommend having a professional apply the hot sealant, which requires special equipment and safety considerations. With proper maintenance, hot tar crack sealing often lasts three to ten years. 

What is cold tar crack sealing?

As its name suggests, cold tar is a cold, acrylic, and water-based product. It is applied to a crack while cold (no heating required). It’s usually applied by hand and is a common choice for DIY homeowners looking to fill small cracks in their driveways and walkways. A small squeegee goes over the top to smooth the crack so it looks aesthetically smooth.

The tar material is similar to traditional tar and contains many of the same materials, including small gravel pieces. As a result, cold tar sealing only extends the seal's life for an additional one or two years. 

Top asphalt crack repair and sealing FAQs

Keep reading to get the answers to some of our most commonly asked questions about hot and cold tar crack sealing:

How long does tar crack sealing last?

Hot tar sealing usually lasts three to ten years. You can extend the life of the asphalt by applying a protective coating to the seal and surrounding areas. Cold tar sealing is a short-term solution typically lasting one to two years.  Any asphalt crack repair in better than nothing, as it is a start to a water tight pavement.

Do I need to fill hairline cracks?

We usually recommend filling cracks once they exceed 1/8" in width. Hairline cracks smaller than 1/8" are surface cracks, and water can’t travel to the subbase to cause damage 

If you’re concerned about unsightly hairline cracks, you could seal-coat the pavement surface. 

How long until the road is drivable or walkable after tar application?

Depending on the weather conditions, temperature, and size of the crack or pothole, you can typically drive or walk over the newly sealed asphalt within 10-60 minutes. It will take longer for the tar to cool on a hot day than on a cold day. Your professional asphalt sealer can give you a cooling estimate for your project on the day (to take into account unpredictable weather conditions). 

Can you seal asphalt cracks in the rain or snow?

No. It’s not recommended because the crack must be moisture-free so the tar can adhere to the edges. Applying a heat lance to the crack may be possible to evaporate moisture and promote good bonding immediately before tar application. Temperature recommendations suggest that the ideal temperature to apply crack sealant is between 10 and 30 degrees Celsius when possible. 

What crack filler is recommended for Alberta? 

Due to the massive temperature swings in our provinces, including the freeze/thaw conditions, we recommend hot pouring when possible. You may need to re-seal cracks more often than in milder climates. 

Where can you hire a professional asphalt crack filler in Alberta?

Parking Lot Pros provides a variety of parking lot maintenance and repair services to Red Deer, Calgary, Edmonton, and surrounding areas. Whether you own commercial property or are a homeowner looking to fill dangerous or unsightly cracks and potholes on your asphalt, we’re the Pros for you.

We can fix potholes and fatigued or cracked asphalt to help extend the life of your road surfaces. Contact us today for a quick quote for your asphalt repair needs. 

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