Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Fix a Sinking Asphalt Driveway

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“My asphalt driveway is sinking, along with the yard next to it. The sunken area is a car-length wide and two car-lengths long. I repaired it with two tons of asphalt, and since then it has sunk 6” to 8” more. Can you please give repair advice?”
-Steve

Asphalt driveways should be poured over a base of crushed stone, which is placed either on undisturbed grade, or on fill soil that has been mechanically compacted. When driveways sink, it’s most often because the underlying dirt was not properly compacted, or because the fill dirt contains debris (such as tree stumps) that are decomposing and collapsing underground. However, there can be some other causes:

  • Erosion and undermining of the soil bed due to improper rainwater drainage.
  • Underground collapse or erosion due to a broken buried pipe or underground stream.
  • Environmental factors specific to your region and building site, such as sinkholes, unstable marshland, expansive soil, volcanic or seismic activity, or hillside erosion.

You’ve described some pretty significant sinking, more than I’d expect from normal soil settling. I’d take these steps:

  1. If your home is fairly new, contact your builder. Improper compaction of the driveway subsoil is an issue that should be covered under your home’s warranty.
  2. Contact your utility company, or dial 811 for a free identification of buried lines and cables. Not only is this a good safety measure, but it could also tell you if a broken buried line or pipe could be contributing to your problem.
  3. Examine your downspouts and rainwater drainage. Make sure water isn’t running toward your driveway, pooling or eroding the soil underneath it.
  4. Contact a soil engineer, to determine exactly what’s going on underground – particularly to diagnose regional geologic conditions. You don’t want to keep on patching your driveway if it’s going to keep on sinking, and you really need to make sure there’s not an underlying problem that could grow worse or even affect your nearby home’s foundation.

Based on the soil engineer’s report, your repair may be as simple as another patch, or it may involve taking up the existing driveway and making extensive repairs to the subsoil. The repair may or may not be a DIY job, but you could really use a professional opinion (or more than one) for diagnosis and recommendations.

Julie



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13 Comments on “How to Fix a Sinking Asphalt Driveway”

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  1. stephen keesee Says:
    January 21st, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for your response.
    The sinking place is over 100′ from the house. This area had a large hole come about after 2 days of hard rain, about 5 years ago. I held Randy by his belt while he tried to reach the bottom with a driver golf club, but could not reach it. We proceeded to fill the hole with lots of rocks and larger stones. We packed them in the hole with a 4×4 and poured a bag of Quik-rete on top. This was all underneath the driveway because the collapse was at an angle. We then placed larger rocks up to the edge of the yard and poured another bag of Quik-Rete. The 2 tons of asphalt was added a couple years later.
    IT’S STILL SINKING!!
    thanks
    steve

  2. Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    January 23rd, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Steve, that definitely sounds like a bigger problem than simple ground settling! I’d call in a soil engineer to have a look. Rainwater and underground streams are routed through networks of underground pipes, and if a pipe cracks, eventually a sinkhole will form as the soil washes away – our city lost an entire restaurant (and a customer’s Corvette) that way. Have you checked the location of underground pipes or natural ground water routes?

  3. Linda Accurso Says:
    April 7th, 2010 at 10:25 am

    We have a problem with our yard sinking. There are numberous pipes that used to take water to a pond on the property but they have all busted. We bought this house almost 5 years ago but this problem started about 3 years ago. We have 3 small children which we have to keep out of their yard. There are actually holes where you can see the water running underneath. We don’t have any money to fix it. My husband is the only one working at the time and barely makes the bills now. I go to school and will graduate in August and hope to get a good paying job. Till then my children are confined to the deck only. Is there an organization that could help us. The banks are out of the question. Please answer as soon as possible.

    Thank you,
    Linda

  4. Official Comment:

    Julie Day Says:
    August 3rd, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Linda, that sounds like a terrible problem! I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. There might be some organizations in your area that can help, or perhaps a church or civic club – particularly since the yard isn’t safe for your children to play. I’d also check with your homeowner’s insurance just in case.

    Are those pipes carrying stream water? How big are they? It sounds like more than a DIY job, but you may be able to cut costs by helping out or doing some of the prep work.

  5. My Driveway Dr. Says:
    August 9th, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Foundation is the key to a solid driveway. Without a solid base nothing will last. I think stamped asphalt would also be a good option.stamped asphalt has more advantages which help with maintenance, durability, life spn. Stamped asphalt is far less maintenance than regular asphalt because it never needs sealing due to the polymer cement coating. Also it is the least expensive out of all the decorative options, like stone, brick, slate etc. In the winter you can plow stamped asphalt, salt it, etc. Which you cant do on concrete because the salt will seriously damage it. Also, becuase of the coat and the prep work before the stamping the driveway should last twice as long as a regular asphalt as well as not crack. There are more advantages but these are just some. I think its stamped asphalt is a good option if you want something to last and stay strong.

    -My Driveway Dr.

  6. Rick Dosky Says:
    August 29th, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Our drive way runs right along side of our garage and part of the house. The garage is attached to the house. I’ve noticed the drive way sinking about 5″ where it butts up against the garage and the house. Also, in the back corner of our house there is a slab that the AC compressor sits upon. It is also leaning in towards the house. There are 3 downspouts that go down into the asphalt driveway. My suspicions are that the drain tiles are cracked underground somewhere between the house and where they drain out into the street. Also, our garage floor has started to collapse and crumble. I want to get this fixed, but I don’t even know who to call for this. Plumber? Driveway person? Foundation repair? Who handles this kind of problem?

  7. Steve Says:
    August 8th, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Hello, thank you in advance for your reply. Steve Gresham 0 706 369 7045 – Can I send you a picture of my issue for a response?

  8. pina Says:
    May 20th, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Hello.. I had my driveway asphalted in September and it is now the following May. I notice when it rains there is are now a few puddles of water that collect and right where I would step coming out of my vehicle.. The puddle is about half inch deep.. How would this be fixed.

  9. John Ashley Says:
    July 17th, 2013 at 11:02 am

    I went to this website to see if anyone else had the problem I am having, and sure enough others are as well. We live on a large hill, thus our driveway runs down hill. Our home is about 4 years old and we here in Tennessee have had more rain this year than anyone can remember which has added to my woes. I
    have been patching it for the last two, or so years, but this years rain has made repairs impossible. I have found information here that is really similar, but not helpful as a solution. I will try cutting out the bad areas, removing the asphalt, taping the edges, then digging down about a foot filling that in with large gravel, compacting it, then use smaller gravel to bring the hole within 5″ from the top surface. I will then construct a rebar cribbing all wired together, then pour a high PSI concert into the area within about half an inch from the top. I will let that cure for a few days, then with the edges still taped off I will put in Quick Crete brand asphalt tamping it smooth. This will be some hard work, but hopefully this will cure the problem; I will let you all know by way of email and photo’s !

  10. Julie Says:
    August 7th, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, We live in SE Alabama. Today we had some cable people out to our house. As they drove down our drive way a sink hole popped open in our asphalt drive. The hole only looks about 8in in diameter wide but about 2 ft deep and we just put a 7 ft pole down the hole ..in a soft spot of the hole. Our city engineer said it was just a rotted out tree root that caused the damage. I am feeling uneasy now that we pushed a paint pole that far down under the asphalt. I guess we just aren’t familiar enough to know if it’s ok to treat this as a simple hole in the drive way. Can you offer any suggestions or is soft ground that deep common for a small sink hole?

  11. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    August 26th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Hi Julie,
    Your question about a sink hole in your driveway was answered in the rapid fire segment in the first hour of our radio show. You can listen to the show on our website at http://www.todayshomeowner.com/radio/2013/08/24/todays-homeowner-radio-show-for-august-24-2013/
    Thank you for your interest!

  12. Patricia Says:
    April 4th, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Hi, I’m in bit of a bind. Lost my husband two yrs. ago and lost of income, beside dealing with the grieving of losing my one and only love of my life now left with the unpaid bills and trying hard to hold on to my home where I know he still remains in spirit. Was suppose to have driveway redone but two days before schedule he passed away and I was in no condition to deal with anything so my first mistake was canceling the job. Now trying to save money switch homeowners insurance and know they are demanding me to repair my broken driveway. Did some price checking and all way out of reach for me alone. Is there another answer for me to get repairs done to hold on to my homeowners insurance. Really lost and don’t know where to turn…scared

  13. Lynn Says:
    June 12th, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    What is the recommended depth of stone & gravel for a driveway repair?

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