Taking DIY to the extreme. Please check with your doctor before attempting this at home. And wear proper shoes, for goodness sake.
You’re going to think I’ve gone whacko when I tell you how I just finished removing tons of asphalt from my driveway. By myself. With my bare hands.
Reducing the width of the parking area in my driveway was a slow-but-steady project, but the end is in sight. Grassy lawn is in my future. A better driveway, too. Improved curb appeal. Hallelujah.
As I’ve shown before, the driveway needs some work. The house looked especially sad last April without the porch railings or new storm door. (Mr. Silver Carport in the neighbor’s driveway doesn’t help either.) The driveway runs alongside the house but also offers extra parking in the front yard. There’s space for three extra cars. I have more asphalt than grass or garden.
No problem, I guess. One of my big goals of the summer was to have the driveway fully replaced. A wrench hit those plans when a team of city surveyors casually mentioned that the road, sidewalks, and driveway aprons were going to be replaced, disturbing any new work I contracted. I changed my plans, not wanting to invest in asphalt that would be damaged so soon.
What I could do in the interim though, is reduce the size of the driveway overall. This is exactly what I did, and exactly why every muscle is so freaking sore.
I found that the most efficient approach was to pry up the asphalt layer piece by piece (I like to compare it to ripping apart a cookie cake). The asphalt closest to the house was crumbling and thin and came up easily, which naturally led me to believe that the whole shebang would be done within a few days of light lifting. Foreshadowing.
In one short morning, I had removed a substantial chunk of driveway (and max-ed out the weight limit of the city-provided garbage can, meaning, I couldn’t move it myself anymore).
I decided not to let capacity issues hold me up, figuring that I could keep loosening the asphalt, bagging it in smaller quantities, and testing out the strength of the city garbage men to see what they’d accept. The worst they could do is deny it, or maybe break the bags into a million pieces and leave me with a bigger mess.
Good news? They took every bag!
Actually, one of those big ol’ machines that the city uses to pick up curbed couches took every bag.
Best described as an arcade game claw that repels from the top of a dump truck, the asphalt-filled bags were removed in a swift 2-minute jobber. It was as if the driver spent his entire childhood dropping quarters hoping to win a stuffed animal at the fair. (Best job ever? Or best job ever.)
Fun facts: The Gap won the “Strong Bag” contest. Home Depot and Lowe’s were tied for second place. Best Practices? Paper bag, with two plastic bags on the outside. Radically strong and very easy to carry.
After the top layer was removed, there was a base of 3-6″ of coarse rock left to remove. The rocks were by far the worst part of the clean-up process last time, so this time I left it up to friends on Facebook and randoms on Craigslist to fight it out. After all, the underlay was valuable, salvageable, and something that pretty much anyone could have used for their own patio base, garden filler, drainage project, or whatnot. It was free… to those who were willing to dig it out.
I was surprised by the response, and happily welcomed a reader of the blog and her family to take the rock for her own garden (thanks, Rebecca + fam!).
I gave a little foreshadowing earlier on about the ease of asphalt retrieval; the upper part of the driveway crumbled in my hand with minimal effort, as did the apron between the sidewalk and the road, but there was an angry little section about 70 sq. ft. in size that did. not. want. to. be. removed.
This was the only section that had also been doubly paved, interestingly. It had no cracks, no weeds poking through, and was a solid, thick mass that chipped away at my energy level for 3 days. Three exhausting days.
The final technique I tried seemed to work most efficiently. Am I an asphalt removal strategist? Does that go on LinkedIn? Let’s call it Shovel Butt Lever. Because I’m much too tired from hammering asphalt to think of a better name.
Use the shovel as a lever between the asphalt and the earth. Apply full body weight (sitting on the shovel handle) to lift the block an inch, so when you sledge it, it had some chance of giving way. That pile of asphalt to either side of me? Shovel-butted.
Don’t wimp out, keep on going. Oh, distracted by my rubber wellies? No idea why I slipped them on. Please wear steel-toed shoes for this.
Seriously, what happened to your protective eyewear? Oh, I probably launched it into the grass in muscular fury. Check out the pieces of asphalt in that RIDGID box. They are the size of my torso.
Try not to get too wussy-ish about injuries, even when you get a dime-sized blister on the most crucial spot of your sledging hand. Put an ACE bandage on the thing, then choose a bigger glove. Perfecto, even if I look like I have a growth.
Can you say D-O-N-E? I tried to take a picture of me standing at the end of the cleared driveway smiling, but forgot that I had the camera zoomed in. My face did not end up in the frame so much as other body parts, so you won’t be seeing those photos today.
The neighbor kindly gave me 4 large cardboard boxes that were on their way out to recycling. Perfect little asphalt holders. The generosity saved me an hour’s worth of bagging, that’s for sure.
Relieved? Relieved. Better driveway. Lots of sleep in the future. And lots of soil to distribute, once I place the order.
How does it look?