The Driveway Rocks

September 20, 2011   //  Posted in: Curb Appeal, DIY   //  By: Emily   //  37 responses
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Taking DIY to the extreme. Please check with your doctor before attempting this at home. And wear proper shoes, for god’s sake.

You’re going to think I’ve gone whack-o when I tell you how I just finished removing tons of asphalt from my driveway. By myself. With my bare hands.

Don't mess with a girl and her baby sledgehammer.

Well, the hands were gloved. And truthfully, in hindsight, it was pretty whack-o. But you should see my biceps.

Reducing the width of the parking area in my driveway has been a slow-but-steady project since Labor Day weekend, 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. That, and the house looked especially ghet-to last April without the porch railings or new storm door. (Mr. Silver Carport in the neighbor’s driveway doesn’t help either.) My driveway runs alongside the house but also offers extra parking space in the front yard. Room for three extra cars to be exact, meaning I have more asphalt than grass or garden.

Driveway badness.

No problem, one of my big goals of the summer was to have the driveway fully replaced; a little wrench was thrown in those plans when a team of city surveyors who worked on my street casually mentioned that the road, sidewalks, and driveway aprons were going to be repaired (hopefully) next spring. I changed my plans, not wanting to invest in asphalt that would be damaged and replaced (free) so soon.

What I could do in the interim though, is reduce the size of the driveway overall. Which is exactly what I did, and exactly why every muscle is so freaking sore.

In sort of the same fashion as when I planted the myrtle, I pried 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 reasonably easy, which naturally led me to believe that the whole shebang would be done within a few days of light lifting. Foreshadowing.

Easy does it - wedging a shovel beneath the asphalt and using it as a lever did the heavy breakage.

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).

Good progress, yes, but now the garbage can is too heavy for me to wheel to the curb. And don't even ask me to pick up that random cardboard box that I filled to the brim.

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. Worst they could do is deny it, or maybe break the bags into a million pieces and leave me with a bigger mess.

Snapped this blurry picture and then hid from the garbage man.

Good news? They bit the bait.

Actually, one of those big ol’ machines that the city uses to pick up curbed couches did the biting. 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, 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 + easy to carry.

Just like with the myrtle-planting project, there was a base of 3-6″ of coarse rock left to clean up. 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; afterall, I knew that 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 theirs for free… if they wanted to dig it.

Free rock, anyone?

I was pleasantly surprised by the response, happily allowing a reader of the blog and her family to come remove the rock for her own garden (thanks, Rebecca + fam!). I unfortunately wasn’t home to watch them sweat it out, but returned to a cleaned out space that was essentially ready for new soil. Which hasn’t been ordered. But is on my to-do list for todayyy. 

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. Strategy? Let’s just 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.

Sit on shovel wedge, hammer your little heart out.

Don’t wimp out, keep on going. Like my rubber wellies? No idea why I slipped them on.

Sit on shovel wedge, hammer your little heart out.

Seriously, you’re almost done. But what happened to your protective eyewear? Probably launched it into the grass in muscular fury. And check out the pieces of asphalt in that RIDGID box – I’d like you to know that those are the size of my torso.

Sit on shovel wedge, hammer your little heart out.

Try not to get too wussy-ish when you get a dime-sized blister on the most crucial spot of your sledging hand; just ACE bandage the thing up and put on a man’s-size glove. Perfecto-mundo, even if I look like I have a disease.

Bandage up a wee little blister that is made to look like a broken fist, shove glove back on.

Can you say D-O-N-E? I actually 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, and 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, which were perfect little asphalt holders. Saved me an hour’s worth of bagging, that’s for sure.

Driveway clearing success. And lots of boxes for the garbage chomping machine.

Relieved? Relieved. Better driveway. Lots of sleep in my future. And lots of soil to distribute, once I place the order.

How does it look?

Comments
  • Cait @ Hernando House
    3 years ago - Reply

    It looks great! I bet that felt amazing to get done! Gotta love it when you muscle through something like that.

    We were ecstatic (and exhausted) to get the weird concrete in the back sledgehammered out (although we still have some tile chipping and probably concrete saw renting to go).

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      I can only imagine what I beast the concrete was. Thick, right?

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      3 years ago -

      Definitely a beast. Certain areas were about 4-6 inches but crumbled easily (not aerated right maybe?), and the worst spot was about 12-15 inches thick and 3-4 feet long and very solid. Fingers crossed that getting that out was the hardest part.

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Crazy. My thickest parts were only 5-6″; you win, no contest.

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      3 years ago -

      I think we both win, because we reached our goals without renting a jackhammer or something! Everyone will be jealous of our biceps.

      Now if only R & I can figure out how to finish off the edge of the concrete for the patio to butt against without renting a saw.

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Good luck, yikes!

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      3 years ago -

      For a while we were hoping that drilling holes into the concrete (sort of like perforations) and then hammering along might work. But then we thought maybe the 40ish bucks for a saw was worth it. We’ll see. Still glad we didn’t rent a jackhmmer, though!

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Are they a costly rental?

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      3 years ago -

      For the saw the base price to rent isn’t that bad, but the blades can add up. I think the jackhammer would have been somewhat expensive in our case because of the number of hours we’d have needed it, since we were working on the concrete a few hours a night for a while.

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      AH, yes the add on costs. I experienced that same thing a few years ago when I refinished the floors myself; the sandpaper cost more than the rental overall. If it’s any concession if you end up needing to rent… it’s still way cheaper than paying someone to do it for you. #DIYitupgirl

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      3 years ago -

      So true! After we finish up a few more things in the art room we’ll probably shift our focus back to the patio (especially since the weather should be cooler by then). After the possible rental we should only need a couple hundred dollars in supplies (hopefully not famous last words).

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Looking forward to seeing your finished art room!

    • Cait @ Hernando House
      3 years ago -

      Thanks! There is still a lot of organizing that needs to happen, but it’s getting there!

      I’m looking forward to seeing your office, too!

  • Rebecca Ziebarth
    3 years ago - Reply

    When we were at your house getting the stones, we debated how you were removing the asphalt. We all agreed that you must have rented a jack hammer. I guess we were wrong!

    Rebecca

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Haha, before I started I assumed that a rental of some kind would have been necessary. The only thing I would suggest having, if you ever try it, is a larger sledgehammer. Not a baby-sized sledge.

  • Kirsti @Living in Lovely LaLaLand
    3 years ago - Reply

    I’m so impressed. Way to go! And yes, it looks better already. Congrats!

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Thanks Kirsti!

  • BrittanyC
    3 years ago - Reply

    Girl, you are crazy! I cant believe you shovel-butted all of that!!!!!! You are an animal! I am so seriously impressed right now, you have no idea.

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Thanks BrittanyC! You’re so kind! :) Is there any asphalt shovel-butting in your future?

  • Jami Graham
    3 years ago - Reply

    OMG! You totally rocked that out! Job well done!!

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Thanks Jami! All the love makes me want to go “RAWWWRRR”. Or grunt like Tim Taylor.

  • Taylor
    3 years ago - Reply

    Seriously, I am way impressed. So much curb appeal in your future. And you did that all yourself? There’s nothing a motivated woman can’t do! Go Emily!

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Thank you :) I did it ALL by myself, except for probably 10 swings of the sledge, which Pete did one day when he came outside to observe my progress and bring me a soda.

  • Marylou M
    3 years ago - Reply

    Fantastic job Emily…will look so nice when you get the soil in…really enjoyed your narration here between the little asphalt bags at the curb and Mr. Silver Carport next door. Do you do consults? I put some zip in my front door (color “wasabi” Benjamin Moore color swatch) but I need some other ideas to make it fit it more with the rest of the house…hope there are some good outdoor staining days yet.

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Thank you! Glad you liked. Are you thinking other ideas for the exterior of your house? I’d flood your front porch with bright greens and yellows to complement the wasabi; I still am in full agreeance that you should paint the door. I think it’ll look great with the brown exterior.

  • C
    3 years ago - Reply

    My husband and I just bought our first house and there’s a largish patch of asphalt by the breezeway door that I want to remove to put in pavers/plants/ect because we have no backyard. He said that if I wanted it done, I’d have to do it myself without his help. Being a small woman, I was sad and figured it would be impossible unless I shelled out the money to pay someone.. But, after reading your article, I feel really empowered and confident that I can do it myself, even if little by little with the SBL technique.. Thank you!

    • Emily
      3 years ago -

      Go girl! Give it a try. I think you can do it :) Glad this inspired you to try!

  • april
    2 years ago - Reply

    I have to say you have given me the hope that I can do it myself!! I am looking to shorten my driveway from 4 cars to 2. and add a 5ft semi private white vinyl fence. I have a small yard at the top of my driveway where I have maybe a 10×10 area of spaced flagstones….home to my glass patio table, chairs and umbrella. What a pain to move it every time I need to mow! Thinking of using the extra “driveway” area and do a large patio with pavers and design it up to incorporate the area of flagstone in some circular pattern. So I have a landscape company coming to give me an estimate but if it is too high to remove the asphalt…I may just muscle it myself …all 5’4′, 135ilbs of me!! I will certainly use your butt shovel leverage idea!! :) There is something to be said for looking back knowing you did it yourself!!

    • Emily
      2 years ago -

      Perfect summer project, April! I love the sounds of what you’re planning, getting the asphalt layer itself removed wasn’t so bad once it started to loosen, but the crushed stones beneath were a pain to dig. In your case, it almost seems like you can leave that stone as the base for your pavers!

      I’d be interested in knowing how companies price for removal (I can never even get paving companies to call me back!)

      Good luck!

  • Adam Turnbull
    1 year ago - Reply

    Wow. Impressive. I have a project just like this. My fear is, of course, what is UNDER the asphalt like your last section. Since I’m twice your size you have shamed me into doing it myself and not calling an escavator ! Good on ya!

  • jennifer
    1 year ago - Reply

    Awesome! I needed the laughs and the inspiration.

  • Dinesh Sharma
    1 year ago - Reply

    HI Ms. Emily, could you tell me what to do with the removed asphalt from my garage it is almost 5 feet X 5 feet and 3 feet high pile sitting in my driveway. City do not want to take it.

    • Emily
      1 year ago -

      We were lucky that the city took ours, but I also bagged the debris in small batches for easier removal. You can probably call most debris removal companies to come and take it for a small price (trash companies or companies that rent dumpsters may be willing to accommodate). Sorry about that :(

  • Dave
    11 months ago - Reply

    Dang! NICE JOB!

    You have given me inspiration!

  • Aimee
    1 month ago - Reply

    You were one of the few true depave-driveway projects and I think you kick ass! We were going to follow your lead then found someone to do it all in one day for $650 so we paid them instead. Just had the back half of our long driveway taken out and can’t wait to have more garden space, woo hoo!

  • Aimee
    1 month ago - Reply

    (cont’d) – the first sentence meant one of the few projects we found online to truly remove rather than replace…most folks think we’re mad for getting rid of part of our driveway, but we don’t have a car and the garage is the size of a garden shed with our 1925 home so now it truly will be one :)

    • Emily
      1 month ago -

      $650 = not a bad deal! Considering how laborious it was… did they drop in new soil and level it out for you too? Would be interested to know what other handymen would charge for a project like this. People love to pave more surface area, but at some point, it’s all gotta come back up!

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