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How to Dig Up an Asphalt Driveway

By Anita Holmes ; Updated September 21, 2017
Asphalt driveways can be dug up with a basic set of tools.

Asphalt driveways have long been an attractive alternative to concrete driveways. They are generally less expensive to install, and they hold up better in areas with temperature extremes. However, asphalt can settle, in hot weather it can become gummy, and it should be seal-coated regularly. A homeowner might want to repave an asphalt driveway, or to remove it entirely and replace it with grass or a garden. Either way, the driveway will need to be dug up. Asphalt driveways can be removed with basic tools and a strong back.

Step 1

Check the edge of the asphalt driveway for crumbling, cracked portions. Lift these portions with a shovel, or by placing one end of the 2x4 board under the rubble and using the board as a fulcrum, lifting or bending down the opposite end to loosen and lift the asphalt. Continue to the next area of the driveway.

Step 2

Create fissures in the asphalt by hitting it repeatedly with the pickax. Tackle one 3-by-3-foot area at a time.

Step 3

Once cracks appear, switch to a shovel to lift pieces of asphalt from the driveway. Whenever possible, use the 2x4 board to save on your back and to loosen larger chunks.

Step 4

Load the wheelbarrow with asphalt pieces and remove them from the area.

Step 5

If permanently removing the driveway, shovel up the gravel layer that was underneath the asphalt. Load it into the wheelbarrow and it remove from the area.

Step 6

If preparing the driveway for a new surface, smooth out the gravel and tamp it down.


Things You Will Need

  • Pickax
  • Shovel
  • 2-inch by 4-inch board
  • Wheelbarrow


  • Removing an asphalt drive is physically hard. An alternative to the pickax is to rent an electric asphalt breaker. It will cost more, but it will speed up the process.


  • Old asphalt can be categorized as hazardous waste. Finding a dumpsite that accepts it might be difficult; one option is to use the chunks of asphalt to fill holes on your property.

About the Author


A retired teacher, Anita Holmes is an experienced seamstress, wood worker and home decor specialist. She's designed and constructed new homes, gardens, remodeled multiple homes, built furniture, decks and cabinets and sewn everything from custom drapes to intricate quilts. Holmes holds a Master of Public Administration degree.