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Why Tough Patch beats cold-lay tarmac on price and strength

Two cold-lay options are on the table for fast and permanent pothole repairs: you can choose from either a solvent-based mix or water-activated formula. See why the water-activated Tough Patch beats other types of cold-lays on price and strength making it a popular option with hardscape specialists everywhere.

Tough Patch Rapid
Tough Patch is available in a 25kg bag or tub. Save when buying a pallet

The lowdown on Tough Patch

Tough Patch Rapid, like Instant Road Repair, is a cold-lay asphalt used for permanent pothole repairs on driveways, car parks and roads. 

While the two formulas – Tough Patch and Instant Road Repair (IRR) – look very similar, there are a number of key differences between them. 

“The major differences between these two products is the raw material used to produce them and the performance you can achieve as a result,” shares Tom Hughes of Ultracrete, manufacturer of both of these premixed tarmacs. 

Cold lays such as IRR and Permanent Pothole Repair are solvent-based asphalts. Used straight from the bag, they make ideal formulas to use for quick and long-lasting repair jobs. 

But as Tough Patch is water activated, it comes with additional benefits.  

Tom reveals that Tough Patch has recently become a favourite for reinstatements due to its rapid-setting formula and the overall strength of the mix compared with other cold-lay mixes. 

Read on to find out why Tough Patch is not affected by the recent industry-wide price hikes, along with the other benefits of using this superior formula. 

What is water-activated cold-lay asphalt?

Water-activated cold-lay asphalt is a relatively recent addition to the cold-mix asphalt family. 

The robust and rapid-curing formula has been specially designed to harden immediately after sprinkling water over the mix. 

First created in 2010, many surfacing specialists are still unaware about this type of high-performance asphalt or otherwise still consider it to be in its infancy stages. 

However, the strength of this type of pothole repair material is astounding. In fact, the American Public Works Association reports that water-activated formulas can feature ‘higher eventual strength’ than a hot-mix asphalt.

“Tough Patch is a much more robust solution and hardens as soon as water is added."
Tom Hughes

Benefits of using Tough Patch

Explore the benefits of using the water-activated Tough Patch, which is fully certified through the PTS Product Assessment Scheme (PAS).

#1 Superior strength and performance

Tom explains that the main reason why so many contractors are switching to the Tough Patch formula is the mix’s superior strength and performance.

“Tough Patch incorporates an innovative and renewable binder additive,” he shares.

“Cold-lay products like Instant Road Repair use much more bitumen. Whilst the mechanical interlocking of the stone creates the ‘hardness’ of the material after compaction, the chemical process for the bitumen coating on the stone is a solvent burning off. This process therefore is linked to things like the ambient temperature and can affect the curing time.

“Tough Patch is a much more robust solution and hardens as soon as water is added. It’s a robust formula that can be used prescriptively in sensitive applications.”

Tough Patch technical spec

Technical tests
Typical result
Polished Stone Value65 PSV (minimum)
Mean Air Voids9.9%
Mean Wheel Track Slope

0.03mm per 103 load cycles at 45ºC

0.05mm per 103 load cycles at 60ºC

Mean Rut Depth1.4mm per 10,000 cycles
Mean Proportional Rut Depth2.6% per 10,000 cycles
Mean Indirect Tensile Stiffness Modulus1819 MPa
Mean Texture Depth1.4mm
Mean Corrected Pendulum Test Value82 PTV

What’s more, because Tough Patch ‘goes off’ with water activation it can also be used in the rain!

When comparing the strength and performance of the water-based formula against other cold-lays, both Tough Patch 6mm and 10mm-grade products come up trumps. Their robustness means they can be used for all types of road repairs including heavily trafficked areas.

“Tough Patch performs very strongly against rutting and scrim. In other words, Tough Patch is highly skid resistant.” Tom shares.

A great example of the strength and longevity of Tough Patch was reported by Kier, one of the country’s leading construction and infrastructure companies.

Following concerns over return visits to fix pothole repairs, their crews recorded 82% fewer return visits after introducing Tough Patch in 2020.

#2 Rapid curing to receive instant heavy traffic

Water-activated cold asphalts harden immediately after adding water, much faster than other types of cold-lays. 

“Particularly when contractors are working on a highway, it’s compelling to remove traffic management as soon as you can,” explains Tom. 

“But that can run the risk of new reinstatements being hit by heavy traffic shortly after use, particularly if the defect was in an area of high stress.

“With Tough Patch, as it is a rapid set, rapid cure asphalt, the area can be trafficked instantly.” 

… another major benefit of using Tough Patch is that the surface can immediately accept traffic after installation, reducing the amount of time required for highway closures and ensuring a safer working environment.

“In fact, Tough Patch cures so quickly that within 24 hours you can conduct a core test on a patch. Guidelines dictate that you can’t do a core test on a solvent-based macadam until six months have passed!”

#3 Tough Patch immune to recent price increases

As of late we’ve witnessed many price hikes on cold-lay and hot-lay asphalt due to the increased cost of bitumen. 

Tom explains that Tough Patch has traditionally been a more expensive option than other cold-lays because of its strength and versatility in fixing potholes permanently on all types of roads. 

But due to the price rises on other cold-lay products, the difference between solvent-based and water-activated cold-lays is about to lessen.

“With Tough Patch, as it is a rapid set, rapid cure asphalt, the area can be trafficked instantly.”
Tom Hughes

#4 Ease of application – and during wet weather

Like other cold-lay tarmacs, Tough Patch is an easy-to-apply asphalt that can be added straight from the bag or tub. 

And as with IRR and PPR, for permanent repairs you’re well advised to cut out the reinstatement using vertical lines before application. Remove the debris before applying SCJ cold joint spray as a strong adhesive, and then add the specified layers of Tough Patch. 

Next, just add water to activate the formula before compacting each layer. 

“You can apply Tough Patch exactly as you would do Instant Road Repair,” adds Tom, “but you just need to add water.” 

Always follow the manufacturer’s application instructions. More application instructions for Tough Patch can be found on this page

Tough Patch product spec

The table below outlines the full product specification for Tough Patch Rapid. Get in touch if you’d like a copy of the full technical datasheet.

Type of cold-layWater-activated
Binder containsLubricating oil
Curing timeAlmost immediately
Conduct core testWithin 24 hours
Application temperature
-5ºC to 40ºC
Aggregate size6mm (12mm by request)
Longevity of repairPermanent
Packaging sizes25kg bag or 25kg tub
Cost per itemFrom £25 (excl. VAT)
Cost per palletFrom $1,003 (excl. VAT)

Frequently asked questions

How much water needs to be added to Tough Patch?

Before compacting each layer of Tough Patch, sprinkle water over the complete surface to start the curing process. The approximate ratio is one litre of water per 25kg bag (or tub) of Tough Patch. 

Tom explains, “Fortunately the formula is not too sensitive and you would struggle to overwater it. The thing to be most careful about is when the weather is hot – you need to ensure you add enough water to the mix.”

Does standing water need draining before application? 

It is possible to skip draining the pothole of standing water when using a water-activated formula. However, you should only skip this step during emergency repairs. 

As with all permanent pothole fixes using a cold-lay tarmac, we recommend cutting vertical edges around the reinstatement using an angle grinder and applying SCJ cold-lay spray adhesive to securely fix the formula to the internal surfaces. 

If you are not removing the standing water from the reinstatement, be aware that as soon as you add the formula the curing process will begin. Also, you’ll need to add less water before compacting. 

Can I use Tough Patch in the rain? 

Tough Patch can be applied in layers during wet weather. Be aware that the rain will start the curing process so have your compactor on hand after each layer. 

Have you tried water-activated asphalt?

If you’re a surfacing specialist using Tough Patch or have recently filled a pothole with a water-activated bitumen, we’d love to hear about your experience and how you rate this different type of cold-lay tarmac. 

Share your insights in the comments below. 

Find out more about the different types of cold-lay tarmac in the complete guide to all the grades.

We’re here to help if you have any questions. Drop us a message at or call on 0330 122 1025.

1 thought on “Why Tough Patch beats cold-lay tarmac on price and strength”

  1. Hello Jasper, we aren’t privileged to that information from the manufacturer i’m afraid! But, Tough Patch is a water activated rather than tamped product, and has great anti-skid, and anti-rut properties. If we can be of any further help please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0330 122 1025! Thank you.

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