Driveway asphalt paving is an excellent choice for just about any residential property, as asphalt offers many benefits over concrete, river rocks, plain gravel, dirt roads, and the like. A homeowner may also have more choices for the color and style of asphalt than he or she realizes, so there's no need to worry about a property looking overly industrial or drab when you choose asphalt for your new driveway!
Driveway asphalt paving costs will vary according to the thickness and type of asphalt you choose. Most homeowners are charged by the square foot for asphalt, and average prices from asphalt paving companies might run anywhere from $3 to $5 per square foot.
To better understand the details of the quotes you might receive for an asphalt driveway, or for a parking lot and other such areas, it's helpful to know all the steps involved in installing asphalt. You can then also understand why this installation is not a DIY job, and may be better able to discuss your options for asphalt with your asphalt paving contractors.
Asphalt Driveway Paving Process Starts With Demolition
Unless your driveway is already paved with asphalt, an installer will probably need to start their asphalt driveway installation process with demolition, tearing out and removing the current driveway. In some cases, even old asphalt should be removed, to ensure a secure paving surface for new materials.
When installing asphalt paving on an undeveloped lot, vegetation might need to be removed, along with rocks, gravel, and other such debris. Depending on the current paving material or extent of debris that needs removal, this process might require bobcats, front loaders, and dump trucks. The use of this equipment is one reason why asphalt installation is rarely a DIY job!
Driveway Grading and Sloping
Grading a surface refers to creating a slight slope, typically starting from a house or other structure and then moving downward, toward the street. This grade is established to ensure water on the property runs in a particular direction. Grading and sloping are needed for many reasons:
- Water that collects and pools on the surface of asphalt can be absorbed by this material, causing it to become soft and then crack, chip, or spall.
- Water collecting under the surface of asphalt can also cause the material to swell, heave, and buckle, resulting in cracks and breaks.
- Proper water runoff will also ensure that melting snow doesn't cling to the surface of the asphalt and then freeze, creating a hazardous layer of ice on your home's driveway.
- The compacted soil underneath asphalt can trap water next to a home's foundation, leading to cracks and future water leaks inside the house. Grading the soil will compensate for this compaction, directing water away from that structure and protecting its foundation from damage.
Installing the Best Base for an Asphalt Paving Driveway
A sub-base needs to be installed before asphalt can be poured. This layer of material is typically made with aggregate, crushed gravel, and the like.
- The sub-base provides a stable surface for holding asphalt.
- A layer of aggregate between the soil and your new asphalt will help protect that material from exposure to frost and frozen ground, reducing damage caused by a freeze-thaw cycle.
- The aggregate that makes up the sub-base will also protect asphalt from absorbing excess moisture and chemicals from the ground, also protecting the pavement from premature damage.
This sub-base is typically rolled and compacted so that it stays firm and provides a level and smooth surface for your new asphalt driveway installation. A layer of binder is then often installed over the sub-base.
Asphalt Laying Procedure
Once the sub-base is compacted and rolled and the grade of the surface checked and confirmed, the asphalt paving is then installed. This installation is a painstaking process, as the material needs to be rolled and compacted, so it remains firm as it sets and cures.
Butt joints and transitions are also created; these joints are areas where the asphalt meets other pavement. These two materials need to be smoothly joined so that there are no bumps that form hazards to foot or vehicle traffic. Smooth transitions also ensure that the new asphalt doesn't look out of place or unsightly.
The asphalt mixture also needs to be painstakingly checked as it's poured. The aggregate added to each asphalt installation will determine the material's overall texture and appearance. Larger aggregate can provide for more traction, whereas more sand might give a lighter color of asphalt and a smoother surface that homeowners often prefer for their property.
How Thick Should Asphalt Be?
A residential driveway typically only needs to be a few inches thick. When determining the best depth for your residential driveway, discuss the following with your asphalt paving contractors:
- It's good to invest in a thicker asphalt driveway if you drive a heavy truck or camper.
- A thicker layer of asphalt will absorb more sound and other vibrations, creating a quieter outside environment.
- While you can have an old and worn driveway covered with fresh asphalt, you can only add so many layers of pavement before the material becomes too heavy. Consider how you might add future layers of asphalt over the new layer when deciding on the thickness of a new driveway.
What You Need to Know About New Asphalt Paving
Your asphalt installer can tell you the best way to care for your new driveway or other surfaces, but note a few considerations to keep in mind about fresh asphalt on your property:
- While asphalt is typically safe to use within a day after its installation, this material may still require several days, if not a full week or longer, to cure completely. Avoid driving your heavy truck or camper over your new driveway during this time.
- Seal coating will protect the asphalt from damage, but it's still good to have the surface power washed on a regular basis, to remove motor oil, wintertime salt, lawn care chemicals, and other damaging substances.
- The soft texture of asphalt can make this material susceptible to damage from sharp lawnmower blades and other such tools. This danger can be especially true during summer months, as summertime heat softens asphalt.
- Parking a heavy vehicle in one spot can cause eventual indentations on the surface! Move your camper, ATV, or trailer every week or two if needed, rather than parking these vehicles in one spot for weeks at a time.
Is an Asphalt Driveway Better Than Concrete?
Note some pros and cons about concrete, especially when compared to asphalt paving, so you understand why asphalt is such a popular choice for homeowners today, and why it can be the right choice for your property:
- While concrete can be painted or stained, this coating does tend to fade, peel, and flake after a short time. In turn, you may need to have your home's concrete driveway repainted consistently, to maintain its overall appearance. The dark color of asphalt, however, provides contrast to a home's exterior color without added maintenance.
- Concrete does not offer much traction when compared to asphalt. A lack of traction can make concrete dangerous for walking and driving during wintertime and rainy summers!
- The brittle surface of concrete does not offer much noise insulation, whereas asphalt can absorb noise, as said.
- Concrete also provides little impact absorption. If you or your children tend to play in the driveway, asphalt may be a more comfortable surface than concrete. This material will also slow down the movement of balls bouncing against the pavement, so you may be less likely to see a basketball or volleyball bounce into the street when you choose asphalt!
Cautions About an Asphalt Driveway Installation
While an asphalt driveway can be an excellent choice for any property, you might note some cautions about this material and its installation for your home:
- Avoid any asphalt paving companies who say that they have asphalt material "left over" from another job and are willing to install it on your property for a meager cost. Leftover asphalt is often cold and has started to set and cure so that it's very brittle and more likely to chip and crack.
- While demolishing and grading the area to be paved may add to the time and cost of your new driveway, be cautious about avoiding these steps. Investing in needed site prep will ensure that your new driveway lasts as long as possible, with less risk of heaving and buckling of your pavement.
- Thoroughly patch any potholes or other areas of damage, if you're having a new asphalt driveway installed over old asphalt. This patching work will ensure that the new pavement has a solid base on which to settle and will cure and set correctly, and remain strong for years to come.
If you work with a reputable contractor and invest in all the steps needed to prep your site, your new asphalt paving should be attractive and durable and offer you a quality surface for your residential property.