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How Long Does an Asphalt Driveway Last

If you’re a homeowner and you need a new driveway for your property, or if you’re having a new home built, you typically need to choose between concrete and asphalt. While concrete is very durable, so is asphalt, but you might still be wondering how long an asphalt driveway lasts, especially when compared to other paving materials.

An asphalt driveway can last between 10 and 35 years, depending on the asphalt itself, the quality of the installation, your local climate, and how well you care for the material over the years!

While asphalt is very durable and offers many benefits versus concrete, it is not indestructible. A homeowner needs to understand how to care for that asphalt properly in order to ensure their driveway lasts as long as possible.

Understanding the composition of asphalt itself, and how asphalt driveways are installed, can help you better understand how to care for an asphalt driveway properly. This can also help you understand why some asphalt driveways might need replacing sooner than others, no matter how well you maintain the material. It might also be good to consider the advantages of asphalt over concrete, if you’re still trying to decide the best choice of paving for your property.

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What is asphalt?

Asphalt concrete, also called bitumen, is made from a petroleum derivative. This substance, when extracted and refined, is very thick and sticky, almost like tar.

This bitumen is mixed with aggregates, including stone, sand, and gravel, to make the actual asphalt material that is used for paving. The tarry texture of bitumen keeps these aggregates “stuck together,” while the stone and gravel are what give the material its bumpy texture and strength.

An asphalt surface, such as a driveway, starts with a heavier aggregate, usually a thick stone, that is spread over the area to be paved. Hot asphalt is then poured over this aggregate, and pressed into it with a heavy roller.

This pressing process causes the top layer of soft asphalt to bind to the aggregate under it. As this upper layer of asphalt cools, it becomes solid, and is ready for use.

How long does an asphalt driveway last?

As said, the longevity or expected lifespan of an asphalt driveway depends on its composition and installation, the average climate in your area, and how you care for the material itself. Consider a few details about each of these factors, so you can determine the best type of asphalt to buy, and also ensure you care for your home’s driveway properly.

First, when discussing your options with your contractors, note the manufacturer of the asphalt material itself. This is because

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not all asphalt is alike, but batches are made individually at a processing plant. Only choose asphalt from a supplier that

produces asphalt consistently, so you know they’ll provide high-quality material that is strong and durable. Too much aggregate and not enough bitumen in a mixture, for example, might be very cheap to produce, but might also allow cracks or sinkholes to quickly form.

Next, it’s vital to understand that proper installation of the asphalt is needed for a durable driveway. Your driveway should be graded so that rainwater and snow easily run off the surface of the asphalt, rather than settling or pooling, either under or on top of the asphalt itself.

The area to be paved also needs to be raked in order to remove excessive dirt and debris, and the foundation aggregate should be compacted, to reduce the risk of the asphalt shifting out of place and then cracking. If you’re not sure of how to prepare your driveway for paving, rely on a professional installer rather than thinking you can pour asphalt yourself.

Your area’s climate will affect the longevity of an asphalt driveway, as water seeping into asphalt can cause the material to soften and break down. In turn, asphalt poured in a tropical area or an area with heavy rainfall may not last as long as asphalt in other areas.

Extreme heat can cause asphalt to crack, which can then allow water to seep into the material, causing even more damage. Sealing of the asphalt more often than usual can then help to protect it from damage caused by extreme climates.

Note, too, that oily substances tend to break down the petroleum material that makes up the bitumen in asphalt. Cars and trucks that drip motor oil and other such fluids are a major cause of damage to residential asphalt driveways, and will mean having to repair or repave those driveways sooner rather than later.

How to protect an asphalt driveway

Now that you know a little bit about how asphalt is made, and about what affects its overall lifespan, note a few tips on how to protect an asphalt driveway on your property:

  • Water down your asphalt driveway on very hot days, to keep the material cool and help avoid cracks and sinkholes.
  • Avoid parking in the same spot in the driveway, as this will keep undue pressure and weight on one area of asphalt. Over time, this area might then start to weaken.
  • This also applies to parking heavy campers or trailers on your driveway. Move these to a new spot, even if it’s just a few inches over, every few days.
  • Heavy commercial vehicles should also be kept off residential asphalt driveways. Have moving vans or other such vehicles park in the street when needed.
  • Never turn your vehicle’s wheels while it’s parked, as this can cause ruts and swirl marks in the asphalt, and weaken the material, leading to cracks and sinkholes
  • Don’t drive along the edge of asphalt, as asphalt gets weaker the closer it gets to the edge of a paved area.
  • Avoid running sharp objects over the surface of asphalt, such as a garden tiller or weed trimmer, as this can cause cracks and nicks in the material. These nicks then allow water to seep below the surface and weaken the asphalt.
  • During wintertime, use a thick brush to remove snow and ice from asphalt, rather than usig a snow blower or shovel, to protect the upper layer of this material from scratches and damage. It’s also good to use a type of winter salt that is meant for asphalt in particular, rather than using standard road salt.
  • If your vehicle leaks oil or other fluids, and you must park it on your asphalt driveway, put a piece of cardboard under the area of the leak to keep those fluids off the surface of the asphalt.
  • Repair cracks, chips, and sinkholes in the asphalt quickly, so that water doesn’t seep into the material and weaken it.

One of the most important tips to remember when it comes to protecting an asphalt driveway is to have it seal-coated on a regular basis, usually every few years, or as often as recommended by your driveway installer. This seal coating will help to protect the top layer of asphalt from water damage, swirl marks, nicks and scrapes, form excessive heat, and from exposure to oils and other fluids that damage asphalt itself.

paving contractor midland tx Asphalt vs. concrete driveways

Asphalt vs. concrete driveways

If you’re still not sure if an asphalt driveway is the best choice for your property, note a few advantages this material offers over concrete in particular:

    • While asphalt should ideally cure for a few days before you drive on it, the material will set and be ready for use much quicker than concrete.
    •  While concrete can be painted or stained, this process adds to the cost of installing a new driveway, whereas the naturally dark color of asphalt offers a striking contrast to a lighter-colored home.
    • Having concrete painted or stained also makes it difficult to repair that material yourself, as you would need patching compound that matches the color exactly. Asphalt, however, has a relatively consistent color, so DIY patches and small fixes don’t stand out and are not noticeable.
  • Patching larger areas of cracked or broken asphalt is easier and more affordable than repairing broken pieces of concrete. A contractor can easily fill in small sinkholes or deep cracks that go through the entire layer of asphalt, whereas broken concrete usually needs to be cut away and removed altogether, and then new concrete poured in that area, making the job more time-consuming and typically more costly.

 

  • The dark color of asphalt may make the surface a bit hot during summertime, but it also means that snow and ice will melt more readily during winter months! Asphalt will hold more heat during winter, so you may not need to use as much salt or work as hard to clear snow and ice from your asphalt driveway as you would concrete.
  • The soft, porous material of asphalt absorbs sound, making it an especially good choice if you live near a school, busy highway, business, or production facility. It can also be a good choice if you just have noisy neighbors!
  • Because asphalt is naturally textured and a bit bumpy, it offers more traction for vehicles and for foot traffic. Your vehicle may slide around far less often, and you may suffer fewer slips and falls yourself, when you choose asphalt over concrete.

Asphalt is also typically more affordable than concrete, and this is an important consideration, not just for the installation of your new driveway, but for its maintenance over the years. When an asphalt driveway is so badly damaged that it needs to be replaced, you can typically have a fresh layer of material poured over the current layer.

Severely damaged concrete driveways, however, often need to be ripped up and removed, with a new driveway poured altogether. When you choose asphalt over concrete, your installation costs are then lower, as are your long-term maintenance and repair costs.

What makes a good asphalt driveway

If you’re now convinced that asphalt is the right choice over a concrete driveway for your property, note a few considerations about what makes a good asphalt driveway. You can then more easily discuss your options with your contractor, and ensure your new driveways lasts for many years to come.

  • Soft dirt can be one of the biggest problems with asphalt driveways, so don’t hesitate to insist your contractor use a high-quality rock base for your property. Large, heavy stones in a layer several inches deep will provide a proper foundation for the asphalt to be poured, and will ensure that material doesn’t sink, settle, or shift.
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  • Proper drainage is needed so that water doesn’t get trapped on or under your home’s asphalt driveway. If you notice drainage problems in any area of your yard, have this addressed immediately. A contractor can install underground trenches or a French drain, which is a trench in the yard filled with rocks and plants, or can grade the property for better water runoff.
  • Be cautious about your choice of asphalt mix, as mentioned. More sand in the mix will make for a smoother and more attractive surface, but this can also mean a weaker asphalt composition overall. It’s especially important for driveways that will support larger vehicles and trailers to be made with a mixture of more gravel and stone, for added strength and durability.

The thickness of your home’s asphalt driveway will also affect its overall durability and longevity. Many residential driveways include a layer of asphalt that is about four inches thick, and this can be sufficient for supporting passenger vehicles and lightweight trucks. If you drive a heavier vehicle or will be parking a trailer on the driveway, however, opt for something even thicker; five to six inches is good for heavier vehicles, campers, and trailers.

For maximum strength, you might have your contractor put down a thicker layer of compacted aggregate for the foundation; six to eight inches of heavy stone will create a very durable base for the top layer of asphalt, and will ensure the driveway doesn’t sink or buckle even under the weight of a heavy-duty truck or trailer. This might be a more costly option for installation, but it can also mean a more durable asphalt driveway that lasts for many years to come.