What is asphalt and how is it made?

Asphalt has been around for many years and has been part of our landscape since the late 19th century. It is sometimes known to people as Hot Mix Asphalt, blacktop, tarmac, macadam, plant mix, asphalt concrete, or bituminous concrete. This resilient material covers more than 94 % of the paved roads in the United States. It’s a popular choice for driveways, parking lots, airport runways, racetracks, tennis courts, and other applications where a smooth, durable driving surface is required. Asphalt is an engineered mixture of aggregate, or stone and sand, mixed with liquid asphalt cement, which is a petroleum product similar to tar or oil. Various sizes of aggregate are mixed with the asphalt cement and heated at a state approved asphalt plant. The asphalt is then delivered by truck to your driveway. Once it has been installed and compacted, the mixture will cool and harden.

What type of preparation work is required?

Every driveway must start out with a good solid foundation. The driveway area should be properly excavated, removing any unsuitable material such as sand, topsoil, clay or large stones. Other organic material, like tree roots or lumber, which can decay over time, should also be removed. Once the excavation is complete, a suitable sub-grade material (usually a gravel/loam blend) should be installed and allowed to settle. This work is usually done during the site clearing and preparation, leaving plenty of time for compaction and settling. It is recommended that the sub-grade material be placed at a minimum of 6-12 inches depending upon the existing ground conditions. Generally, the sub-grade is prepared leaving 2-4 inches left for the base, and topcoat surface.

What is the installation process for my new asphalt driveway?

Assuming the existing sub-grade is suitable, the driveway will be rough graded for proper pitch and elevations and the RCA blend will be installed as a base. (Generally 2-3 inches of RCA blend is required to bring the surface within final grade.) The base will then be fine graded and compacted. Once the driveway base has been properly prepared, hot mixed asphalt will be delivered by truck to your location and distributed into the paver. The paver then distributes the hot asphalt over the prepared base, where it is rolled and compacted to the specified thickness.

How long will it take to install my new driveway?

Most driveways that have already been roughed in will only take a few days to complete. It is typical for the grading crew to prepare and fine grade the driveway within one day. Once the grading is complete, it is generally recommended that the base have a chance to settle. We usually try to leave at least 2-3 days between the grading work and the finish surface. After the grade is set and the layout is correct, the finish surface will be applied. Again, the finish crew usually completes this within one day.
Additional items of work such as drainage or edging will add time to the construction process.

What will my new asphalt driveway look like?

Initially, the new asphalt surface will appear quite smooth, and a very dark black color. It is normal to see some of the aggregate or stone in the mix. Over time, due to weather and usage, the driveway will wear slightly and become a bit lighter in color. You will also begin to notice more of the aggregate showing through, and a slightly lighter, bluish-gray or tan coloration. This is all normal wear, and is to be expected. Simple maintenance can be followed to keep the driveway protected and help seal any small cracks that may appear.

Can I resurface my existing driveway?

If your existing driveway is still in good shape, but needs to be updated, resurfacing is a good option. Asphalt can be applied over the existing surface giving an instantly new
and updated look. It should be noted though; resurfacing is only as good as the base you’re covering. If new asphalt is placed over existing cracked asphalt, over time, the new asphalt will crack too. With that in mind, we do not recommend placing asphalt over existing concrete, as the two materials have different expansion and contraction rates in extreme weather.

What is the recommended length and width for a driveway?

The standard width for a single car driveway is between 10-12 feet wide. Driveways less than 10 feet wide will be too narrow to drive or park comfortably. 12 feet will be enough to assure you can get in and out of your vehicle without stepping on lawn or landscape material. If buildings, retaining walls or garden walls surround your driveway, you should add another 2 feet to allow enough room to open car doors without damage to either the walls or car. If you plan to park more than one car in your driveway, you should allow at least an 18-20 foot width. This will enable you to park two cars side by side. Again its is best to add another 3-4 feet to this if you are surrounded by buildings or walls. The driveway length should be about 18-20 feet long per vehicle. This will allow room to walk between vehicles, garage doors and other walls.

How long will my new asphalt driveway last?

How long the driveway will last depends on a few factors. Typically, with proper maintenance, an asphalt driveway should last between 15 – 30 years. Factors like sun and weather, usage and wear all take a toll on the life of your driveway. Although asphalt is strong and durable, it is also somewhat yielding. It will move and flex slightly with seasonal freezing and thawing, and it can sometimes scar from heavy weight or sharp objects. Over time, asphalt can become dry and brittle from the elements, therefore, the older it is, the more vulnerable it will become to cracking. With a little bit of maintenance, such as sealing and repairing damage early, you’ll be assured to get the most out your driveway.

How long should I keep vehicles off my new asphalt driveway?

Technically, you can drive on the newly installed asphalt almost right away. Once it is cooled and hardened it is ready for traffic. However, we suggest for aesthetic reasons that you try to keep off of it for 2-3 days. Driving and parking on the driveway surface right away could cause tire marks and other impressions you may find unsightly later on. Allowing the surface enough time to cool and harden will prevent most scaring from occurring.

What type of maintenance is required or suggested for my new asphalt driveway?

Your asphalt driveway should be relatively easy to maintain. The first part of this is simply keeping the driveway clean and free of things like oil drips, which can cause damage to the surface. Broken or damaged areas should be checked regularly to see if they should be repaired. Weeds and vegetation should be kept in check to prevent further cracking or heaving. The second part, is keeping the driveway sealed and protected. Seal-coating the driveway helps maintain elasticity and prolong the drying process that causes asphalt to crack. It also helps protect the asphalt from chemical and oil spills. For best results, we suggest sealing the driveway about one year after it has been installed and then approximately every 2 – 4 years after that. It is important not to seal-coat to often, as this will result in a build up of sealer, which may split and peel.

What do I need to know about salting or plowing the driveway in winter?

Both new Asphalt and Sealed Asphalt driveways can be salted or plowed in the winter. Salting will not cause any damage to either surface.

Do I need to install edging around my new asphalt driveway?

Edging is often chosen to clearly define the driveway and parking areas. It is completely optional, and is often chosen in order to obtain a clean finished look. If this is something you are considering, here are a few questions to ask: Is it necessary? Often, no. While edging provides a clean finish around the edge, and distinctly marks the driveway, it is often installed for aesthetic reasons. Another thing to consider is drainage. If you have edging installed around an asphalt driveway, you could have problems with water draining, once you’ve closed off the edges where water would typically run-off. This is often the case when overlaying existing driveways or adding edging after the driveway has been installed. The driveway edging should typically be installed prior to the driveway to avoid possible problems later on. Asphalt Berms or Tip-up Curbing can also be installed to help direct water flow