Asphalt Driveways - What You Need To Know

Lawrence Kim

An inviting attractive driveway with curb appeal adds value to your home, and is a popular choice of pavement surface for homeowners.  But what is asphalt and what makes it such a good option for your driveway surface?

What is asphalt?

Asphalt is a mixture of stone and sand aggregate combined with liquid asphalt cement.  The mixture is heated to about 3000F then laid on top of a compacted foundation base.  The mixture quickly cools and hardens to form the finished surface.

Benefits of asphalt

As well as the obvious pleasing aesthetics, an asphalt-surfaced driveway has other benefits.  It's very strong and durable, being specially engineered to stand up to thawing, freezing and water damage.   Asphalt is also designed to flex under slight settlement, unlike materials like concrete which just crack under stress. The material is relatively easy to repair; for example, if a utility line had to be placed beneath your driveway.  Some local authorities require that driveways are made porous to allow water to drain through to a reservoir below.  Porous asphalt is available for this purpose.

Asphalt is a very cost-effective option, too, as it lasts for many years with only minimal maintenance required.  Regular sweeping with a stiff brush to remove surface debris is usually all that's required to keep your driveway looking great. 

There are several different choices of finish available, as well as the traditional black, depending on the look you want to achieve.  Some asphalt contains coloured stones, and you can even buy a product that is made to look like block paving.

Full-depth asphalt and overlays

The best option for your driveway is to have it built entirely of full-depth asphalt from the foundation base up.  This means that water is kept out of the surface to prevent damage, and the driveway will be more flexible, durable and able to withstand heavy loads. 

Alternatively, you could opt to have your driveway overlaid with asphalt.  The results will still be pleasing, and the job will work out slightly cheaper.  The contractor will repair any cracks or holes in your existing driveway surface before laying 1.5 to 2 inches of asphalt over it.

Your contractor will advise you on the best time of year to have your driveway constructed.  Asphalt must be laid and compacted while it's hot and will also need to cool completely so that it hardens properly.  It's also important that the weather is dry so that the substrate onto which the asphalt is laid is not wet, which could result in shifting of the finished surface.

In conclusion

An asphalt driveway makes an attractive and practical addition to any home.  Have a chat with a local contractor, such as High Quality Asphalt, for full details on what's involved, and to get an estimate.