HomeownerHelpful Info: Outdoor Projects

Driveways – Asphalt

Asphalt Driveways Educational Content

Asphalt is a cost-effective option for a new driveway. If you live in a part of the country with tough winters, asphalt is an especially smart choice. Asphalt flexes without losing strength, so it can weather years of freeze-thaw cycles. Asphalt’s dark color can also help melt snow or icy buildup on the driveway.

When it’s installed the right way, an asphalt driveway can last decades. The key to a durable asphalt surface is a well-prepared base. The soil beneath the driveway should be firmly compacted before asphalt is poured. Traditionally, asphalt surfaces are installed on a base of crushed gravel. The depth of the gravel layer depends on soil quality and the driveway’s use. Most contractors use a gravel base of four to six inches for residential purposes.

Where possible, the strongest and highest-quality option is full-depth asphalt. This means that the entire driveway is made up of the asphalt mixture. This method eliminates the gravel base layer. According to the National Asphalt Pavement Association, one inch of asphalt is as strong as three inches of gravel. In a full-depth installation, the asphalt goes directly on the soil base. This means that the job uses less material but results in a stronger driveway. A residential driveway usually has a minimum of four inches of asphalt. Some contractors use up to six inches if you’ll be parking heavy vehicles on the driveway. The completed surface should have a slope of at least one quarter inch per foot. This important step helps prevent problems with standing water. Asphalt must be installed when the mixture is hot. In cold weather, the asphalt can cool down too quickly. This means that the contractor doesn’t have much time to spread the mixture. Asphalt that isn’t hot enough is also harder to work with. If you live in a warm climate, you’ll have fewer restrictions on when asphalt work can be done. If you live in a colder part of the country, plan your asphalt work for the summer months.

Your asphalt driveway will need to be sealed about nine months to a year after it’s installed. Sealing protects your driveway from the effects of oil, weather, and salt. Remember that the sealant is only a coating. It will eventually start to wear away. To maintain the integrity of the driveway, have it resealed every two to three years.

Inspect your driveway at least once per year. Have significant cracks fixed promptly. Cracks don’t look great, and they can let water seep into the asphalt. Over time, that moisture can erode the driveway’s surface.