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A new driveway is a major investment, one you want to last as long as possible. This starts with choosing the right material. One of the most popular paving materials on the market is asphalt, commonly praised for its appearance, durability, and relatively low cost. While longevity is based on factors such as maintenance, materials, and proper insulation, an asphalt driveway that is properly cared for can last 12 to 35 years.
Quality Material Equals a Quality Asphalt Driveway
As with just about any other product or purchase, your asphalt driveway will only be as good as the materials that go into it, so choose quality materials. It is recommended to stay away from third-party vendors or dealers that aren't involved in the production process. The upfront price tag may be attractive, but lower quality materials reduce the overall lifespan of the asphalt, resulting in higher costs over time.
The best thing to do is to find a local manufacturer that operates their own plant and consistently produces quality products. Read reviews, talk to professionals, and ask others how certain brands have worked for them to help form an idea of the best solution for you. Also remember that recycled materials are not necessarily the same as low-quality materials. Properly done, recycled materials can be reintroduced to hot mix asphalt (HMA) and provide the same strength as new asphalt at a lower cost.
Professionally Installed Asphalt Driveways
Installation is a major component of the longevity of your asphalt driveway. Lower costs can tempt you to complete the installation on your own, but unless you have experience in working with asphalt, it is not recommended. The process is more challenging than it seems and what appears to be a small mistake could turn out to be a major problem that lowers the lifespan and raises the cost of your driveway.
Contact a professional contractor who has experience with asphalt to handle installation for you. A good contractor takes the time to consider your drainage needs, level and grade your driveway, and uses the right materials to lay down your base and sub-base before paving. Don't be afraid to speak to more than one contractor; if one is not meeting your needs or doing the job right, you can always find another who will.
Asphalt Driveway Proper Curing Time
You can have the best materials in the world installed by an expert in asphalt paving, but that won't mean anything if you don't give your driveway enough time to properly cure. A short curing time leads to dents, scars, and other damage that affect the appearance and structural integrity of the driveway. It is recommended to wait between 48 and 72 hours after the asphalt has been poured before you drive, park, or walk on it.
Some people recommend waiting up to five days before using an asphalt driveway. It takes another 6 to 12 months before the asphalt hardens fully after the initial curing period. While the driveway is usable, avoid parking in the same spot or using car jacks or ramps (unless a wood block is placed underneath) to prevent possible issues.
Sealcoat Your Asphalt Driveway
Severe weather conditions may damage asphalt. The biggest cause of deterioration is moisture, and heavy or frequent rain and snow leave a massive impact. But a proper sealcoat protects your driveway and ensures that it lasts for years to come.
Your instinct may be to seal your driveway as soon as it's installed, but sealing it too soon actually does more harm than good. Wait until the full 6 to 12 month asphalt curation period has ended before sealing your driveway. You also need to reapply the sealant every two to three years to make sure it holds strong.
Watch for Weeds
Grass, weeds, and the roots of larger plants may to push their way through the asphalt. For the most part, you can take care of pesky vegetation with a spot killer. But larger plants or trees near the driveway will most likely need to be removed to avoid long-term issues. If you do have a tree near the driveway but do not wish to remove it, the only solution when roots push through is to fill the cracks every year.
How Much Does an Asphalt Driveway Cost?
Asphalt driveway costs vary according to the size of the driveway, whether it's new pavement or a resurfacing, and local labor costs.
- The average cost of a residential asphalt driveway is around $4,500
- Asphalt averages between $3 and $4 per square foot
- The base coat costs between $1 and $2.50 per square foot, on average
- Sealants also average between $1 and $2.50 per square foot
- Decorative top coats cost between $3 and $5 per square foot
- A foundation including 8" to 10" of gravel adds another $1 to $2.50 per square foot
You may also need to clear or excavate the area intended for paving. Labor rates vary widely, depending on your area. Expect to pay between $50 and $200 per hour for excavation and clearing.
Asphalt Driveway Preventative Maintenance and Timely Repairs
Re-sealing your driveway every few years is only one part of the regular maintenance you should perform. It is important to monitor for even the smallest of cracks, as they can fill with moisture and cause problems. Moisture especially causes issues during peak freeze/thaw cycles, since the water expands and puts extra pressure on the asphalt. There are small patch kits available that allow you to fill cracks as soon as you notice them.
Damage can also be prevented by avoiding high speeds as you pull into or out of your driveway, making sure your vehicles do not leak fluid onto the asphalt, and using an asphalt-safe ice melting material during the winter.