Installing, repairing or replacing an asphalt driveway can enhance your home’s curb appeal and increase its sale value. Asphalt is the most inexpensive and cost-efficient paving material. If installed correctly, it can last for more than 15 years, which also requires proper maintenance by crack filling and seal coating. Poor maintenance can result in the asphalt oils oxidising, which may cause premature cracking due to brittleness.
Asphalt is less visible to users but plays a huge role in the impression and safety of the homeowner. Poor grading, cracks or potholes gives a negative reaction to customers, residents, guests among other users.
Installing high-quality asphalt is vital to the outcome of your project. Find a balance between value and cost within your budget and determine how you will get the most for your buck.
Why choose Asphalt Over Other Materials for Paving?
Choosing the best material for your driveway depends on your budget and your local climate. There are several types of paving materials including gravel and brick pavers, but asphalt and concrete are the most commonly used. Why should you choose asphalt instead of concrete?
No one would like to spend more than you should to pave a driveway. Asphalt is cheaper than concrete, and it is easy to install.
Asphalt is known as the most eco-friendly paving material. In fact, if you are looking for a LEED certification, it is recommendable to include asphalt. It is porous; thus it can filter rainwater.
It is one of the long-lasting paving materials, and you can add to its lifespan with regular maintenance and replacing or resurfacing the surface level.
Does the weather in your area change frequently? If yes, asphalt is the ideal choice since it adapts to climate change and can flex while concrete would break. It is perfect for areas prone to extreme heat and snow. On the other hand, concrete is hard on salt and can break in hot weather or earthquake.
Easy to repair
Most asphalt driveway repairs and maintenance are simple and fast. For instance, holes, cracks and usual wear and tear only require filling and sealing. You can also use a seal coat to extend the life of your driveway, which you can do it yourself or hire a professional. On the other hand repairing concrete is complicated, expensive and requires the help of a specialist.
Asphalt material is the best choice for your driveway because other materials can take days for you to start using the driveway, while with asphalt, you can use it the same day. For example, concrete requires an average of seven days before you can drive on it. No one would like to park his/her car aside for seven days.
Comparison between asphalt, concrete, gravel and brick pavers
- Lowest first cost
- Simple construction
- Difficult snow clearing
- Periodic replacement
- Lower first cost
- Less site preparation
- Periodic re-sealing
- Cautious snow clearing
- Long life
- Low maintenance
- Durable, cleanable
- Decorative options
- Long life
- Low maintenance
- Stylish appearance
- High first cost
- High labour cost
- Cautious snow clearing
Types of Asphalt
There is a wide variety of asphalt depending on the type of your project. They include warm mix, porous and recycled asphalt mixes.
Warm mix asphalt is different from the usual hot mix asphalt. It is heated to 300°F in a mixing plant and kept hot during transport. Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) is used in the production of Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) paving material compacted at 30-120 degrees without compromising performance and quality. This advancement in technology results in reduced costs of paving, enhanced compaction, reduced the emission of greenhouse gases and improved working condition.
Porous asphalt has been used as an alternative to the traditional driveway. Porous driveways allow rainwater and runoffs through a pavement structure while the conventional one allows rainwater and runoff to drain into nearest parking lots, ditches or catch basins. Both driveways have safety and environmental benefits including:
- Improved runoff water management
- Noise reduction
- Improved skid resistance
Recycled Asphalt Pavement (RAP) is made from materials containing rocks/aggregates and asphalt obtained when asphalt driveways are done away with for resurfacing, new installation, or to access buried properties. If crushed and screened by the book, you get high-quality RAP and properly graded aggregate coated with asphalt cement. Recycling asphalt materials reduce depletion of natural resources and the cost of hot asphalt mix.
Common Mistakes during Asphalt Paving Installation
An asphalt paving project is difficult for an average homeowner to handle as a DIY project. An expert with proper training and tools should handle the job. Thus, common mistakes made by homeowners with such projects involve the planning and hiring processes. They include:
Failure to match your paving with your home design
With all the attractive and unique designs in asphalt stamping, you can easily get carried away. However, your goal should be to bring all elements to work in harmony and complement each other. For instance, if you have a pool area with an old-school design, there are many patterns to complement it exquisitely. Don’t just choose a stamping pattern because it is unique to avoid a sophisticated look. Although picking an exact match can be odd, select a pattern that complements instead of matching.
Hiring an inexperienced asphalt contractor
Asphalt application and installation seem so easy, which makes most homeowners to assume that every contractor understands what needs to be done. While most asphalt companies are experienced, reputable and reliable, always conduct s research. Don’t hire the first contractor you come across.
Experience is essential for all types of home improvement projects. The more experience the contractor and employees have, the more the job will likely turn out beautiful, on budget and on time.
Also, consider the location of your asphalt company. If you have a particular contractor in mind, ask him or her how long they have worked in your area. Factors such as local climate make a big difference in outdoor projects especially asphalt application. If the contractor has a basic knowledge of the factors, it will allow him or her to make the necessary adjustments and take precautions.
Final but not least, what type of asphalt application do you need? A company may have experience in pouring and finishing asphalt pavements but lack knowledge in stamped and decorative asphalt. Since all professions in the industry can access the necessary tools for detailed and decorative applications, lack of experience can result in a low-quality job. Ensure that the company you hire for your project has experience in the asphalt application you are looking for.
When Should you Repair, Patch, Resurface, Replace or Overlay?
Depending on the magnitude of the damage on your driveway, it is essential to decide whether you should repair, resurface with a new coat or pay for a replacement. Although complete replacement is the best choice, most homeowners shy away from it because it is costly and you need to lay a firm foundation. Instead, they patch up the bad spots, which is a cost-effective method in the short run, but could result in major problems later.
The continuous freeze-thaw cycles and the tons of metal moving on your driveway can cause damage. The damage appears as small cracks or divots across the surface, which only requires patching. Driveway cracks whose width is less than a quarter-inch indicate minor damages that can be quickly fixed with liquid crack-fillers and a sealant on top. The repairs are temporary because water can penetrate between the old and new materials and could end up opening the hole again.
Consider the age of your driveway
If your asphalt pavement is approximately 20 years old, then it’s time to consider a replacement. After prolonged exposure to external elements such as extreme heat and cold, the materials can start to fail. Don’t even dare to patch such driveways; it’s not worth the effort because new problems will always arise.
The current condition of your driveway is not the only factor that determines whether to replace or not. For instance, you may want to sell your house, but a crack can be a big turnoff to the potential buyers. Also, maybe your driveway enhances the curb appeal of your home, which is vital to some homeowners.
In such cases, we recommend a redo instead of patches. Patches may not be visible, but the problems can occur again when unexpected.
Before you pay a contractor to redo or patch your driveway, take into account the middle ground. Your contractor will get rid of the top layer and replace it. As a result, you get a driveway that looks new. Unless the foundation has problems, pits and cracks will hardly return for some time.
Instead of replacing or repairing your driveway, you can install an overlay. Asphalt overlay involves applying an asphalt layer on the existing one. It is ideal when there are numerous crumbling and cracking problems, but the driveway is in good condition. Also, an overlay can fix drainage problems, for instance, when water is moving towards your house.
Regular Asphalt Driveway Maintenance
Regular maintenance on your asphalt driveway can increase its lifespan. Seal the driveway after every 1 to 4 years depending on your local climate. Once you see cracks, repair them immediately to prevent the condition from worsening.
Tips for Paving a Firm Asphalt Driveway
Have you ever wondered why many asphalt driveways are uneven and cracked? Well, it’s mostly because the base is insufficient. If you want a blacktop driveway that can stand the test of time, then these tips will protect your investment.
1. Purchase quality stone base
Just like concrete, an asphalt driveway with a strong base can last for years. Asphalt with a firm base is just as strong as concrete and will hold up very well over time. Asphalt requires an 8-inch stone base and 2.5-inch blacktop because:
- Asphalt is flexible than concrete; thus it needs firm support.
- With an adequate stone base, it cannot crack during the freeze-thaw cycle in winter.
- A firm stone base will provide proper drainage system and load-bearing qualities.
- A strong stone base can support heavy vehicle traffic.
2. Hire the best asphalt company near you
A professional asphalt driveway contractor should have modern equipment and experienced employees. Over the last decade, construction equipment manufacturers have modernized the tools, which benefit both the client and contractor. The contractor will provide high-quality services while the homeowner benefits financially.
Also, understanding compaction methods, mat quality and the right joint construction can make a huge difference in longevity and quality of your asphalt driveway.
3. Use an asphalt binder
Consider paving using a binder for a strong driveway. Binder is coarse and long-lasting with 1-inch stones rather than the usual 3/8-inch stones. You can either use a coat of the binder or modified binder.
The modified binder is affordable, offers excellent water drainage and does not require the top or wearing course or the surface layer for sealing.
How Much Does It Cost You To Hire An Asphalt Company?
Driveways are long paths that take you through a landscape before you reach your destination. They are costly to build and maintain, and although gravel is the least expensive material, most homeowners prefer asphalt since they are affordable and durable.
The total estimated cost for 600 sq. ft. driveway, which is 12’x50’, is $830. However, the prices may vary if there are any curves and slopes.
|Land clearing and tree removal||Cost
|Cutting and chipping light trees||$48 per hour
|Removal of stumps||$68 each
|Chipping? rees larger than 18" in diameter||$20 to $40 per hour
|Tree removal||$13 to $20 per hour
|Complete site clearing||$150 to $400 per hour
|Grading||$1.43 per square yard
|Macadam treatment||$2 per square foot, or approxiamtely $1200 every six years
Although it is essential to work with an asphalt company strictly, you can consult an engineer if the driveway project is large and complex. For instance, sometimes you may face the risk of wear and tear due to poor drainage and frost. To prevent such a case from happening consult with a qualified engineer on design and installation.
If your driveway has curves or slopes, the cost of labour and material will automatically increase because it requires extra design and effort. If the driveway is to cross over a water body such a stream, the use of the right drainage will increase the total cost.
Such installations require a permit from planning or wetlands commission.
Factors that affect the cost
Asphalt is the commonly used material for constructing residential driveways. It comes with many benefits, for instance, it is affordable, durable and aesthetically pleasing. But how much should you plan on spending on both installation and maintenance? The following factors can help you determine the total cost.
During the planning process, consider the size of your driveway coverage area. A longer and wider driveway than a typical one requires more labour, time, base material and asphalt, which will cost you more for best results.
Although most driveways are rectangular, some homeowners prefer winding, curved, arched or rounded shapes. In such case, the excavation and installation processes are complex and time-consuming.
3. DIY vs Contractor
Are you planning to pave your driveway independently or do you need the help of an asphalt company? Although doing the project yourself can save you money, if you are not qualified, it may cost you more in the long run. Unless you are familiar and experienced, hiring a contractor is the best choice.
The scope of your project will determine the hours or days required to finish it. Even if you are doing it yourself, you might end up consuming more time. On the other hand, if you hire a company, ensure that you know the number of employees and the estimated cost of labour.
If you already have an existing driveway that requires re-paving or repair, you may need fewer tools. However, if you want to install a new driveway from scratch, you may require specific tools and machinery for digging up and excavating. If you are a DIY enthusiast, you may have to rent equipment such as paving machine and compactor to complete the project.
6. Asphalt Supplier
Different asphalt suppliers have different rates for their products and materials. Do not purchase or work with an asphalt contractor who gets supplies from intermediaries since they resell at exaggerated prices. Instead, buy from a supplier who operates an asphalt plant and sells at a wholesale price.
7. Asphalt Type
Are you planning to use recycled, porous, warm mix, or hot mix asphalt? Each material will cost you differently. Look for a supplier who provides various types of asphalt and one that can give you advice and recommendations on the materials that fit your project.
8. Curing Care
After installing the asphalt pavement, your contractor will ask you to park or drive on it for some days. This will ensure that the pavement does not incur expensive premature damages.
Have your asphalt driveway sealed after six months of installation. This will ensure your driveway is less prone to damages such as moisture, which could result in cracks and potholes. After the first sealing, re-seal it after every 1-2 years to extend your driveway’s lifespan, giving you the most value for your buck.
An asphalt driveway requires long-term maintenance to get the most from it. Always check for any cracks, fissures or any other small problem. You should consider patching and fixing any issue that arises immediately.
To determine the amount of asphalt needed to complete your project, measure the length, height and width of your site. Ask your asphalt company to give an estimate of the materials required in tons based on 148 pounds per cubic foot, which is the standard mix density. Although densities vary between mixes, the value is the standard rule for estimation.
What is the distance between your project site and your supplier’s production facility? Also, what type of asphalt do you need? The cost of transporting hot mix is different from transporting warm mix.
13. Market Factors
Factors such as crude oil prices, local and global economies, environmental regulations and construction activity also affect the cost of asphalt.
Tips for Finding Asphalt Companies
Choosing the best asphalt company is vital since a substandard work can get damaged in one or two years while a professional job can last up to 20 years. It is expensive to correct a poor job than it would have been to complete it initially. The tips below will help you in your pursuit for an experienced and professional asphalt company.
1. First thing, be aware!
We always hear some homeowners say that someone knocked on their doors claiming they have loads of asphalt left from a paving project on the neighbourhood. These people offer to pave their driveways at a discount if the homeowner pays cash. But think twice before you accept such an offer. It could be a scam. Although he/she may have the asphalt, it may be cold already and cannot lay out correctly. Or, he/she will not prepare the driveway as required.
2. Understand the standards of asphalt paving
Depending on the level of damage on your asphalt driveway, your contractor can decide to either add a layer on top of the driveway or to tear it out and replace it.
If applying a paving overtop, the asphalt company should apply approximately 2 inches of asphalt. The contractor should use commercial-grade asphalt instead of residential grade since the former is durable but rougher.
A completely redone asphalt driveway should have 3 inches of asphalt and a gravel base. For areas with poor drainage, the site may require a thicker base.
3. Don’t trust asphalt companies that use “secret” methods
You should avoid contractors who use cutting-edge techniques to complete paving projects. For instance, the contractor can claim that he has a new way of installing blacktop and that all reputable contractors use the same method. Asphalt paving is a large project that requires expensive equipment, so if he/she charges extremely lower than other bidders, you should be cautious.
4. Get multiple quotes
Get more than one quotes for your project. Even if you have a favourite asphalt company or a contractor who did your friend’s or neighbour’s driveway, get more quotes to compare prices, warranty and project inclusion.
Ensure that all contractors are aware you are getting multiple quotes. Bring the quotes together and rate them based on initial meeting, price, professionalism of the bids, and other features of the project. Check for inconsistencies and whether they use similar quantity and type of asphalt mix.
5. Consider scheduling
The best asphalt company book up quickly. Although factors such as weather can affect the installation process, a professional and experienced contractor should give an estimated start date.
Some can offer their services immediately, which can result in paying more or low-quality work. Durable materials and a high-quality job are worth the wait. Don’t rush for scheduling offers that are too good to be true.
6. Find out the reputation of the company
Since the old days, word of mouth has always been the best method of advertising, especially for contracting companies. Before you choose the best company to work for you or when you are comparing quotes, uncover the reputation of the contractors.
Check their websites for the time they have been in the industry and reviews. Ask for a list of references and whether they have done a similar project in the neighbourhood. Is the company listed with the BBB (Better Business Bureau)? How did they handle past disputes?
Ensure that you work with reputable contractors and vast experience in the industry to save yourself from unnecessary stress later.
7. Material selection
Asphalt is not the same. There are different types of asphalt grades containing a different percentage of recycled asphalt in them. Using low-quality asphalt can affect the look and longevity of your driveway. On the other hand, high-grade asphalt with a smaller amount of recycled material is the best.
8. Attention to details and references
Most reputable asphalt companies have satisfied clients who are ready to show off the work the company did. Ask for any project completed lately so that you can see it personally.
9. Down payment
It is advisable not to pay a down payment because reputable asphalt contractors can get materials from suppliers on credit. Paying a down payment may result in the asphalt company misusing the funds or never returning.
10. Don’t use price as the only criteria
Asphalt paving involves specific steps and materials. Don’t choose a company that gives the lowest quote because the contractor may cut corners, use low-quality materials or skip some steps to cut down costs. This will end up costing you more money n the long run.
Also, choose an asphalt company that offers both design and installation advice. The design is as important as construction. Ask questions such as: Is there a backup if a problem occurs? How many vehicles can fit?
How to spot professional and inexperienced asphalt paving company?
Such a company offers inferior materials such as low grade or recycled asphalt, or a mix not ideal for the climate around your area. They also provide fewer materials (less than 2-inches thick), next day installation and limited warranty coverage.
In addition, avoid at cost out-of-state or county asphalt companies unless they have worked in your area for long. Fraud contractors move from one region to the other as they provide low-quality while ripping off their clients’ money.
Tips on Asphalt Paving
Working with asphalt or blacktop is similar to working with other construction materials. It requires skills and knowledge, high-quality asphalt and base materials, well-maintained equipment, and favourable working and weather conditions. If one of the factors is compromised, you will most probably get a low-quality job. As we all say “the more you know, the higher the chances of success.” The following tips can help ask your contractor some intelligent questions:
Ensure that the finished driveway is at least 1/4 inch per foot with a proper drainage system on the asphalt. Your contractor should install a crown whereby the middle of the pavement is higher than the ends. This will ensure that water does not puddle on the asphalt.
The soil underneath your driveway is called the subgrade. Different types of soils have different strength qualities. If the type of your soil is clay, it is usually weak and can deform when heavy loads are put on top of it. Consult your local agricultural expert to know the type of soil in your driveway.
If you are installing a new driveway, get rid of the topsoil, roots and other substances that can decay. If there are utilities such as electric, sewer, gas, and water lines that will cross the driveway, make sure the contractor fills the trenches with gravel rather than soil. Soil can settle resulting into a depression.
If the soil is prone to erosion, install a drain tile under the base. A drain tile prevents the water from softening the soil which can damage the base. You can also consider using a geo-tech fabric, which prevents the mud from mixing with gravel. If the site has heavy vegetation, sterilise the soil to hinder plant growth.
For a crack-resistant surface, you must have a strong base or foundation. The foundation and the soil beneath support the loads placed on the driveway. There are usually two types of base including gravel base and asphalt base. Standard crushed gravel base is installed on firm, high-quality, compacted soils. Depending on the type of soil and the vehicles using the driveway, the base can be a minimum of 6 inches up to 10 inches thick.
On the other hand, you can have an asphalt base which is almost similar to the standard base except that the rocks in the asphalt mix are large. Large rocks give the asphalt base the strong qualities, and it doesn’t have to be thick as the gravel base. Also, the asphalt base is ideal for areas with poorly drained soils or clay.
Questions to Ask Your Asphalt Company
Most homeowners are afraid of hiring a contractor since a lot of money is at stake, and they leave their property under the care of strangers. Most probably you are also worried about the same thing, but the following question will help you find the best company you can trust with your project and your belongings.
1. Will you assess the soil’s condition?
Asphalt should be installed on stable ground for it to last for more years. The stability needs knowledge and understanding of the soil’s drainage, erosion and overall stability. The contractor should also know about site grading based on the quality of the soil.
2. What is the estimate of the project?
An estimate gives you a rough idea of the amount you will spend on the project. Ask whether it includes site preparation, weather delays, and transportation cost. If there are other speciality contractors involved, is the schedule appropriately coordinated? A professional asphalt company knows how to prepare a comprehensive budget and schedule that meets all your requirements.
3. Will you prep the project’s site?
Asphalt companies play a huge role before they lay down the asphalt. They operate heavy machinery and equipment such as paver and cold planner to ensure proper soil grading and composition. Experience in site preparation is imperative so that your driveway can be smooth, levelled, support drainage, and hold up wear and tear in the future from constant use, ground shifting, and extreme weather.
4. For how long you operated in the remodelling and construction industry?
Although you can use the general reputation to narrow down your choices, it’s essential to have detailed information about the company before you make your final decision. How many years have they operated in the remodelling and construction industry? Can they educate you in the process? Do they have a well-trained employee who will be on site at all times? Can I have the contacts of the employee? Are there local bylaws involving heavy machinery and trucks? If yes, can you obtain the required permits? What asphalt mix will you use and what thickness can I expect?
An experienced contractor should answer the questions clearly, confidently and honestly. If not, move to the next company.
5. Can I get an in-depth written contract?
Don’t fall for scammers! Always ask for a written contract before depositing any funds or signing any contracts. It should include:
- Total cost of the project including taxes
- Terms of payment
- Warranty coverage
- Project’s details such as size of the site, base specs, thickness of the asphalt
- Terms and conditions
Read the contract carefully and understand what is written to ensure the contractor has outlined everything. This will prevent you from losing your investments and future headaches.
Most companies will ask for a down payment to pay up front for the materials or to book a position on their schedule. Before you release the last payment, make sure the paving complies with the setout details. If not, appeal to the company and ask for a proper completion.
6. Are you licensed and insured?
The best asphalt paving company should be ready to provide copies of license and insurance. The documents protect their employees in case of an accident, their equipment, and your property.
7. Do you offer a warranty?
Customer satisfaction is a priority for any reputable asphalt paving company. Asking for workmanship and material warranty guarantees you that the contractor will complete the project to the industry standards and meet your unique needs as agreed at the beginning. Warranties are different depending on the project, so you should have details in writing at the start. Professionals should also give you tips on how to extend the life of your new driveway.