Asphalt Paving 101: The Essential Things You Need to Know About Asphalt

Asphalt is a common driveway material that is popularly used for residential driveways, commercial parking lots, and on roads and national highways. Obviously there’s a multitude of reasons why a lot of people prefer asphalt over any other paving material but first let’s dive to the facts. What is in asphalt that makes it a suitable substance for pavement construction?

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt also called “bitumen” is what gives the midnight black color of driveways, roads, and other pavements. Perhaps, you’ve seen it before. It’s the black and sticky, viscous liquid form of petroleum mixed with crushed aggregates of rock, sand, and gravel. The compound is then heated to about 300°F where it is then delivered and poured onto your subgrade. Consequently, a heavy steamroller will make sure that the material is tight and compacted properly so that when it cools down, it’ll be ready for some action.

What are the benefits of using asphalt?

Asphalt isn’t popular for no reason. As a matter of fact, it’s notable for its durability and inexpensiveness. It’s actually one of the most affordable options you have and they can last a fair amount of time if you keep them well-maintained. Some of the benefits of using asphalt for your pavement are as follows:

  • It’s cost-effective.

We’re not saying that asphalt is the cheapest option you have, but asphalt sure is worth your money if you take good care of it. On average, the cost of installing an asphalt pavement can go from $2 to $5 depending on where you are located and the size of your property. You can ask for referrals from your friends and family for a good and trustworthy paving contractor for you or you can search for local paving companies in your area. For instance, you can just type in “asphalt paving contractors in Olympia WA” if you’re located in Olympia, Washington. Simply replace the locale with your own city and you’re good to go.

  • It’s durable.

By nature, asphalt is in itself, pliable and elastic. It can serve you for a good 12 to 15 years if you keep it well-maintained. In addition, it’s flexible enough to withstand nature’s harsh freeze-thaw cycle. During the freeze-thaw cycle, your pavement expands and contracts along with the change in season. During summer, when the heat is intense, your pavement may become brittle and susceptible to cracking and when that occurs, water tends to seep through the cracks and settle there. As a consequence, the water inside would freeze by wintertime thus causing the pavement to stretch out. As it begins to melt by the end of winter, you’re left with a surface riddled with more cracks and holes.

Although we’re not saying it’s impossible with an asphalt surface, the elasticity of asphalt, however, can reduce that side effect so you’ll have minimal rifts and fissures on your pavement. Of course, this goes on to say that proper maintenance would still definitely play a major role here.

  • It’s easy to repair.

Unlike other materials that require a ton of expertise, gears and sophisticated equipment to fix, repairing an asphalt pavement can be a simple DIY work. Depending on the gravity of the damage, simple repairs can be done with a filler, a caulking gun, and a tamper which you can easily purchase from your local hardware store. Patching up small holes and hairline cracks wouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg in repairs. But be careful because not all repairs can be a DIY project; those that are severely mangled or those that have a battered subgrade or a collapsed foundation should be dealt with properly by a professional paving contractor.

  • It has a smooth surface and an attractive black finish.

Let’s not deny it: the smooth black finish of an asphalt pavement looks so inviting. It looks good on any driveway and any commercial parking lot especially if it’s preserved well and regularly maintained. But aside from its aesthetic appeal, the texture of asphalt increases traction thereby reducing the risk of accidents. You can say that it’s also probably one of the reasons why we highly use asphalt on our roads and highways.

  • It reduces noise.

According to the EAPA or the European Asphalt Pavement Association, the recent development of porous asphalt has the capacity to reduce the noise generated from the vehicles passing through which makes them great for roads and commercial parking lots. If you happen to also have noise problems around your neighborhood, you can consider installing one for your driveway too.

  • It’s eco-friendly.

Asphalt is 100% recyclable making it environmentally safe and friendly. In fact, in the United States, recycled asphalt is often used for rebuilding roads.

Now that we’ve tackled the basics, it’s time to answer the most asked question when planning for an asphalt installation.

Can you really pave during cold weather or when it’s raining?

For some, this might be common sense but it’s still important to get the word out once and for all. The answer is while you can begin the job in frigid weather, the cold can affect the quality of your pavement. You see, you need your asphalt mixture to be steaming hot hence, cold weather can speed up the cooling down process and you might just end up with an unfinished pavement.

As for “Is it okay to pave when it’s raining?,” the answer is you absolutely cannot. The reason is that asphalt as we’ve said earlier is composed of petroleum which is oil and rainwater repels oil. It would be extremely difficult to pave while it’s raining as it seems almost impossible to compress the compound because water would loosen the composition resulting in gaps in the construction.

That said, the best time to pave is during spring or summer where the heat is forgiving and the weather is suitable for the installation.

We hope with this information, we are able to give you at least a jumpstart of the basics. You wouldn’t be an instant asphalt paving master with this article, but as a property owner this should help you understand what asphalt is and how it could be of advantage to your home or business.


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