Asphalt paving offers a wide variety of benefits for both home and business owners. New asphalt paving looks great, is extremely durable, and installation is quick and easy. When installed correctly, asphalt creates a smooth driving surface that adds to the curb appeal of a business or home and is better for both your budget and the planet. Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of asphalt paving to help you find and hire the right asphalt paving contractor.
What is Asphalt Paving?
Asphalt is a mixture of aggregate (chunks of solid materials), binders, and fillers. Common aggregates are sand, rock, gravel, and concrete slag. Bitumen is your typical binder. These are carefully mixed, then ‘baked’ together to form the asphalt you see in roads and parking lots everywhere. It’s almost always 100% recycled, safe, durable, and very efficient at it’s job. It’s also one of the safest surfaces for wheeled vehicles, and can be very efficient for water drainage if the correct type is used. It’s also simple to repair.
Asphalt Paving Benefits
Regardless of where it is implemented, commercial or residential, parking lot, driveways or roads, asphalt offers many benefits and reasonable costs.
1) Asphalt Material is Recyclable
Believe it or not, asphalt is 100 percent recyclable. In fact, it is the most recycled material in the country.
Without a doubt, recycling asphalt is good for the environment, but did you know it’s good for the product itself, too?
Using recycled asphalt mix is actually much stronger and longer lasting than virgin asphalt mix, and it has a higher resistance to rutting, as well.
2) Asphalt Paving Lasts Longer
An asphalt driveway or road can last as long as 20 years if installed by an experienced asphalt paving contractor. This is especially true if you maintain the surface properly.
3) Asphalt Reduces Road Noise
Because the material used in asphalt paving and its fine-grained surface, paving asphalt absorbs road noise rather than reflecting it, making it the “quiet” paving choice.
4) Asphalt is Lower in Cost
Generally, the cost for asphalt paving is cheaper than concrete paving. With that said, because crude oil is a key ingredient in asphalt, prices can often fluctuate along with oil prices.
5) Asphalt Paving is Quick
Asphalt paving projects can be completed quickly with modern equipment and because the materials needed for asphalt paving can be acquired quickly.
6) Asphalt Paving Promotes Water Drainage
While all asphalt promotes water drainage, some types of asphalt are better at it than others. For example, porous asphalt allows water to seep through it into a special gravel layer that filters the water back into the soil beneath. Other types of asphalt can be used to redirect water elsewhere where it can be better managed and cause less damage.
7) Asphalt Paving Makes Travel Safer
Asphalt paving around your home or business can help make it safer for pedestrian and/or vehicle traffic. Because asphalt aids in water drainage, it reduces the risk of skidding, while its dark color absorbs solar energy to melt ice and snow quickly to reduce the risk of personal injury and car accidents.
8) Asphalt Paving Can Be Customized
Yes, you read that right! There are 100s of different sizes and mixes that can be used in asphalt, and it can be adapted into almost any shape. This means that it’s perfect to fill in awkward gaps around your home and garden, or to seamlessly fit into spaces standardized paving can’t. That’s why it’s also perfect for a parking lot and other commercial processes, too.
Types of Asphalt
So, what types of asphalt are available to you? Despite the many customization options open to you, there’s four broad categories into which asphalt falls.
Cold Mix Asphalt
Water-repellent and soft in cold temperatures, this mix is ideal for repairing potholes. It’s also very easy for contractors to make, meaning it’s versatile throughout the year.
Hot Mix Asphalt
HMA refers to asphalt that’s used at temperatures between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s the most commonly encountered commercial asphalt and has a huge range of uses. It can be further broken into further types:
Consists of either fine-graded aggregate, using mostly sand and small stones; or coarse-graded, which has larger particles. It’s sometimes called ‘asphaltic concrete’ . The aggregate, mineral filler, and bitumen are all consistent through the mix
Stone matrix asphalt:
This gap-graded asphalt is used to ensure deformation resistance and durability through aggregate-on-aggregate contact. It doesn’t deform much, and isn’t prone to rutting. It can be expensive, so is only used in situations where that added durability flips it to cost effective. It’s great to avoid damage from studded winter tires, so is often used by commercial contractors rather than in domestic applications.
This is a coarse aggregate mix with air voids for water drainage.
These hot types are often used in parking lots and on high-traffic roadways, where you need to avoid fatigue, reflection cracking, rutting, or shoving.
Warm Mix Asphalt
WMA is made at temperatures between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. It needs less fossil fuels in it’s production, making it environmentally friendly, but needs more binding material to compensate. It’s a cheaper choice than HMA but has many applications globally, especially in pavements.
The most environmentally-friendly paving solution, you may even catch a tax break using this for your project! Tiny gaps in the material allow storm water to seep away naturally, too. It’s important to realize that porous asphalt is not the same as permeable asphalt.
Coarse Graded Asphalt
This is a binder used to give support to finer-grade dense mixes used on the surface. It’s a cheaper way to provided the support and stability to the upper layers.
The Asphalt Paving Process
There are several steps your paving contractor will deal with during the asphalt paving process. It begins with removing the existing surface.
1. Grading the Surface
Once the existing surface has been removed, an asphalt paving contractor prepares the exposed surface by sloping it toward grassy areas. This grading process discourages water from pooling on the asphalt surface, and porous asphalt helps as well.
2. Adding the Sub-Base Layer
After grading the surface, the first layer is added. Called the sub-base layer, this layer supports the entire asphalt structure and is made up of aggregate materials, most of which are crushed stones.
3. The Binder Layer
After the sub-base layer comes the binder layer, which is made of bitumen and oil. The resulting layer is extremely strong and durable. Following the binder is a proof layer that helps identify any “soft” spots that won’t support a heavy load. If soft spots are present, workers will dig them out and fill them with stronger aggregates before adding the top layer.
4. The Asphalt Layer
After the sub-base layer is nice and strong, the top layer of asphalt is put down. Workers use large, heavy machinery to roll and compact the asphalt to a smooth surface. Asphalt is ready to use as soon as it has cooled, but cars shouldn’t drive on it for at least 24 hours to avoid damage to the new surface.
New asphalt is black, but as the sun beats down on it, the surface oxidizes and turns gray. This oxidation is important, but it must be stopped at some point to ensure the asphalt lasts a long time. Curing is the only way to stop the oxidation process, and it needs to be done about 30-90 days after the asphalt paving is completed.
Asphalt Paving Damage and Repair
Most asphalt damage and/or failures are a result of improper installation or failure to conduct preventive maintenance. If your asphalt surface exhibits signs of damage, it’s best to address it quickly as small issues are easier and costs will be lower than fixing large cracks later.
Why does asphalt crack?
Cracks are a common problem with asphalt surfaces. Typical reasons for cracks to occur are:
- Improper design: This includes poor pavement thickness and poor base thickness
- Lack of maintenance: Failing to seal a crack early or use sealcoating will lead to structural failure later.
- Weakened seams: Often caused by environmental issues like water build-up
- Sub-grade: Poorly chosen sub-grade that can’t bear the right load will fail over time.
Knowing WHY your asphalt failed is as important as repairing it. Otherwise you’re doomed to see it reoccur over and over again. A professional can help you determine if it’s due to heavy traffic areas or endemic to the whole project. Sometimes you may need to invest in coring to take samples and evaluate the stability of the surface and uncover problems like clay intermingling and water seepage.
How do I maintain my asphalt surface?
A little bit of regular maintenance can keep your asphalt surface looking good for decades to come.
Here’s what you should know:
Sealcoat for extra protection
Sealcoating asphalt will extend it’s lifespan by reduction the effects of the environment on the surface. It should be applied immediately after installation, and reapplied every 3 to 5 years.
If you notice a crack or indentation, get it fixed. It’s especially worth a visual inspection after winter, when snow and cold can cause damage. When you seal a crack immediately, water can’t penetrate and cause further damage.
Chemicals or contaminants on the surface can degrade it, so it pays to keep it clean. If your asphalt is stained, or there’s dirt accumulating, it’s time to crack out a broom.
Don’t allow water to pool
While you can’t help rainstorms and other natural occurrences, standing water can damage the asphalt and lead to potholing. Try to keep the surface dry, and if you notice puddles repetitively forming, you may need to look at your drainage solutions.
Schedule with a contractor
For peace of mind, you can set up a contract to have a professional keep your asphalt maintenance up to date.
What problems can asphalt develop?
Asphalt cracks should be filled with a sealant that keeps water from causing any further damage as soon as you see them. If cracks in asphalt are left unchecked, they will eventually grow bigger, resulting in potholes that compromise the asphalt’s surface and increase overall maintenance costs.
Potholes, depressions, base failure, and stripping are all problems asphalt can encounter. Some of these can be repaired, while others require a complete replacement of the asphalt surface to fix the issue, especially if issues are not recognized and repairs initiated quickly.
Common asphalt problems to watch out for
Here’s some key problems to watch out for:
- Potholes: Heavy traffic often causes small chunks to loosen, becoming large over time. Snow, water, and melt water also cause them, especially when they melt and freeze (expanding and contracting) in cycles
- Cracks: Cracks are the most common type of asphalt damage. There’s 6 common crack types: Alligator, transverse, longitudinal, block, edge, and slippage. These all have different characteristics that can help an expert understand what’s caused them, but they have one thing in common- they need to be sealed immediately.
- Depressions: Here missing material or poorly leveled surfaces create natural areas for water to pool, leading to trouble.
- Separation: When the asphalt and it’s component aggregate chunks separate, the surface dislodges, leading to cracks and weaknesses
- Base failure: Everything from a poor choice of base material to poor drainage, too much weight, installation mistakes, or a lack of support can lead to the sub-base failing. This will be a big job, requiring the whole surface layer to be stripped.
Can asphalt be repaired?
The great news is that almost any asphalt crack or pothole can be repaired if handled soon enough. An experienced contractor will evaluate the site and outline the best way to proceed, but here’s a few common asphalt repair techniques.
- Crack filling: Here a sealant is pumped into smaller cracks to ensure water can’t pool or damage lower layers. This is a quick and cost-effective repair that will restore surface integrity. If you wait too long, however, you can’t fill the crack, and you will be looking at a more costly repair.
- Sealcoating: We already mentioned sealcoat, but it’s worth the repeat. Regular sealing helps prevent environmental damage and increases asphalt adhesion. It also visually restores it to the sleek, dark look of a fresh installation.
- Patching: Patching is a non-ideal solution, but acceptable for smaller potholes. The damaged area must be cleaned up, have debris removed, have the foundation repaired, and then be expertly filled in such a way that it will integrate with the existing surface rather than act as a ‘plug’ that can pop out again. Tamping makes sure that the fixed pothole won’t turn into a depression to gather more water.
- Milling: Milling invokes skimming off the top asphalt layer without removing the full construction, and works best when the surface is damaged but the subbase is stable. It’s quick and cost effective, too.
- Overlay: This is, effectively, a massive patch job, used in areas that are too cracked or pitted to repair individually but which aren’t quite damaged enough to mill the whole thing.
- New installation: Regrettably, if a poor job was done to start with, or the damage has gone unrepaired for too long, a new installation may be the only option.
If the asphalt pavement outside your business needs some attention, contact an asphalt paving contractor such as Airtight Construction as soon as possible to find out what options are available for restoring its original beauty and durability. Whether you need a parking lot paving project, or a basic asphalt overlay for your home driveway, competent paving contractors like ATC can minimize the cost and save you money while keeping your asphalt paving project on time and on budget.
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