Tips for Paving an Asphalt Driveway

Fresh asphalt driveway and home exterior.
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There are a number of significant benefits to paving a driveway, including better parking, greater curb appeal, and the ability to keep the exterior of the home in tip-top shape. Paving an asphalt driveway is well within the skill set of most homeowners, but it is important to do plenty of research and determine what is needed to complete the job. To pave an asphalt driveway well, follow these tips.

1. Add a Gravel Base

Perhaps the most important part of paving an asphalt driveway takes place before the first asphalt is poured. It is important to lay down a good gravel base in order to have a well-functioning driveway. A gravel base between 2 and 8 inches thick is sufficient for most jobs. A base that is either too thin or too thick will produce an inferior driveway, so pay careful attention to the base.

2. Understand Asphalt

Asphalt itself is a mixture of aggregate. It contains stones, sand, and liquid asphalt cement. This cement is a petroleum product that is heated to the point where it becomes a liquid. This liquid cement and aggregate mixture is poured over the top of the gravel base to create the driveway.

Asphalt will produce a thick, black driveway that absorbs heat in the winter, helping to melt any new snow or ice that falls on the surface. This type of driveway is also quite durable, suffering from a minimal amount of crack damage. Even so, asphalt driveways may not be as durable in colder climates where the ground freezes below the surface.

3. Chip Seal

In order to help alleviate some of the weather damage experienced by asphalt driveway owners, paving companies and construction firms have experimented with the water composition of asphalt in order to achieve colder resistant varieties. This more weather resistant asphalt driveway is sometimes called a chip seal, and it is made with asphalt in which 30 percent of the liquid cement in regular asphalt has been replaced with water. When the asphalt is laid down, the heat of the asphalt causes the water within the mixture to evaporate, resulting in a more weather resistant finish.

After the water has evaporated from the asphalt driveway, a layer of crushed gravel is then sprayed on top of the asphalt. A special spreader is used to scatter the small pieces of gravel over the newly poured asphalt, and a drum roller is then used to pack down the sprayed-on gravel.

Since the asphalt is still warm, it will hold onto the sprayed pieces of gravel, adding texture to the finished driveway. This is known in the industry as a "chip seal" driveway, and it is becoming increasingly popular.