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Taking Care of Your Asphalt Driveway and Other Paving Surfaces

Asphalt provides a cost effective method of paving for driveways, pathways and recreational pads. But this affordable material requires maintenance and special care must be taken to ensure your asphalt driveway and other paved surfaces remain smooth and solid for years to come. Check out these tips on asphalt driveway care and help keep the exterior of your home beautiful for years to come.

What Is Asphalt?

Understanding how asphalt is made helps make sense of the care requirements. Often called blacktop or simply paving, hot mixed asphalt contains aggregate materials (often gravel, rocks chips and/or sand) and a binder (asphalt cement). These materials are mixed together under hot temperatures to activate the binding agent and force the ingredients together.

Once the asphalt has been prepared properly and hauled to the jobsite, contractors spread it out onto a packed base of gravel and sand and compact the asphalt mix to further solidify the binding. Rollers are used to create a smooth surface, and sealers may be applied after the asphalt has had time to cure.

Immediate Care

The most critical time for asphalt care is directly after completion. Keep cars, trucks, bicycles, and any heavy equipment or vehicles off of your asphalt driveway for a least a few days, longer in hot weather.

Asphalt cement contains thermoplastics that harden in cooler temperatures and soften in heat. This makes a newly poured (and still somewhat warm) asphalt driveway susceptible to damage from excessive weight and force. Severe heat softens an established asphalt pad, but usually not enough to cause noticeable damage unless both the heat and force are extended for long periods.

Your asphalt contractor will leave instructions about immediate care, including these vital tips:

  • DO NOT park your vehicles on the driveway for at least three to five days.
  • DO remove basketball nets and other large or heavy sports equipment from the surface for at least three to five days.
  • When parking motorcycles and bicycles on the surface, as well as equipment with small wheels, DO use a block under kickstands and wheels to distribute the load across a broader surface.
  • DO NOT turn the steering wheel of your vehicle while in park on the asphalt.

All of these incidents can damage a smooth asphalt surface, leaving permanent markings, gouges and dents that reduce the drainage and durability of your driveway.

Some components of asphalt cement come from crude oil, making this material susceptible to chemical breakdown when exposed to other oil-based products or fuels. Your contractor should provide some immediate care tips related to spills, such as:

  • Always take immediate action when oil-based products or fuels are spilled onto the asphalt surface.
  • Start by absorbing any excess still on the asphalt surface, using cloth, sponges or other absorbent materials. Dispose of this material with care.
  • Use your hose to thoroughly dilute the area. Be careful to direct water run off away from gardens and sensitive grassy areas.
  • Apply a household cleaner with degreaser to the spill area and scrub with a non-metallic brush (shop brooms work well). Rinse again with water.

Longevity and Continuing Care of Asphalt Driveways and Paving

In most cases, well-laid quality paving will last for years with very little care. Some climate conditions create greater levels of wear and tear, including cracking and softening. Homeowners can invest a little bit of money in keeping their asphalt driveway and paving surfaces looking great. But always be mindful of unnecessary products and services on the market, packaged and sold as essential to asphalt care.

Sealing is completed by a specialized contractor or can be done by industrious homeowners with the right equipment on hand. Colder climates may cause your asphalt to shrink - in fact, asphalt cement shrinks, causing the entire mixture to contract and split apart slightly. Although newer mixtures of asphalt have been concocted to deter this condition, extreme cold and wide temperature swings may still cause cracking.

Water runs through even the tiniest cracks, traveling through the asphalt layers into the base below, and washing out the sand and gravel support. In some cases this leads to crumbling asphalt, miniature potholes and a bumpy surface. Once the base is washed away, replacement remains the only viable option. This project involves ripping out the existing asphalt, excavating the base area and laying a new base, before applying a fresh layer of asphalt.

Sealing provides a protective layer against water. It will not stop cracking, since it does not change the asphalt mixture in any way or alter the characteristics of asphalt cement. Sealing merely creates a thin oil-based coating to repel water away from surface cracks, preserving the integrity of the base. Some homeowners apply sealing to create a darker look, or freshen up the surface. Sealing can be done as often as desired, although it does not guarantee a crack-free surface.

When your asphalt driveway or paving has deteriorated with time, applying a thin overlay of fresh asphalt is often the best method of maintenance. As long as the top layer is compatible with the original mixture (avoid using tar-based asphalt on hot mixed asphalt, as described above), this limited application will reinstate the strength and create an attractive finish.

Asphalt paving can be used to create safe, smooth driveways and pathways. It creates a comfortable surface for sports such as basketball and tennis. Other uses include an economical patio, or shed pad.

Take good care of your asphalt driveway and paving surfaces to ensure durability and an attractive appearance. Immediate care measures include keeping heavy equipment and vehicles off the surface for a few days and avoiding the use of kickstands or small wheels (such as those on dollies) without a board for load distribution. Always clean up oil-based spills right away and consider whether sealing is a wise option to avoid base deterioration. Asphalt driveways and paving should last for years with little maintenance.

Posted by: diana
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