Asphalt is a great material to use for a driveway. It is more flexible than concrete, cheaper and easier to maintain. Old concrete driveways chip, flake, and break. To repair, you usually need to tear it up and replace it. With asphalt, chipping and cracking are minimal if the driveway is laid properly and the sub-base and ground were also correctly prepared and leveled. And if you’re thinking black is boring, think again. Now asphalt can be stamped with patterns and comes in many colors so you can pick a design and color to suit your taste!
Most paving contractors will use crushed gravel as a sub-base because it is inexpensive and will work well in most situations. If you are going to have extraordinary weight and traffic on the drive, you may want to request a larger gravel base. Your contractor will be able to advise you on whether or not this is necessary. This should also be compacted.
The actual installation of the asphalt pavement is a difficult chore that takes heavy machinery and time. The asphalt should be laid with allowance for drainage, meaning your driveway, though it may appear flat, will be slightly higher in the middle than on the edges to encourage good drainage. After this is finished, your driveway will need to cure for a few days before it is sealed.
Costs vary widely depending on your specific needs and the part of the country you live in. Climate is also a factor because, in tougher climates, you may need a thicker layer of asphalt. Call your local asphalt pavers and have a few of them come out and give you estimates to determine the cost per square foot.
The first and most important step in getting the most out of an asphalt driveway is the ground prep. Improperly preparing the ground, or just not preparing it, will take years off the life of your driveway. An experienced paving contractor will know that you have to remove the old driveway material, excavate (removing vegetation and topsoil) and grade and compact the soil to the proper elevation, keeping in mind proper drainage. All of this, when done correctly, is good preparation for the sub-base material to be laid.
Note that not all soil is suitable as a base. If there is too much clay or shale in the soil, it will have to be replaced before going to the next step. This can really add to the expense of the driveway, so make sure your contractor checks the soil content before giving you an estimate. Some areas with drainage problems that cannot be fixed will need a geo-tech fabric installed between the sub-base and the asphalt pavement to ensure the longevity of your driveway.
Asphalt paving, though durable, does need periodic resealing to extend its life. So make sure you take the time to reseal as recommended by your paving contractor.