The Basics of an Asphalt Driveway

An asphalt driveway can provide a smooth, solid entry to your home. Asphalt is a durable material that is easy to work with and, if properly installed, will last for decades.

A properly maintained asphalt driveway will last 20 to 25 years. It's an investment in time and money, so it pays to learn all that you can before you jump in.

Warm Asphalt for Cold Weather
An asphalt driveway is the perfect choice for cold weather climates. Asphalt will not break down when exposed to salt or de-icing chemicals. The black color of asphalt will also absorb sunlight, helping to melt snow and ice in winter.

On the other hand, an asphalt driveway is a poor choice for southern climates. Asphalt can become soft in hot weather and an asphalt driveway can develop ruts in the pavement from the weight of parked cars.

Start at the Bottom
A residential asphalt driveway is only as strong as its base: the subgrade. The subgrade is what supports the structure of an asphalt driveway. If the soil under a driveway is loose or will expand and contract, the driveway will have a much shorter lifespan. The subgrade soil should be well compacted and free from any debris or plant material roots.

The base is the foundation of your asphalt driveway. There are two types of base: crushed gravel and coarse asphalt.

  • A crushed gravel base should have a thickness between 6 and 10 inches. The thicker the base, the more weight your driveway will hold. If you drive heavy vehicles or plan to store a boat or RV on the driveway, opt for a thicker base.
  • A coarse asphalt base uses asphalt that contains larger than normal crushed aggregate. These larger stones provide a solid base for your asphalt driveway. A coarse asphalt base is perfect if your subgrade is clay or has poor drainage.

Maintaining an Asphalt Driveway
Applying a sealer will extend the life of your asphalt driveway. Sealers fill minor cracks, provide ultraviolet protection and help asphalt maintain a sharp black color. You'll need to seal your asphalt driveway every three to five years depending on the harshness of your climate. If you choose to seal more often, use a thin coat; sealer can build up and peel if laid to heavily.

A Decorative Touch
Modern technology has freed the asphalt driveway from its "basic black" persona. Asphalt can now be stained and stamped to give your driveway a designer look.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Ask.com
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