Asphalt Driveways

Is An Asphalt Driveway The Right Choice For Your Home?

a closeup of an asphalt driveway installed by an allaboutdriveways.com trusted contractor member

Looking for driveway ideas or considering a new asphalt driveway?

  • Which driveway surface is best when choosing between asphalt, concrete or permeable/interlocking pavers?
  • What are the benefits of an asphalt driveway vs concrete or permeable/interlocking pavers?
  • What type of ongoing maintenance does an asphalt driveway require compared to a concrete driveway or paver driveway?

These are all very important things to consider when it comes to a choosing a new driveway.

Asphalt Driveways

Whether you call them asphalt driveways, black top driveways, ash-phalt driveways tarmac or macadam driveways… they’re all the same!

How common are asphalt driveways? The further North we travel in the United States, the more likely we see asphalt driveways. The further South we travel in the United States, the more likely we see concrete and/or permeable/interlocking paver driveways. This is due to the amount of freeze and thaw cycles that occur in colder regions.

Asphalt is pliable, making it much more forgiving than concrete when it comes to heaving from freeze and thaw cycles. Asphalt driveways are also very beneficial if you happen to live in a snowy region as the black color of the asphalt can soak in the heat from the sun and melt snow much faster than any other type of driveway surface.

A new asphalt driveway can be installed by an asphalt paving contractor in a relatively short amount of time, usually a day or two after the sub-grade preparation which can take anywhere from less than a day to a couple of weeks. There’s very little inconvenience when having asphalt driveways installed, unless you live in a region that requires the sub-grade to sit and air out for a couple of weeks. Asphalt driveways can generally be driven on at least 24 hours after installation. However, new asphalt can take years to fully cure, so minor scarring of the surface may occur from sharp turns, power steering divots, tractor tires, snow blade… a variety of things for the first couple of years, especially on hot sunny days.

an asphalt paving machine laying a new asphalt driveway
a new asphalt driveway being installed and the roller compacting the asphalt while it's hot

If you already own an asphalt driveway and it’s beginning to show the signs of aging and exceptional deterioration, or has a tremendous amount of patching and repairs and looks patchy, blotchy and uninviting, overlaying the existing asphalt or completely removing and replacing it may be in order! This absolutely should be performed by a reputable paving company that will do it right the first time by performing soil tests and determining if the sub-grade is suitable to re-pave the asphalt driveway on the existing soil. If not, the soil should be excavated and new base or structural material installed for a solid, long lasting driveway.

All driveways age and deteriorate and become a use and safety hazard. The goal with any driveway should be to maximize the life of expectancy as much as possible before having to completely remove and replace it. This requires a solid plan with frequent maintenance of every 3 to 5 years!

Of the four types of driveways, an asphalt driveway is #3
when comparing cost and # 2 when comparing ongoing maintenance.

Cost Chart:

  • Paver Driveway – #1 – Most Expensive
  • Concrete Driveway – #2
  • Asphalt Driveway – #3
  • Gravel Driveway – #4 – Least Expensive

An asphalt driveway can be the least expensive option when comparing to other hard surface driveways.
 

Ongoing Maintenance Chart:

  • Gravel Driveway – #1 – Most Ongoing Maintenance
  • Asphalt Driveway – #2
  • Concrete Driveway – #3
  • Paver Driveway – #4 – Least Ongoing Maintenance

An asphalt driveway requires the 2nd most frequent amount of ongoing maintenance when comparing to to other driveways.

Life Expectancy Of Asphalt Driveways

A properly installed asphalt driveway with regularly scheduled maintenance can last up to 20 or even 30 years! That variation in age can be determined by the stability of the sub-grade, the quality of the installation, the type and frequency of maintenance, the drainage plan and the climate of the region you’re located in.

Types of ongoing maintenance you can expect to perform on an asphalt driveway?

Treating oil spots,sealing cracks, weed control, edging and sealcoating.

New asphalt driveways should NOT be sealed until they are at minimum 6 months old. Asphalt driveways should then be sealed every 3 to 5 years thereafter to slow down the deterioration process. However, only a quality commercial grade asphalt sealer is recommended and applied either by yourself or a reputable seal coating contractor. When cracks develop, they should be sealed frequently. Ultimately cracks should be sealed every fall when the asphalt is cool and it has contracted. The cracks are open at their widest this time of year and will be optimally sealed when the heat from summer comes back around and the asphalt has warmed and expanded. Sealing the cracks will help to prevent further damage and pavement failures like alligatoring and potholes.

 

Choosing The Right Driveway For Your Home

When choosing between an asphalt driveway and the other three types of driveways, take into the consideration these things:

Budget – Curb Appeal – Climate – Amount Of Ongoing Maintenance – Durability

If the short term, up front cost is a deciding factor, Gravel Driveways and asphalt driveways are excellent, low cost options, depending on the size of your driveway and the thickness requirements. The long term trade off however, is gravel driveways and asphalt driveways require more ongoing maintenance. If cost is not as important of a factor, and aesthetics are more important, then Concrete Driveways or Paver Driveways are the alternatives for your driveway. While initially the up front costs are higher, long term they require less maintenance therefore less maintenance costs.

Also take into consideration the effects of an asphalt driveway if it’s not maintained properly or how it can look as it ages.

an asphalt driveway that was not maintained properly
an older asphalt driveway and the effects of aging and oxidization from the sun

Asphalt by nature cracks, and unlike concrete, controlled joints cannot be added to asphalt to help control where it does crack! When cracks develop, they should be sealed with a hot pour rubberized sealer. Sealing the cracks will help to prevent further damage and pavement failures like alligatoring and potholes. Ultimately cracks should be sealed every fall when the asphalt is cool and they are open at their widest. The fall season is the optimal time for sealing cracks so that when the heat from summer comes back around and the asphalt has warmed and expanded, the cracks are sealed tightly from rain and water runoff. Cracks sealed in the heat of the summer have the potential of opening up in the winter again when the asphalt has cooled and the cracks have contracted again, allowing melting snow and water to penetrate them. This is tough to avoid since most driveway maintenance companies provide crack sealing services in conjunction with sealcoating, which can only be performed with temperatures of 50 degrees and rising. This is why in most areas of the country sealcoating is performed only in the summer months.The best maintenance plan should include crack sealing services in the fall of each year! This will most certainly save money long term avoiding costly patching services.

 

Summary Of Asphalt Driveways

Asphalt driveways can be a beautiful and economical solution for a driveway. They provide a very sharp, clean, sleek black look which is inviting to visitors. The black color of an asphalt driveway is also very appealing for snow melt in the wintertime. The black asphalt heats up from the warmth of the sun and melts off the snow and ice much faster. Asphalt driveways come in only one color, but there are however, new sealers on the market that offer a variety of colors to choose from. See some different Colorful Design Ideas For Asphalt Driveways. When it comes to durability, keep in mind the amount of traffic and the type of traffic your asphalt driveway will endure. If your asphalt driveway will have to endure exceptionally heavy vehicles, an above average amount of heavier vehicle traffic, or an above average amount of water runoff, a concrete driveway may be a much better, longer term solution. Learn more about concrete driveways here. If you’re considering having a new asphalt driveway installed, an existing one overlayed or one completely removed and replaced, see our Asphalt Driveway Installation FAQ’s section for more information to ensure yourself a good, quality long lasting job.

You can also learn more about the ongoing maintenance of an asphalt driveway by visiting our Asphalt Driveway Maintenance FAQ’s section!

Before you hire a contractor to install or perform maintenance on your asphalt driveway, be sure and review our video and eBook series, “The Most Common Ways Asphalt Contractors Rip Us Off And How To Avoid Them”™ You’ll learn everything you need to know in order to hire a reputable contractor and get the job done right the first time!

Or make it easy on yourself! Save time, money and future headaches by hiring one of our pre-screened and background checked asphalt companies to install, remove and replace or perform maintenance services on your asphalt driveway! Learn more or request an estimate from one of our Trusted Asphalt Driveway Installation or Asphalt Repair Contractors in your local area!

Last, if you would like to learn how to perform maintenance services on your asphalt driveway yourself, visit our “Do It Yourself” Training Center for great tutorial videos and eBooks that cover How To Repair and Sealcoat An Asphalt Driveway!
 
 

28 thoughts on “Asphalt Driveways

  1. lost_a_bundle

    I had 6000 sqft of asphalt put down in October. It’s April and I am finding raveling all over. Of course the contracted won’t call me back… one year warranty, yeah right.  Anyway, what should I do?  I spent a lot of money and now I am thinking the rain will wash away $9000 by the end of the year.  Seal coat?  Cold patch, heat and compact?  I Need some help

    1. patmatt

       Hello Lost a Bundle!

      I’m sorry to hear what has happened. If you can provide us with some photos that would help us give you better advice. Also, I would recommend filing a complaint and let’s see if we can get the contractor to come back and make the job right. If they won’t we’ll warn other homeowners about them and hopefully save them from getting the same result!

  2. Bobjaybrez

    I have a concrete driveway that is all crack up and broken, wondering if you could black top over it. Is it a good under surface?

  3. Bobjaybrez

    I have a concrete driveway that is all crack up and broken, wondering if you could black top over it. Is it a good under surface?

    1. patmatt

      Hi Bob!

      No. Not a good idea. I’ve attached a picture of where an asphalt overlay was attempted on cracked and broken concrete. (First on right)

      If the concrete were not broken and cracked up you could overlay it with asphalt, but I still strongly advise against it. You have two things to consider: #1) Drainage. In order to get the water to drain properly, the concrete would need to be removed several feet from the garage or home (How much depends on the degree of slope) so that a lip is not created. Feathering is not an option either as the asphalt will crack and break off less than 1″ thick. See the attached picture.

      #2) Anywhere there are controlled joints, those joints will reflect up through the new asphalt which will always need to be sealed and looks terrible! Picture also attached!

      Don’t let any contractor tell you different and try to sell you on it. As you can see asphalt over concrete is a terrible long term solution! The proof is in the pictures!

      Hope this helps!

  4. Aakeem73

    This information was very very helpful. I’ve had people come to my house twice last summer and this summer with the good deal of trying to unload their extra asphalt. I amd so greatful for the information. I will be asking all the questions and looking for the right answers so that we don’t get ripped off. Thank you so much.

  5. Aakeem73

    This information was very very helpful. I’ve had people come to my house twice last summer and this summer with the good deal of trying to unload their extra asphalt. I amd so greatful for the information. I will be asking all the questions and looking for the right answers so that we don’t get ripped off. Thank you so much.

  6. jenweb

    Terrific information. Left a message for contractor to call me to go over several concerns after reading your informative articles. My main problem is that he has no guarantee listed on the work; but wrote that he cannot guarantee 100% drainage because existing conditions may not allow for the 1/4″ per foot pitch. I’m in the Philadelphia area.

    1. patmatt

      Short term sure. But long term, probably not with a typical installation. Hard to say for certain. For something like that I would recommend hiring a soils engineer to design your driveway. It’s fairly pricy though which, depending on where you live, may make more sense to go with concrete.

  7. Rose

    I had an asphalt driveway installed June 2012. Literally since day 10 it has been a problem. It has various areas about 8″ round that appear very dry and gravelly. There are spots developing all over it that appear like oil spots (We do NOT have oil leaks). If you put your finger into these they are deep, wet and oily and the asphalt dust and pebbles will be on your finger when you take it out. It does not smell like oil. ( I have been told this might have been caused by diesel oil on the roller). I have numerous tire track marks (told we drive too fast or we are turning in the driveway – NOT SO). The car a Jetta actually sinks into the asphalt – therefore tire imprints are left in various spots on the driveway. Every time it rains I get asphalt run off. This is piles of dust with fine granular particles that deposit themselves on the sidewalk at the bottom of my driveway. Even this summer my neighbour sunk into the asphalt wearing a summer sandle with a wooden square heel. I put the barbque on the driveway and before even using it – it sunk into it about 2″. I have had people look at the driveway but being a small town they all know each other and getting support that this is bad asphalt and needs replaced is not an easy venture. I watched you UTUBE video and the examples of deterioration you show from asphalt not being compacted enough and holding water looks exactly like those 8″ areas I described above. Two other neighbours had their driveways done same day, same company, same problems. We have also noticed in the last few weeks what appears to be rust looking lines. ( I was told a car with a rusty screw or something must have sat in that spot for a few days!). My neighbour has more of this and she does not park in the driveway at all – she’s 80 years old and rarely leaves the house – her car always in the garage. Shortly after the rusty lines there appeared small cracks that look really oily. (She was told her car leaked too). When we both showed garage receipts showing our cars were checked and no oil leaks we were then told we must have filled up a lawnmower on the driveway and spilled oil. I called a number of contractors in my area and described the issues we are having and 100% of them said it sounds like we have “Recycled Asphalt – and a bad mix of it” used on the driveways. Of course that is now being denied and we are told to ignore the gravel areas that are fast becoming holes, forget about the oily holes – must be something we are doing, ignore the tire indentations and track marks – they will disappear as the asphalt “cures”. The company wants to patch the holes and seal the driveway and says this will fix all the problems. I understand the black asphalt filler will show through the seal. I do not want to be unreasonable but I feel my driveway should be removed and done properly. There is also a long brownish line in the driveway that I am told is where the sand in the asphalt is running out of onto the sidewalk. You can move your hands or feet on the driveway and literally wear it/rub it away. It is also completely oxidized and the answer for that is they do not make asphalt to stay black anymore – I should expect it to be grey. They literally laughed at my concerns but are willing to fill holes and seal. I just don’t think this is the right thing to do but don’t know how to explain why not.

    Does anyone have suggestions as to how to present my problem and get the right fix.

  8. Mark Appelman

    I’m being told my car “sunk” a hole into my driveway because it sat for a couple of months. I drive a dodge 2004 grand caravan. Could it of sunk my driveway where the vehicle was sitting?

  9. Sally

    I recently moved into a house built in 2005. The blacktop driveway has some sort of black coating that transfers onto to everything. It tracks into the house turning the floors black and turns my daughter black head to toe when she plays outside. I live in OH now. I grew up in NY and never saw such a problem with our blacktop driveway or roads. Is there something I can put on it to seal it to prevent the black getting on everything? Or is there a way to remove the coating that’s there? Thanks!

    1. patmatt

      I would be willing to bet money that it was sealed with either an oil based asphalt sealer… or even worse… tac oil. You’ll need to have it sealed with a water based sealer or let the current sealer oxidize and wear off.

  10. Marinus Hook

    I want to thank you for this website!! It is Awesome. I recently fell on some hard times and yes they happen in threes (all big ones to) haha I guess I am stronger now. Anyway, I am trying to resurrect a house to make it comfortable for me and the Driveway needs help. Honestly, not sureI can afford it right now but need to start somewhere and this website has been very helpful. Thank you very much.

    1. patmatt

      Not if you want it to last any length of time. The problem is that any cracks in the asphalt will reflect up through the concrete. If you’re pouring the concrete bigger than the asphalt, the edges of the asphalt will reflect up through the concrete also. The cost of removing the asphalt is minimal so why would you want to do this?

  11. justin_e

    I just had half (couldn’t afford the whole thing) of my driveway repaved. At the street, they poured a liquid black substance around the end of the new blacktop. It looks tar like. They did not pour this where the old driveway blacktop meets the new blacktop. I am concerned that the joint line between old and new could deteriorate quicker than other spots. Is this product they used at the street meant to help bond the old blacktop to new blacktop at the point where they meet? Thanks in advance.

    1. patmatt

      Without knowing exactly what material they used, we can only guess but yes it sounds like Tack Oil was used. Yes they probably should have used tack oil on the seam of the new blacktop/old blacktop but its’ really not the end of the world. That seam there is more than likely going to open up anyways from expansion and contraction.