Asphalt Driveways

Is An Asphalt Driveway The Right Choice For Your Home?

a closeup of an asphalt driveway installed by an 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 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, exceptional deterioration, or has a tremendous amount of patching and repairs and looks 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, deteriorate and can become a safety hazard. The goal with any driveway should be to maximize the life expectancy as much as possible before having to completely remove and replace it. This requires a solid plan with 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 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 a minimum of 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 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 which 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 by saving 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.