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Pros and Cons of an Asphalt Driveway

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installing an asphalt driveway
Photo courtesy Gregs Landscaping @ flickr/Creative Commons
Whether you need to install a new driveway or replace an old one, asphalt is almost certainly one of the options you will consider. A properly installed asphalt driveway will perform much like concrete, but at a much lower cost. The trade-off is that you will need to seal coat the asphalt every few years.

Because it is a petroleum product, asphalt is flexible, which makes it less susceptible to cracking. But asphalt can also get very hot in the summer. Here is some information that should help you decide whether or not asphalt is a good choice for your driveway.

What Is Asphalt?

The components of the blacktop that is used on asphalt driveways consist of bits of rock, sand and asphalt cement.

How To Maintain an Asphalt Driveway

Clean the driveway at least twice a year. Use a stiff broom and strong hose spray to remove all dirt and debris. Seal coat the asphalt every two to five years. Cracks and holes should be repaired as soon as possible (see Quick Guide to Blacktop Driveway Repair for instructions).

How Long Will an Asphalt Driveway Last?

Asphalt driveways typically last 12 to 35 years, depending on the quality of the installation, climate, usage, and how well they have been maintained. Like most everything else, the better care you take of your asphalt driveway, the longer it will remain in service.

What Does an Asphalt Driveway Cost?

Asphalt driveways cost $2 to $5 per square foot to install. This is double the cost of gravel (see Pros and Cons of a Gravel Driveway), but half what a concrete driveway would cost.

How Is an Asphalt Driveway Installed?

Asphalt driveways are usually installed by contractors who specialize in the job. That's because it involves some specialized equipment. Do your homework before hiring a contractor, however, as there many fly-by-nighters out there ready to take your money in exchange for a lousy job (see How To Hire a Good Home Improvement Contractor). Installation typically involves laying a 4-inch to 8-inch compacted and graded gravel base, installed over solid ground, topped with 2 to 4 inches of asphalt. Your contractor should have at least a 1-ton roller to adequately compact the base. Let the new asphalt driveway cure for about 6 months before seal coating it.
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