Can You Asphalt Your Own Driveway?

A quality asphalt driveway can look great and be functional for years. But can you do it on your own or would it be better to hire someone?

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A quality asphalt driveway can look great and be functional for years. But can you do it on your own or would it be better to hire someone?

Before deciding whether to hire someone or to pave your own asphalt driveway you should know the costs of both, the needed equipment, and the time required. In addition, you need to know the step by step process of asphalt installation.

You can asphalt your own driveway, but it takes a lot of work. You will possibly have to remove the existing driveway and prepare the sub base. Then you can pave the asphalt. Doing it yourself will save you around one dollar per square foot.

The information in this article has been compared to give you the most useful information to help you decide between doing your own driveway and hiring someone to do it complete with a cost analysis. Also, for reference here is a spreadsheet that compares the average costs of asphalt driveways in every state.

Table of Contents

Cost: DIY vs. Hiring Someone

An asphalt driveway can be stable and secure for years as long as it is installed properly. The cost can be affected by location, shape, size, and the contractor’s rate. Check out this spreadsheet for the average price per square foot for asphalt driveways in every state.

The materials will typically cost around $2.30 per square foot if you decide to do your own asphalt job. For materials and labor when you hire someone, you will pay $3.25 or a little more per square foot. A driveway that is 38 feet by 16 feet that does not slope or have any curves has a surface area of 610 feet.  On the low end for DIY jobs, you can expect to pay $1250 to $1450. For the complete job with materials and labor, you can expect to pay $1900 to $2250 depending on the cost of labor.

These costs also include delivery of the materials and an estimated 4 percent loss. The labor costs estimate 97 cents per square foot broken down into a two person crew and a total of 20 hours which is one long day of work for the crew. The work included is on-grade preparation of the site, head spreading and raking, and hand tamping. However, it does not include the excavation of the driveway site or subgrade or any landscaping activity. If you include these things, the price difference will be greater were you to do the driveway asphalt and additional work yourself. A do-it-yourself asphalt driveway job will likely take at least 25 hours of work for two people.

If your site requires subgrade excavation, you can expect to pay $50 more per cubic yard. This would come to $325 for a driveway with a surface area of 610 square feet. If there needs to be additional removal of vegetation or other debris, you will pay someone between 50 cents and a dollar for the excavation. Additionally, full removal of an existing driveway can cost upwards of $1000, possibly more than $2000.

How Long To Install Asphalt Driveway?

With the correct tools and a full crew, you can get a small to medium size asphalt driveway installed in half a day or so. The hardest part of the process is installing the driveway base and this portion of the project will also take up most of the time. However, even after you finish the installation, you will have to wait for the asphalt to harden.

Typically, you will not be able to use the driveway for 2 to 3 days. However, it can take significantly longer for the asphalt to cure. Sometimes it will not be fully cured for a month. You can use the driveway during this time, but be careful not to damage it by driving haphazardly.

It is best to install asphalt during warm seasons like Spring or Summer. If the air is cold then you will have less time to work with the asphalt before it dries and you may end up with a lumpy or uneven driveway surface. Likewise, the thickness of the paving also plays a role in the speed of drying. The more asphalt, the more time you will have.

What Tools Will I Need?

Most homeowners do not have all of the tools that are required for a quality asphalt job. You may have to rent or borrow some tools and it is best to have a dump truck as well. You will need a skid steer loader, plate compactor, wheelbarrows, roller, and additional hand tools designed for asphalt.

Steps to Install Asphalt

While it is recommended that you hire a professional for laying asphalt, it is possible to do it yourself with the right tools and a crew. First, it is a good idea to be aware of the different options you have.

Type of Base

The base of the driveway is crucial to the success of the job. There are three different base installation options. The first is to install the paving directly onto your existing driveway. This makes the job much more simple, but is not a good idea if your current driveway is cracked or crumbling. It will also add to the height so you want to make sure that any structures will be affected.

Another option is to remove the old driveway and install the new asphalt directly onto the soil. This method can also be used if there is not an existing driveway. You will use 4 to 6 inches of hot mix paving on top of the soil. This is an affordable option, but it can be less stable than the third method.

The preferred method for installing asphalt is to lay an aggregate base. Generally, you will want to use 6 to 8 inches of aggregate. This will reduce the amount of asphalt you will have to use to about 3 inches.

Demolish and Excavate

If you are replacing an existing driveway, you will have to remove it. Typically, this will involve heavy machinery. Bobcats, forklifts, and even dump trucks can greatly assist in the removal of large pieces of asphalt, concrete, or other existing materials and debris. Be sure to remove any and all debris.

Grading and Sloping

In addition you will want to be sure to have proper drainage. Water should run-off without pooling. This is a crucial step because water can cause significant damage to your asphalt. To see if the water pools up and where it flows to, you can use a hose. However, make sure that it is completely dry before moving to the next steps in the process. Try to have a slope of ¼ inch per foot.

Sub Base

The sub base of the asphalt driveway will be the most important part because it provides a surface that supports the pavement on top. Additionally, the sub base will also reduce damage caused by freezing and thawing water.

It is important that you adequately compact the sub base. You can use a roller to do this if you do not have access to a compactor. It is a good idea to install the sub base in small layers and then compact each layer separately. Be sure that there are no soft areas or spots.

After you compact the sub base, you can use a roller to test it. If the roller moves the base an inch or more, then you will need to use undercutting. Undercutting will involve digging 2 to 3 feet below the surface and replacing the soil with stronger material.

After your sub base is adequately compacted, you will add in the binder mix. Binder is made up of large aggregate and oil. This mixture is durable and strong. This will be a single layer on top of the sub base and provides more support to the asphalt surface.

Lay Asphalt

Now you will lay the asphalt. Remember that it can dry fast, especially in cooler weather, so be sure to smooth it out quickly. There are different sizes of asphalt aggregate typically between ½ inch and ¾ inch. The smaller aggregates are often used for residential driveways because they appear uniform and smooth. Larger aggregates create a stronger surface.

Try to have a layer of asphalt that is between 2 and 3 inches on top of the sub base. To create smooth transitions, or butt joints, you will have to make sure the areas are graded correctly. Make sure all connections to your yard, sidewalks, streets, etc. are properly smoothed out. If you plan on leaving edges, have the lean outward at a 45 degree angle.

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