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What is an Asphalt Driveway?
Before looking at how much asphalt driveways cost, you should know exactly what asphalt is, how long it will take to install, and the pros and cons of asphalt over concrete or another material option.
Asphalt driveways are made out of a material that is similar to the one that you see applied to roads. It is also called hot mix or even hot mix asphalt. Asphalt is a material that has a thick tar-like consistency and is mixed with stone and/or sand. Then, it is heated to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit in order to make it a semi-liquid. It is applied before it cools and solidifies.
The asphalt driveway can be installed on different types of bases. In order for your driveway to be long-lasting and stable, you should make sure your base is not cracked or weak. You can choose to have the asphalt driveway installed onto your existing driveway. If your driveway is in great condition, then this may be an affordable option. However, before you choose this method you need to consider the height. Any asphalt laid on top of the existing driveway will reduce the clearance for the garage and fences and other structures height level could be impacted.
Another option is to have the old driveway removed and have the asphalt applied on top of the soil. This is also the option if you are adding a driveway to a location that is not yet paved. Four to six inches of asphalt paving will lay onto the soil and will work great in some areas. However, if the soil is not very stable, you should consider another option.
The third option is to have an aggregate base. This is the best option for a long-lasting, durable, and stable driveway. The aggregate stone base will partially replace the asphalt mix.Usually, it will take six to eight inches of aggregate beneath three inches of asphalt.
Generally, asphalt driveways will last up to 20 years depending on the usage, maintenance, and climate. It may begin to crack and age, but you can use it virtually forever.The lifespan is usually based on the way it looks. However, it can be more difficult to shovel snow on a driveway that has significant wear and tear.
How Long Does it Take to Install an Asphalt Driveway?
The most difficult part of the installation process is the driveway base. After that portion is complete, the remainder won’t take much time at all. It will start looking like a completed driveway in around an hour. However, the asphalt will also need compaction. Then, it will need to cool and harden.
Typically, you will be able to walk and drive on the driveway in two or three days. However, in some instances it can take a month or even more for the asphalt to completely cure. You will be able to use the driveway during this period, but need to be careful because it will be more easily damageable.
It is also important to note that the weather should be warm to adequately apply the asphalt. Typically hot mix asphalt is only applied during the Spring and Summer. When the air is too cold, there is a reduction in the amount of workable time to smooth and compact the asphalt. This can make an uneven driveway.
The thickness of the driveway can also affect the amount of time. The thicker the asphalt, the more time it will be malleable. For thinner driveways, you will need to wait until it is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but thicker driveways could be applied when it is cooler.
Pros of Asphalt Driveways
There are a lot of benefits to consider with asphalt driveways. First of all, they are very affordable and usually much cheaper than concrete driveways. In fact, asphalt generally costs $2 to $3 less per square foot than plain, non-decorative concrete. But that isn’t the only reason to consider using asphalt for your driveway needs.
Asphalt is great for cold Winters and salt and melting ice are less likely to impact it than they are to affect concrete. It is also flexible and therefore less likely to develop significant cracks. It is expected to crack some, but often will not have huge cracks that run the length of the driveway.
The installation time for asphalt is usually very quick. In fact, it has to be quick because the asphalt only remains malleable while it is still warm enough. The crew will have to smooth and compact it before it gets too cool.
It is very easy to reseal and resurface asphalt and make it look brand new. Typically, any homeowner can do these repairs themselves. Concrete tends to have more visible, more difficult repairs.
Cons of Asphalt Driveways
The affordability of asphalt driveways does come with a few disadvantages. Take these into consideration before deciding to use asphalt over another material.
Asphalt is always smooth and black and you don’t have many other choices. Concrete can be stamped, stained, and embellished to suit your design needs. Also, the edges will usually look unfinished or raw without the installation of a concrete curb.
The tar-like consistency of asphalt can soften when the weather gets hot. It could even become sticky. It will also get extremely hot since it is black. Many people in very warm climates opt to choose concrete instead for this reason alone.
Asphalt should be resealed regularly in order to take advantage of the 15 to 20 year lifespan. Concrete does not require this type of regular maintenance. Also, asphalt typically lasts 20 years at most while concrete can last twice as long. In addition, some tree roots and other plants can damage asphalt more easily than they can damage concrete.
Concrete is typically valued above asphalt so the resale value of asphalt is lower. If you plan on selling the house in the near future, you may want to consider a desirable concrete driveway instead.
Cost (Plus What Affects the Price)
There are a lot of factors that go into the cost of an asphalt driveway. In addition to the cost and quality of materials, you need to factor in the cost of labor, regular maintenance, the removal of an existing driveway, and any periodic repairs.
The cost of asphalt can greatly impact the cost of the entire project. The cost also varies greatly depending on the location (so check out the spreadsheet I made of difference average costs based on state).
At the very least, an asphalt driveway will require two base coats, one for the bottom and one for the top. The quality of the base coat will depend on the amount of time it takes to install and the cost of the material. Typically, you should expect to pay between one and three dollars for the base coat. Then, you will have to factor in the top coat as well as the sealant. This will be an additional one to three dollars. This includes the basic labor and comes to around $3 to $5 per square foot for the entire project.
If you look at the materials without the labor, the asphalt usually costs somewhere between $85 and $150 per ton. The price of asphalt can greatly fluctuate depending on when it is bought. The price of oil can impact the price of asphalt at any given time.
The installation may require additional help or equipment depending on the size of the project. Contractors may also have to make sure that the driveway has the correct slope for effective drainage. A gravel foundation may be installed between the asphalt and the underlying base surface as well. This can be an additional one to three dollars per square foot. Some projects may require some basic landscaping or excavation preparation work as well.
The cost of general contracting labor needs to be considered even though it will be similar for any type of driveway you decide to purchase. Typically, general contractors charge somewhere between $40 and $60 an hour, but this can vary greatly depending on the location. Also, if you have a reference or now somebody who does contracting work, you can often get a discounted rate.
Generally, an asphalt driveway will consist of two layers, the base and the top. However, the most durable and stable asphalt driveway will use full-depth asphalt. This means that the entire thickness will be made out of the asphalt material. This is in contrast to driveways that have a separate substandard material on the lower layer or layers. This will reduce the chances of movement, shifting, and damage.
Typically, a 4 inch thick layer of asphalt will be sufficient. Sometimes projects will require 5 to 6 inches of asphalt. This is especially true if the asphalt driveway will need to support heavy vehicles.
Removal of Existing Driveway
If you have to have an existing driveway removed, the cost may rise significantly for the entire project. However, it is still recommended because damaged driveways will not make for a durable, stable base. Also, the best base types are the ones that are made out of aggregate. You will have to pay labor costs for an entire crew to fully remove your existing driveway. You will also have to pay for the disposal of the materials.
For an asphalt driveway to last the full 15 to 20 years, it will require regular maintenance. Usually, the recommendation is that homeowners touch up their driveway every three to five years. This maintenance can consist of a few different things, but will almost always mean you need to reseal the driveway. This means you will apply one or two thin layers of asphalt to seal any cracks that have formed. The bonus is that this makes your driveway look almost brand new.
At some point, you will reach the choice of continued repairs and maintenance or an altogether new driveway surface. If you decide to resurface, it can be much more affordable and only cost between $1.50 and $2.50 per square foot.
The cost of repairs can vary a lot as well. The cost depends on the size of the driveway, the accessibility, the condition including cleanliness and overgrowth, any permits that are required by your county or city governments, or anything extra like added curbs, drains, poles, or grates. If the driveway develops abnormally large cracks or buckles, then you will likely have to opt to replace the entire driveway instead of trying to repair it. However, you should always consider the cost of the repairs versus the cost of replacement.
Typically, you will only pay $2 or $3 to repair an asphalt driveway and it should last you at least 15 years. With regular maintenance and periodic seals applied, you can expect to get at least 20 years out of a new asphalt driveway.
In contrast, to completely repave excessively damaged asphalt, you will pay somewhere in the range of $2 to $4. This is a viable option for bad damage that does not necessarily require a complete replacement. The last option is to replace the entire asphalt driveway. This costs a little more at $3 to $5 per square foot and will give you the brand new look and functionality.