Installing and maintaining your home's asphalt driveway can help your driveway last as long as possible, which can be up to 35 years. Installing your driveway and keeping it well-maintained can help your home's exterior look nice in your yard and also help save you money in having to repair your asphalt pavement earlier. Here are some tips to help you install and maintain a well-kept asphalt driveway.
Prepare the Foundation
The foundation to any structure is important as it provides the base, stability, and strength for the entire structure that will sit atop it, and a paved asphalt surface is no different. If there is any old, existing asphalt surface on the area you will be installing your new paved surface, be sure to remove all materials so you can install your new driveway upon base soil. Excavate the amount of soil you will need from the area to provide space for your gravel base layer and the two to three inches of thickness of asphalt. You can use a skid steer or Bobcat to remove and level the soil on the site.
You should check the type of soil you have on the site to determine if it is well-draining or poorly-draining, as this can affect the drainage below your new driveway. If your asphalt does not have proper drainage beneath its surface, your asphalt can become damaged from moisture runoff and from freeze-thaw cycles during winter. You can hire a building engineer to test the soil for its drainage quality, or complete a simple test yourself.
To test the soil yourself, dig a scoop of some soil out of the area and grab a fist-sized amount of the soil. Make sure the soil is slightly moist. When you squeeze the soil in your fist and release it, the soil will either stay clumped together or crumble apart. If the soil crumbles apart, it is sandy and well-draining. If the soil stays clumped together it contains more clay and is poorly-draining. For well-draining soil, you will only need to install four inches of gravel as a base layer, and if your soil is poorly-draining, you will need to lay a layer of eight inches of gravel.
The gravel needs to be compacted with a compacting machine or roller to press the angular gravel together and help create a solid foundation. If you have the time, it is also recommended to allow the gravel layer to settle for several days or up to a week before you pour and install the asphalt.
Repair Damage and Seal Cracks
After your asphalt driveway has been successfully installed, weather and the sun's ultraviolet rays begin to dry out and cause oxidation to occur on the surface of your asphalt. When the emulsion binder that holds together the gravel within your asphalt's layers becomes dried out, the surface becomes rough and crumbles apart. Cracks can also form over its surface, allowing soil to accumulate within them and vegetation to grow. For this reason it is important to inspect your asphalt for cracking and lightening of the asphalt's black color and to make repairs when necessary.
For vegetation growth within cracks on your asphalt surface, remove the vegetation using the end of a screw driver, a garden trowel or shovel, or you can remove the growth with a butane torch. Be careful with the torch that you do not burn the surface of the asphalt as you burn the vegetation. After removing the vegetation, use a pressure washer or a broom to sweep any dirt and debris accumulation from each crack, and use an asphalt degreaser cleaner to remove any oil and grease spots from the asphalt's surface. This is necessary to prepare the surface for patching of the cracks and to ensure the patches adhere properly.
Use a liquid asphalt filler, which come in a tube, to squeeze into and fill small cracks in your asphalt until they are filled level with the surrounding asphalt. This type of filler is self-leveling, as it is a liquid filler and won't need compacting. For larger cracks, use a cold mix asphalt patching material, which you will need to scoop and press into the crack with a trowel, filling it level with the surrounding area.
With these tips you can install and maintain your asphalt driveway to last many years.