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The Life Stages of Asphalt Driveways

By September 16, 2021No Comments

No driveway lasts forever. But just like with human health, the wellbeing of asphalt pavement depends on attentive maintenance: resealing, resurfacing, and ultimately repaving.

New homeowners learn a hard lesson, gradually, as the home and its surroundings age and deteriorate. It depends on the components of the house, garage, driveway, and landscaping elements – especially the quality of materials and products – but with time a new roof, new paint, appliance repairs and replacement, driveway asphalt resurfacer, and other parts of the home will need maintenance and replacement.

For example, a good asphalt driveway in most climates will last about a quarter century before it needs a full replacement. But that depends on proper care over those 25 years. It’s similar to how a human body ages better when the person has a good diet, exercises regularly, and tends to medical issues as needed.

Active asphalt maintenance with sealcoating

That asphalt blacktop driveway should look pretty good for about three to five years. It will eventually fade with sun exposure, unfortunately, and there might be deterioration if motor oils drip routinely where a leaky car often parks. Scrubbing those oils will help preserve the pavement by preventing a chemical reaction.

If the pavement was poorly designed or built, or rutted from traffic, rainwater puddles can form in some places. Ideally, the driveway is crowned at the middle and therefore shed water from rain and car washing. But if not, standing water will ultimately find cracks in the pavement itself. That moisture can undermine the pavement.

But assuming the only problem is fading, with no noticeable cracks, a sealcoat can be applied to “freshen up” the driveway.

Resurfacing when asphalt pavement shows more wear

But those cracks will form eventually, the result of time, temperature changes, traffic and settling. They start small, but pay attention to their width (around a quarter inch or more is worrisome) and depth, as well as extent. If the cracks are less than two inches deep, and this affects a third or less of the total driveway, an asphalt resurfacer treatment can be the next smart step in driveway preservation.

Resurfacing means applying a top layer to the existing pavement, assuming the foundation of the pavement is still intact. In more severe cases, the top layer of the existing pavement is scraped off before the new layer is laid in (this is still less intensive than a complete repaving). In either case, it can extend the life of the old asphalt by as much as 15 years.

It’s possible there will be a pothole in a driveway. The do-in-yourself method for filling a pothole would require use of permanent pothole filler, which are available by the bag in hardware stores.


When it’s time to repave your asphalt driveway

After a point, the deterioration of a blacktop driveway will be so extensive no amount of sealcoating and resurfacing makes sense. This is when the foundation has faults and needs to be replaced. It will cost more than the previous maintenance measures on a per-square-foot basis – which emphasizes the incentive to do that kind of maintenance over time, starting as early as three years after the pavement is first laid.

Perhaps about 25 years into owning a home is the point at which selling it and moving on to somewhere else is the next logical step. Having a sharp new driveway will contribute to overall curb appeal when selling the home.


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