You’re looking at your asphalt driveway and it appears to be in rough shape. What should you do? Will some repair work do the trick? Should the driveway be resurfaced, or does the whole thing need to be ripped up and redone from scratch?
Perhaps the best thing to do is to consult a few asphalt paving contractors and get their opinions, and (often free) estimates. This article can give you a general idea of what’s going on, what to look for in an asphalt paving contractor, and what to include in your contract.
Maintenance is good medicine, but it’s not foolproof
Asphalt driveways don’t remain smooth and black forever. You can take steps to maintain your driveway by sealing and protecting it, but often the effects of heat, ultra-violet rays, and substances such as salt, oil, gas and grease take their toll. And if those don’t get you, then cracking and water penetration eventually will.
Your driveway may be corroded, worn out, or have cracks, which could all warrant a resurfacing job if the condition is severe enough. As a general guide, if repairs are needed on more than 25 percent of the surface, it is more cost-effective to do a hot mix asphalt resurfacing job over the entire driveway.
Say no to cracks!
Asphalt pavement is hard and brittle, and as a result, cracks will develop over time. Ranging from hairline to an inch wide or more, cracks are your driveway’s worst enemy because they let water in. In colder climates, freeze-thaw cycles can be very destructive, and can wreak havoc on your driveway if water penetrates the cracks, then expands as it turns to ice. And even in warmer climates, water penetration can cause serious damage. The larger the crack, the more serious the problem, and the sooner it needs to be fixed. Cracks that are left un-repaired will lead to serious deterioration of the pavement and even to the base layers, requiring complete replacement of the driveway – sooner rather than later in colder climates.
Can it be fixed or do you need a new driveway?
Whether you’ll need to rip out your existing driveway and install a new one, or if you can get away with resurfacing – or even some patchwork and crack-filling – depends largely on the condition of the base layers, or foundation. However, if cracking covers 3/4 of the driveway, the surface is too far gone to repair. The root of the problems may come from lower down, and a complete overhaul should be considered.
If your driveway has been resurfaced several times with hot mix asphalt and keeps deteriorating prematurely, it is likely a problem with the foundation, and you should consider installing a whole new driveway. Likewise, if there are areas that have depressions or mounds, they should be completely reconstructed from the base. If you have several of these areas, a new driveway might make sense.
Various factors may cause premature wear
Although a properly installed asphalt driveway can last 15 to 20, even 25 years if properly maintained, extreme weather conditions, extra-heavy loads and shortcuts taken during construction can all cause premature wear and failure.
Beware of “traveling contractor” scams
Beware of any asphalt paving contractor who rings your doorbell and claims to have some “leftover materials” from another job, and if you agree to the work “right now,” you’ll get an amazing discount. If this happens to you, call the police. It is a scam. Reputable contractors calculate the materials they need very carefully, and any small amount left over from a job would never be enough to complete an entire new job. If these con artists do any work at all before taking off with your money, it will most definitely be shoddy.
Tips for hiring an asphalt paving contractor
It is best to deal with registered, bonded, adequately insured and licensed (where companies. Many reputable paving contractors also belong to trade associations, such as the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA), the National Pavement Contractors Association (NPCA), or various state-specific associations.
When hiring a contractor to resurface or install a new asphalt driveway, always get a list of references and check them. Ask references about the quality of the contractor’s work, their attention to details, and if the work was competed on time. You can even go and inspect previous work.
What to include in the contract
Once you decide on an Asphalt Paving Contractor, consider these points when drawing up a contract:
Clarify who is responsible for re-hanging gates or other doors, if needed, due to raised pavement levels.
Who will raise any water valves or sewer inlets to meet the asphalt around them – you, a plumber, or someone else? Who pays?
Specify that the surface must be graded to provide proper drainage.
For new installations, specify that the sub grade will be compacted before the base layer is applied.
Specify how many layers are included in the job, a description of the materials that will be used for each layer (sub-base, base and asphalt), and the thickness of each layer when compacted. Two separate layers, or lifts, of asphalt is preferred, totaling at least 3 and preferably 4 inches. Sub-base and base should be at least 6 inches each, comprised of limestone rocks with 3-to-4-inch diameter and 2-to-3-inch diameter, respectively.
Include the payment schedule and a guarantee of the finished product.
Determine whether a building permit is required, and specify that it is the contractor’s responsibility to obtain one on your behalf, if needed.