The Ultimate Asphalt FAQ Guide: What You Need to Know

Asphalt is a critical component of our infrastructure, providing smooth surfaces for everything from walkways to highways.

If you’re thinking about using asphalt for your property, you likely have many questions—and you’re not alone.

As specialists in asphalt installation and maintenance for over 30 years, we at General Pavement Management recognize the importance of making well-informed decisions. That’s why we’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions that customers often have when contemplating an asphalt project.

Ready to clear up some doubts?

Let’s roll out some answers!

Table of Contents (3)

What is asphalt made of?

Let’s start with the basics.

Asphalt is a composite material, meaning it is made up of a mixture of several different components. Here’s a breakdown of its main ingredients:

  • Binder: This is the glue that holds everything together, most commonly bitumen. Bitumen is a sticky, black substance derived from refining crude oil. Think of it like the asphalt milkshake base!
  • Aggregates: These are the mineral chunks that give asphalt its strength and structure. They come in various sizes, from large crushed rock down to fine sand. Imagine the aggregates as the crunchy mix-ins in our asphalt milkshake.
  • Filler: In some cases, a filler material like limestone dust is added to the mix. This helps fill the gaps between the larger aggregates and creates a dense, more stable asphalt mixture. Think of the filler as the sprinkles for our asphalt milkshake – adding texture and filling in any empty spaces.

The specific ratio of these ingredients can vary depending on the intended use of the asphalt. For example, a high-traffic highway might require a higher percentage of bitumen for increased durability. At the same time, a residential driveway might have a higher aggregate content for cost-effectiveness.

What is asphalt made of

What is asphalt used for?

Asphalt is everywhere!

Its versatility paves the way for a wide range of applications in our daily lives. Here are some of its most common uses:

  • Roads and Highways: Undoubtedly the most recognizable use, asphalt is the go-to material for paving roads and highways due to its durability, smooth surface, and ability to withstand heavy traffic loads. It’s like the workhorse of the transportation world!
  • Parking Lots and Driveways: Providing a sturdy and comfortable surface for parked vehicles, asphalt is widely used in parking lots at shopping centers, office buildings, and even your own driveway. Its crisp, clean, and beautiful finished look is a plus for businesses as well. 
  • Airport Runways and Taxiways: Asphalt is a common choice for airport runways and taxiways to ensure safe and smooth landings and takeoffs. Its ability to handle aircraft weight and its smooth surface are crucial for optimal airport operations.
  • Bike Paths and Pedestrian Walkways: Asphalt is used for bike paths and pedestrian walkways, creating safe and enjoyable spaces for alternative transportation. Its smooth surface provides a comfortable walking or cycling experience.
  • Other Applications: Beyond these main uses, asphalt finds its way into various applications. It can be used for playgrounds, sports courts, and even roofing shingles (in certain forms). The versatility of asphalt makes it a valuable material across various construction projects.

Is asphalt as good as concrete?

The main contender with asphalt for many projects is concrete – so which is the better material? The answer isn’t completely straightforward.

Asphalt and concrete are both popular paving materials, but they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide which might be better for your specific needs:

Is asphalt better than concrete

Asphalt is generally less expensive to install than concrete and cures more quickly, allowing for faster project completion. It is also more easily repaired than concrete.

Concrete has a longer lifespan than asphalt and requires less frequent maintenance. It offers superior strength and can handle heavier loads. However, in most cases it takes longer to install and is more expensive up front. 

So the best material simply depends on the job you are facing. If you know your project will take exceeding wear and tear with lots of heavy machinery and harsh weather, concrete may be best. If you are working on a budget and know your paving surface won’t take a beating, asphalt may be better. 

How long does asphalt last?

Asphalt generally lasts at least 20-30 years if properly maintained. However, this can vary depending on traffic volume, climatic conditions, maintenance practices, and underlying soil characteristics.

Does an asphalt driveway increase home value?

The average cost to pave a driveway nationally is just over $5,000. That is no small chunk of change. But, according to one top-selling real estate advisor, a paved, well-maintained driveway can add $10,000-$20,000 to the value of a property. On the other hand, unpaved driveways – especially in urban or suburban areas – will detract from the appeal of your house.

Does an asphalt driveway increase commercial property value?

Absolutely! 

It is a known fact that “curb appeal” is a massive factor in property value. A property with great aesthetic appeal will drive its value up. However, good-looking properties do more than increase the property value; they also attract business in general.

A parking lot can take up a lot of visual real estate space. Potential buyers of your commercial property will draw conclusions about the property based on the condition of the parking lot.

The bottom line is that having a well-maintained paved parking lot will increase the value of your commercial property.

well maintained asphalt parking lot

How is asphalt maintained?

Asphalt, like any other material, requires proper care. Here are some of the vital maintenance practices to ensure a long life for your asphalt:

  • Regular Cleaning – Debris, such as leaves, branches, and dirt, can trap moisture and contribute to cracking.
  • Crack Sealing – Prompt sealing prevents water from seeping in and wreaking havoc.
  • Sealcoating – Recommended every 3-5 years, sealcoating protects the asphalt from water damage, sunlight degradation, and wear and tear.
  • Drainage Maintenance – Standing water on the asphalt surface can accelerate cracking and deterioration.
  • Patching Potholes – Potholes can become a safety hazard, but patching them with proper asphalt mix can prevent that.
  • Avoiding Harsh Chemicals – De-icing salts or chemicals used for weed control can damage asphalt.

When should you seal fresh asphalt?

Asphalt needs time to cure before a seal coating is applied. Most experts recommend waiting a minimum of three months, but preferably six months before sealing new asphalt. When you seal it, you should use at least two coats, with eight hours between applications. Apply the seal coating towards the evening during warm weather.

freshly sealed asphalt

What weakens asphalt?

Good question!

There are 5 main enemies of asphalt:

  • Surface Water – Water that remains on the surface can cause cracks to expand and encourage the formation of potholes.
  • Sunlight –  UV rays from the sun break down the “glue” that holds asphalt together.
  • Heavy Vehicles – The weight of heavy trucks can increase rutting. This is worse where they drive slowly, where they stop, and where they park.
  • Fuel and Oil – Over time, fuel and oil begin to break up the aggregates of the asphalt.
  • Tree Roots – Tree roots constantly seek water, and asphalt can restrict water access. As the roots seek water and try to grow, they can cause cracks, bumps, and heaving.

What are some alternatives to asphalt?

There are various alternatives to asphalt, each with its own advantages and disadvantages:

  • Poured Concrete – Very durable and reliable, but more expensive. Concrete also stains very easily.
  • Stamped Concrete – Can add a decorative look with the strength of concrete. This is a more expensive option than asphalt.
  • Interlocking Pavers – Very strong and can be laid in unique patterns. They require very little maintenance but are usually a very expensive option.
  • Tar and Chip – Different stones and colors can create a unique driveway. It generally costs less but doesn’t last as long as asphalt or concrete.
  • Gravel – Does not need regular repair, but maintenance costs can be very high. It is very dirty and difficult to remove snow.
  • Brick – Increase curb appeal. Very expensive to install, and maintenance can be very costly and time-consuming.
  • Permeable Pavers – More friendly to the environment. It will cost more to have installed.
  • Cobblestone – Very durable and requires very little maintenance. Incredibly expensive to install.

What weakens asphalt?

This is the easiest question to answer! Of course, to get started, contact General Pavement Management today!

We provide planning, stakeholder notifications, site preparation, materials, equipment, scheduling, regulatory compliance, and more. This takes the weight off your shoulders.

Our goal is to provide top-quality asphalt paving that is aesthetically pleasing, can handle traffic conditions, and will provide long-term performance.

We look forward to improving your property!