Asphalt is a compound of asphalt cement mixed with an aggregate of crushed rock. It is
prepared in a furnace, where the soft cement coats the crushed rock. It must be applied to
the surface and fully compacted and smoothed before it cools, at which point it becomes
hard. An asphalt surface will be thoroughly cured and at maximum strength within one to
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Unfortunately, asphalt is placed in locations at which it must absorb maximum abuse. As
soon as it is placed, deterioration begins. The asphalt surface is attacked both from
below and from above.
Water is the number one below the surface enemy of asphalt. It is impractical to
control moisture levels in the dirt, clay and rock below. Water makes clay expand, washes
away dirt and erodes rock supporting the asphalt. The resulting weak base does not provide
adequate support for the material, especially when the surface is traveled by vehicles
with high axle loading, such as garbage trucks. Cracks appear, which admit more water,
resulting, eventually, in kettles or pot holes.
Ultra violet and near ultra violet light from the sun tend to oxidize the organic
matter which asphalt contains. It turns gray and is washed away by water, aided and
abetted by detergent and oil spills.
Asphalt requires maintenance and care to achieve maximum life. The care is usually very
inexpensive compared to full replacement, so penny pinching here can be very unwise.
Ensure that the site is properly graded and drained at installation to minimize pockets
where water can collect and deteriorate the surface or substrate.
Have a sealing coat applied to the surface at regular intervals. Your contractor can
recommend a regimen, which can be once every 1 to 6 or 7 years depending on climate, use,
and other factors. Sealing will extend the life of asphalt substantially, and one sealing
job will cost only a tiny fraction of repaving.
Avoid oil drips, excessive dirt or gravel build-up, all of which will cause the surface
to wear out and admit moisture, causing damage. Limit activities such as car washing to
specific, well drained areas.
Prompt repair of damaged areas is imperative. That honeycomb pattern of cracks admits
more and more water, softening more and more of the base, leading to ultimate failure and
the need for replacement.