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Asphalt Driveway 101: The Definitive Buyers Guide to Asphalt Driveways

The idea of an asphalt driveway probably doesn’t get the heart racing in terms of style, but when compared to driveway pavers and concrete driveways they represent a well priced and practical option. Furthermore they can look very smart when offset with creative landscaping ideas. In this driveways guide we will look at your options (more than you might realize), compare asphalt with concrete and look at the cost of installation, mainetnance and repair.

stamped-ashphalt-driveway

Types of Asphalt Driveway

When you know your options, you’ll select a driveway that you’re pleased with based on your budget requirements and/or your eye for aesthetics.

Standard asphalt driveways: This is the type of asphalt driveway you probably see most in your neighborhood. A standard asphalt driveway is made from “virgin” asphalt straight from the asphalt plant. The surface is smooth and a color ranging from the dark brown of black coffee to coal black. Most standard asphalt driveways include about 3 inches of asphalt. Standard asphalt can be resurfaced when needed with 1-1.5 inches of fresh material.

Recycled asphalt driveways: Also known as crushed asphalt, asphalt millings or RAP (recycled asphalt pavement), this material produces the lowest asphalt driveway prices. Asphalt removed from driveways, parking lots and roadways is crushed to about the size of gravel. The asphalt aggregate is trucked to the site, dumped and then spread 3-4 inches thick. The material is wetted to activate the tar, and then it is compacted to bind the pieces together. Recycled asphalt drives can be resurfaced with 1-2 inches of material.

Stamped asphalt driveways: New standard driveways are best for stamping. Existing driveways can be stamped if the asphalt is in very good condition. Otherwise, the drive must be resurfaced first. When stamping, the surface of the driveway is heated to soften the top inch or so. A steel template is laid on the hot material, and a tamping machine forces it into the asphalt to create the pattern. Before the asphalt fully cools, the template is removed. The heating and stamping proceeds section by section. A range of brick and stone patterns are available.

Once stamped, the asphalt is coated with a polymer cement material combined with modified epoxy acrylic to form a water-tight bond. The coating is sprayed onto the driveway. It can be tinted in a range of colors to look like brick, granite, concrete, terracotta, bedrock or other options. Stamped asphalt driveway prices make it a cost-effective alternative to paver stone and stamped concrete driveways, especially for homeowners with an existing asphalt drive.

If you want to get further stamped asphalt ideas take a look at this video:

Asphalt vs Concrete Driveway

This chart comparing asphalt to concrete driveways in major characteristics shows their similarities and differences:

 
Standard Asphalt
Recycled Asphalt
Concrete
Initial cost $3.20 to $5.50/sf $1.95 to $4.25/sf
$4.60-$6.95/sf
Sealing frequency 1-3 years 1-3 years
2-5 years
Sealing cost $0.40 to $0.70/sf $0.40 to $0.70/sf
$1.25 to $2.50
Repair cost Moderate Low-Moderate
Moderate-High
Resurfacing $2.00-$3.40/sf $1.55-$2.75/sf
N/A
Removal cost $1.75-$2.50/sf $1.50-$2.00/sf
$6-$8/sf
Color Dark brown to black Dark brown or gray to black
Medium gray to nearly white
Stamping Option N/A
Option
Tint Tinted sealer N/A
Tinted concrete
Staining N/A N/A
Option
Decorative cutting N/A N/A
Option

Professional Installation of an Asphalt Driveway

Here is an overview of the process of installing a standard asphalt driveway.

  • For a new driveway, the soil is excavated up to a depth of 12 inches, based on the soil type, to form the driveway bed
  • Depending on excavation depth, 4 to 10 inches of stone, gravel or other type of aggregate is installed and compacted when not in place from a previous driveway
  • For existing driveways, the asphalt or concrete is removed, and the aggregate base beneath is added to, if necessary
  • The asphalt material is laid down hot, smoothed and compacted with a heavy rolling machine and then sealed in 6-12 months

Asphalt Driveway Cost

Costs vary based on how much aggregate base is required, the distance from the source of materials and related factors. Wooded property costs more to excavate than open land. Costs below are per square foot.

  • New standard asphalt driveway cost: $3.20 to $5.50
  • Resurfaced standard asphalt driveway cost: $2.00-$3.40
  • Recycled asphalt driveway cost: $1.95 to $4.25
  • Resurfaced recycled asphalt driveway cost: $1.55-$2.75
  • Asphalt driveway stamping cost (in addition to the driveway installation/resurfacing cost): $2.75-$4.25

If you’re look for a cheaper driveway option then please take a look at our gravel driveway guide and our cost calculator for gravel prices.

Contractors: What to Look For in a Driveway Installer

When you get driveway estimates, choose an installer with these traits:

  • A local reputation for quality work and good customer service
  • Licensed and insured
  • A crew with experience doing the specific type of work being completed
  • A commitment to get the proper permit and inspection, if required in your community
  • Written estimates with a guaranteed price
  • A warranty on materials and labor

Asphalt Driveway Repair and Cost

Asphalt driveways require consistent care to look good for 20+ years. Here is what you can expect to have to do along with the costs you’ll incur.

Asphalt driveway sealing: The driveway should be sealed yearly in hot, sunny climates because the sealer will deteriorate. Annual sealing may be needed in climates with severe winters because plowing/shoveling/de-icing removes sealer.

In temperate climates, the driveway can be sealed as needed. When the sealcoat begins to fade, it is time to reseal.

Caution: Do not seal more often than is necessary. A buildup of sealer harms the aesthetics of the driveway and may make resurfacing it an impossibility.

  • Sealcoating cost: $0.40 to $0.70 per square foot when the surface is in good condition and $1.00 to $1.50 per square foot when cracks need to be filled

Section Replacement: Sunken, raised or badly damaged sections of asphalt need to be cut out and replaced. Costs are high due to the labor-intense nature of repairs and the cost of bringing in a crew and equipment for just a small area of work.

  • Asphalt section repair cost: $5 to $8 per square foot

Asphalt Driveway Resurfacing and Cost

One of the benefits of asphalt, both standard and recycled, is that it can be resurfaced at least once. Minor cracks in the existing surface are repaired. Settled areas are replaced or filled. Then, a fresh surface 1-2 inches thick is installed.

  • Asphalt resurfacing cost: $2.00-$3.40 per square foot for standard asphalt and $1.55-$2.75 per square foot for recycled asphalt.

Homeowners choose resurfacing over repairs when:

  • The driveway becomes visually unappealing due to patches, excessive cracks, high spots or low spots
  • The price of repairs rises to the point they prefer paying the cost of resurfacing to get a fresh-looking driveway