Asphalt is an excellent material for paving driveways, parking lots, tennis courts, walking paths, and other areas. It is much less expensive than concrete and can be poured and ready for use in just a few days. Unlike concrete, asphalt paving has some flexibility and it is resistant to cracking due to tree roots growing under the surface. This flexibility is an important advantage in colder climates because asphalt is less affected by frost heave than concrete.
However, in colder climates, an asphalt driveway, parking lot or other area should not be installed in cold weather. In warm climates, asphalt can be installed throughout the year but in other areas, asphalt should not be installed in the winter months or any time the temperature is too low. The minimum temperature for installing asphalt depends primarily on the thickness of the asphalt, but other weather conditions such as wind and rain need to be considered as well.
Asphalt is heated to over 300 degrees and poured while it is hot. It hardens as it cools and it needs to be graded and smoothed before it hardens. In lower temperatures it will harden too quickly and the result will be a lumpy, uneven, and roughly finished driveway or parking lot.
Most experts recommend a minimum temperature of 70 degrees for laying a thin layer (1 1/2 inches) of asphalt. Temperatures can be a little lower if you are laying a thicker layer. However, wind and moisture can also cause the asphalt to harden faster and need to be taken into account. In fact, if there is too much moisture your asphalt paving contractor will probably recommend waiting until conditions improve.
A little regular maintenance will help your asphalt driveway look great and last a long time. One of the most important maintenance tasks is seal coating the driveway. Seal coating is applied to the surface of the driveway to fill small cracks and to protect the asphalt against the elements.
Asphalt seal coating should be applied about every three years. You should wait until the previous coating has worn off to apply a new coating. Applying seal coating too often will result in unsightly peeling and flaking of the coating. Waiting too long between seal coating will accelerate the wear and tear on the driveway.
You can purchase seal coating made for do-it-yourself application at your local home improvement center or you can have it professionally applied by your asphalt driveway contractor. Professional grade seal coating usually has consistently good results.
Seal coating sold to homeowners can vary in quality between brands and even the same brand of seal coating can vary in color and quality from batch to batch. If you choose to tackle the job yourself, it’s worth the extra cost to buy high quality seal coating and try to buy all of your cans from the same batch. If you have to buy cans from different batches, try mixing some of the seal coating to avoid abrupt color changes.
Be sure to follow the instructions on the container. The driveway should be clean and free of oil, transmission fluid, and other stains. Fill larger cracks with crack filler and allow the product to cure thoroughly before applying the seal coating. Choose a warm, dry day with no rain in the forecast for several days and start early so that you can get the job done and allow the seal coating time to dry before nightfall.
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