When it comes to an asphalt driveway, the most damaging element is time. Most driveways don't experience heavy use, so damage is often the result of the normal asphalt aging process. Fortunately, you can slow down asphalt aging so your driveway has a much longer service lifespan.
Signs of Aging
One of the earliest signs of aging is small cracks over the surface of the paving. Over time, these cracks will get larger and the asphalt will look worse. Another early sign is something called raveling. The tar that holds the asphalt together begins to shrink and erode, and then the gravel aggregate in the paving works loose. The surface becomes bumpy and uneven.
Oxidation is yet another symptom of aging. This occurs due to exposure from the sun's UV rays. The color of the asphalt fades and the issues with raveling become much worse as the asphalt dries out and begins to shrink rapidly.
As asphalt ages, weathering begins to weaken the surface paving. Repeated moisture exposure and temperature fluctuations can lead to small cracks. Moisture gets into the cracks, freezes, expands, and makes the cracks larger or forces potholes to form. Eventually, the damage will extend down and into the driveway base, which will lead to major structural problems.
UV light further speeds up the entire process, as it breaks down the asphalt and causes it to shrink. Add wind to the mix, and the drying out process may progress even more quickly. Once aging issues start, they can progress rapidly as the damage builds exponentially upon the failing asphalt.
There are ways to slow down the aging process. The most important is to treat your asphalt every two or three years so it is protected from UV light, moisture, and other issues of weathering. Sealcoating provides a thin, fresh layer of asphalt and sealants over the driveway, effectively reconditioning the asphalt and protecting it against damage.
Any small damage must also be addressed as soon as they occur, whether it is a crack or a developing pothole. Prompt patching prevents the damage from becoming large and difficult to fix. As long as damage is only in the surface paving, it is typically repairable. It's only when cracks and potholes work their way into the base that more expensive repair or replacement is necessary.
Contact a paving service if you are ready to prolong the life of your asphalt driveway.