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Asphalt 101: Everything You Need to Know About Asphalt Paving

Home » Blog » Asphalt 101: Everything You Need to Know About Asphalt Paving

From roads to parking lots to driveways, asphalt is everywhere in the U.S. Just take roads: 2.2 million miles of paved lanes cover the nation, and 94% of them are made of asphalt

You don’t need to know everything about asphalt in order to make use of it, of course. But if you’re considering a paving project any time soon, learning about this useful material can give you better insight into how the professionals at Colorado Springs-based Pavco bid out a job, make decisions and get the work of paving done.

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt consists of a petroleum-based binder mixed with aggregates like gravel, crushed rock, or sand. The resulting material has some cement-like properties but performs better in extreme temperatures and can be more durable.

The thick, liquid petroleum binder is called bitumen, and many English-speaking countries outside the U.S. refer to asphalt by this name. Different mixes and aggregates can produce varied properties that may be better suited for heat or cold, walkways or roadways. The “ingredients” in each mix are measured, combined and baked together to form the asphalt product that is spread. 

In addition to its use in paved surfaces, asphalt is incorporated into roofing shingles, insulation, and some waterproofing and sealing products.

Asphalt is known for being one of the nation’s most recycled materials. According to the National Asphalt Paving Association, 95% of the asphalt mixture used in 2021 was reclaimed from old pavements and put back into new pavements. This saves as much as 2.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year.

Why is Asphalt a Good Material to Use in Colorado Springs?

Other materials, such as concrete, are often used in paving, but asphalt offers specific benefits that make it a good choice for a paving project in the Colorado Springs area.

1. Best for the Climate.

Unpredictable weather can make it challenging to complete construction projects east of the Rockies, but it can also be hard on paved surfaces. Asphalt has more “give” to it than other materials, so it is less likely to crack during the winter freeze and thaw cycles we see in Colorado Springs. As well, the dark surface of the asphalt absorbs heat more easily and helps melt off ice and snow more quickly.

2. Quick to Install.

Once the ground is prepared, professionals can put in a driveway or small parking lot in 1 or 2 days, and the surface can be walked or driven on almost immediately. 

3. More Economical.

Asphalt is less expensive than many other paving materials and can be maintained and repaired more easily. Regular seal coating and repairs can keep the surface looking and performing well for years.

What are the Different Types of Asphalt?

Asphalt is commonly divided into types based on the temperature required to pour and work with it.

Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA)

Hot mixes are poured at around 300°F or 150°C. This type is what you’re most likely to see professional crews use in paving and patching. Hot asphalt must be used at high temperatures and will harden as it cools, so it is challenging to use in colder weather. Traditional hot asphalt mixes are flexible, impermeable, and weather resistant; they’re used in all types of paving for roads, sidewalks, walkways, parking lots and driveways.

Types of HMA:

  • Dense-Graded Mixes. These are impermeable and used for high-traffic areas. The type and size of aggregate used in a dense-graded mix can be altered to create fine-graded or course-graded material.
  • Stone Matrix or SMA. SMA uses more coarse stone in the mix as a binder, which resists rutting or deforming more than other types. It creates a smoother and more durable road surface but can be as much as 25% more expensive to make.
  • Porous Asphalt. Often used for stormwater management, porous or permeable asphalt allows rain water to filter through and acts as a barrier that prevents pollutants from entering waterways. Porous asphalt uses less aggregate to create larger void spaces (about 16% compared to 2% to 3% in traditional HMA mixes). The Environmental Protection Agency recommends the use of porous asphalt for reducing stormwater runoff and protecting streams and rivers from pollutants.

Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA)

Created in a similar way to hot mix asphalt, warm mix asphalt varieties contain water or chemical additives that allow them to be poured at lower temperatures. Warm mixes require less oil and less energy to heat, so they’re easier to transport and to work with. Because warm mix asphalt is newer, there’s less long-term data about its durability, but it is gaining popularity due to its ease of use. Warm mix can be used in nearly all the same paving applications as hot mix.

Cold Mix Asphalt (CMA)

Cold mix asphalt, as its name implies, is used cold and does not need to be heated. Without being heated, it’s not as durable as hot and warm mixes, so it is used primarily for patching and repairing small areas. When used on roadways, it’s often chosen for quick fixes during cold weather and replaced with a hot or warm mix when weather conditions permit.

Types of CMA:

  • MC Cold Mix. This is the most common type of asphalt used for fixing cracks and potholes quickly. It is softer than most types of asphalt and takes time to cure.
  • UPM. UPM is a custom-made mix that works in nearly all weather conditions and can be used for more permanent fixes than typical cold mix asphalt. The surface sets up quickly and can be walked on or driven on as soon as repairs are completed, while the center takes longer to cure.

Many professional paving companies have their own custom mixes of asphalt designed to work in local conditions and for the most common types of paving they do. The best asphalt to use is the one that gives you the best overall value with a combination of durability, efficiency and price for your specific application. If you would like to know more about types of asphalt used in for commercial paving in the eastern Colorado region, the experts at Pavco can help.

What are Some Applications for Asphalt?

Asphalt has multiple uses, but it is primarily a material for creating smooth spaces that will hold foot or vehicle traffic. Commercial applications include:

1. Paving

Asphalt, usually a hot mix type, is laid to provide a strong but flexible surface. An important part of the paving process is proper preparation of the subgrade that allows runoff and provides a stable base. Typical areas to be paved include roads, driveways, pathways, sidewalks, and parking lots.

2. Concrete

Asphalt concrete that uses a mineral aggregate and asphalt binder can be used for many types of surfaces. This is usually applied in layers and compacted for durability.

3. Pothole repair

Potholes, or areas where existing pavement caves in, are created by expansion and contraction during periods of freezing and thawing. This freezing-thawing cycle weakens the pavement and causes cracks, which can increase in size until a hole forms. Hot mix asphalt is the best material for repairing potholes, but cold mix can be used temporarily (such as in winter) until weather permits the use of HMA.

4. Overlays

To extend the life of an asphalt surface, an overlay or layer of new asphalt can be applied. The new layer is typically between 1.5 and 3 inches depending on the existing surface depth and types of traffic over the pavement. Overlays are best used when the base is still strong and it is desirable to wait for a complete repaving.

5. Speed bumps

Speed bumps or breakers that safely slow traffic on roads and in parking lots are often made of asphalt. Asphalt speed bumps can be painted and sealed to last longer than more temporary rubber speed bumps and calm traffic without being easily damaged.

How Long Does Asphalt Last?

The life expectancy of an asphalt surface depends on the weather conditions, what kind of use it gets and how consistently it is maintained. 

In Eastern Colorado, from Denver to Colorado Springs, a paved surface should last between 15 and 25 years. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Director Paul Jesaitis said he expects an average lifespan of a paved road in a metro area to be 15 years. “By doing preventative maintenance, we are able to extend those lifespans to average about 25 years,” he explained in an article covering area road repairs.

Long-lasting asphalt starts with a well-prepared sublayer. The type of soil and how well it freezes and thaws can make a difference in how long the asphalt lasts without getting damaging cracks and potholes. 

Once your pavement is finished, keep it clean and free of debris. Use a stiff brush or push broom made for cleaning paved surfaces and wash as needed to keep the area looking good and increase its lifespan. To extend the life of asphalt pavement, you should also:

1. Sealcoat at recommended intervals.

Sealcoating is a process that recoats the asphalt surface and fills minor cracks. The seal coating material is a thin layer of asphalt emulsion with water, inert fillers and strengthening additives that prevents oxidation of the asphalt surface. Application should be every 3 to 5 years. The aesthetic results of seal coating can make your blacktop look darker, smoother and cleaner – a plus for many businesses.

2. Overlay the asphalt.

In some situations, overlaying a thicker layer of asphalt can rejuvenate your surface and extend the lifespan. While it’s not a substitute for repaving, an overlay can give you a few more years of use from a commercial paved surface.

3. Repair damages immediately.

When you notice a significant crack or pothole, have it filled as soon as conditions allow. Water, debris or chemicals can penetrate the asphalt through a small crack and cause more damage that might be costly and difficult to repair. Inspect your paved surface at the end of every winter and address any issues. 

If you need a professional evaluation or need to schedule seal coating or repairs, contact Pavco today.

What is the Cost of Asphalt Paving?

Asphalt paving is typically much less expensive than concrete paving due to asphalt’s workability. But it’s not easy to nail down the price of paving a parking lot or driveway, since many factors go into the final cost.

  • Is there an existing paved surface that must be removed?
  • Is the ground level and stable? How much preparation must be done before paving can be done?
  • What size is the area to be paved?
  • What kind of traffic will the surface need to handle? Foot traffic only, occasional vehicle traffic or regular vehicle traffic?
  • Does the area need to be partially open for customers or can it be closed off until paving is finished?
  • What kind of painting or decorative finish is desired on the paved surface?

To get an estimate of the cost for your specific residential or commercial paving project, please request a quote from Pavco and we’ll be get in touch right away.

Do you just need some ballpark figures? According to a survey done by BobVila.com, asphalt paving for residential applications can cost between $7 and $13 per square foot. That doesn’t include the cost of extensive grading and preparation, curbs or sidewalk. The site estimates the average cost of an asphalt driveway to be just over $5,000, depending on size, type of asphalt and the labor needed. For a more comprehensive estimate, contact Pavco today.

What is the Best Way to Find a Reputable Paving Contractor?

Asphalt paving requires a knowledgeable contractor to prepare, pour, work and finish your surface — and have it last for years to come.

At Pavco, we stand by our work and we know we’ll stack up favorably to other area contractors. Here’s what to look for when you are choosing the right company for your residential or commercial paving job:

  • Price. It can be a challenge to compare prices, as other companies may use a different quality of equipment or asphalt mix. Ask us about how our quality compares to other bids you may be considering and let us prove our value.
  • Reviews. Satisfied customers let others know about their experience. We have customer testimonials and almost 50 5-star Google reviews that attest to our work quality and customer service.
  • License and insurance. We can document our license and insurance; not all pavers can or will.
  • Warranty. Good paving contractors stand by their work and want to make sure customers are happy. Ask about what kind of warranty we can offer on your project.

The quality of work we do at Pavco, our service, and our value make us one of the best paving contractors in the Colorado Springs area. The first step to starting your paving project is to get a quote. Contact Pavco today with questions and to request your free estimate. 


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