Should New Asphalt Be Smooth?

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The invention of asphalt paved the way for our roads to become smoother compared to the concrete that was regularly used before asphalt's invention. In this article, we will be answering if new asphalt should be smooth through the research and inquiry that we have done with paving experts.

Asphalt is never smooth. It might appear smooth at first glance, but if you look closely, asphalt has tiny bumps that serve as tread -especially if it's new. As wear and tear affect it in the long run, it might seem smoother as the asphalt gets thinner. But thinning over time leads to cracks and holes, which can be prevalent in older asphalt.

Are you interested to learn more about asphalt and how it works? Finish reading this article to learn answers to some questions related to asphalt, such as should asphalt driveways be smooth, how long does it take to settle, do you vibrate asphalt, how long do asphalt lasts, and more!

Worker building new asphalt road on the new road construction site, Should New Asphalt Be Smooth?

Should asphalt driveways be smooth?

As answered above, asphalt can never be smooth because of how it is made. This would have to do with its engineering since it will be driven on by vehicles that are either heavy or light.

Asphalt is made by interlocking angular stones that create the overall composition of the asphalt mix. This is what makes it compact and at the same not completely smooth like tiles.

New residential home blacktop asphalt driveway was completed

These rocks will eventually wear over time, kind of like what happens to the tread of your car's tires. Also like tires, when the asphalt gets thinner, it also forms cracks as its overall integrity weakens. More on this topic later on.

Why do they put sand on new asphalt?

Worker operating asphalt paver machine during road construction and repairing works

That is not actually just sand particles, it is are called asphalt cement. This sand-like material serves as the binder or glue for the asphalt to stick and harden together.

This process also makes the stones and sand immune to UV damage as they will be under the sun entirely. UV damage can lead to asphalt becoming more brittle and easy to crack.

How long does it take for asphalt to settle?

For asphalt to fully settle, it might take 6 to 12 months, depending on the conditions. But this does not mean that you would have to wait this long before using it. Experts recommend that you can drive atop it only three days after laying the asphalt.

While it is already driveable, it is not fully settled in, so you would have to avoid parking on your asphalt -especially heavy and big cars and trailers. This might prematurely break the asphalt which can then cause deformity and uneven driveways.

You can immediately walk on the asphalt just a few hours after it has been laid down. In other areas where the temperature is a bit higher, you may want to add some extra days before driving on it.

It would be best to consult your contractor to know the exact amount of days before your new driveway becomes driveable.

Will rain ruin new asphalt?

Perfect asphalt mountain road in overcast rainy day with blurred background

It is not advisable to install asphalt while it is raining, you may notice this as most road constructions are done during the spring and summer, this is because water can easily damage it.

If the rain comes into contact with fresh asphalt, there's a high possibility that some essential oils used in making it would rise to the surface and be washed off. This can then affect the overall quality and the curing time of the asphalt.

Rain also jeopardizes the stability of the subsoil which is the foundation of the asphalt. A compromised subsoil can cause the asphalt to sink and eventually crack.

Is two inches of asphalt enough for a driveway?

Yes, two inches of asphalt is enough. In fact, it is just the standard thickness of asphalt.

For residential driveways, it is common to use two to three inches of asphalt. Three inches would be perfect for those occasional large trucks or heavy equipment passing. If you will be having heavy vehicles, it would be wise to go with three inches.

While underneath, a standard six to eight inches of granular base aggregate will serve as the structure of the asphalt that will separate it from the soil. This is for added durability.

Do you vibrate asphalt?

Vibrating an asphalt is the use of pistons or road rollers to make the asphalt more compact and tightly rolled together.

Civil engineers say that if the thickness of asphalt is an inch or less then vibrating would not be needed. This is because this is too thin, you could then, either just spread it out unevenly or cause cracking as the thinner the asphalt is the more vulnerable and brittle it becomes.

Since the amount of thickness recommended for your driveway is at least two inches, you will be needing a road roller to make your asphalt more compact and sturdy overall.

At what temperature should asphalt be laid?

The ideal temperature you would want to install asphalt is when both the ground and air temperatures are anywhere between 50 and 90 degrees. Anything below or above this can have bad ramifications in the curing and the overall quality of the asphalt.

Too cold conditions will make the asphalt not bind together completely, even with the use of road rollers. While too hot conditions are also the same and will make it very long for the asphalt to be cured.

Installing asphalt is a heavily seasonal project, meaning that it can't be done in certain parts of the year where the weather would make it impossible for you to have a properly installed asphalt surface.

Are tire marks on asphalt normal?

Tire abrasion on asphalt after a illegal car racing

Tire marks are a result of the asphalt being used while not being fully cured. Even though you have waited three days, you can still leave tire marks on the newly laid asphalt, especially if you park on it. The same goes for cement.

Don't worry as these marks will eventually wear themselves out with the daily passing and compression of car tires. You can easily cause more damage by heating up and trying to blend fresh asphalt.

If you want those tire marks to be removed you would need to have patience as asphalt installers would wait until the asphalt to further cure before any blending would be done. Rushing this can only lead to even worse cosmetic issues on the asphalt surface.

How long does asphalt last?

There are a lot of factors in how long an asphalt road will last. Not enough thickness of asphalt can easily make it crack especially if heavy equipment and vehicles keep driving on it.

Correctly installed asphalt can last an average of between 15-20 years. The thaw cycles, along with the soil type underneath the base stone layer all play major factors in determining how long the asphalt will last.

In areas where the freeze/thaw cycle is not as much of a concern, the life expectancy is longer. But in hotter climate areas, humidity and heat would be your number one enemy.

Moisture can also cause very significant damage, especially on the base concrete of the asphalt. Proper drainage is also very important in helping make the asphalt last.

Patching up cracked and damaged parts of an asphalt road also helps stop the formation of cracks and potholes. But improper patching can cause uneven roads and sometimes causes more damage and potholes.

In conclusion

Overall, asphalt, new or old can never be totally smooth as they are pieces of small stones glued together. Asphalt might look smooth on the eyes, but when you touch it, the surface is coarse, and depending on the type of asphalt, the stones can be chunky or fine.