How Long Does an Asphalt Driveway Last?

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Updated August 27, 2021
A little boy with his father wash their red vintage car in the driveway of their home
Cavan Images/Cavan via Getty Images

Asphalt driveways should last 15 to 30 years, though this can vary depending on a few factors

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Asphalt is a popular driveway choice, and for good reason: Asphalt brings some serious benefits to the table, especially when compared to its chief rival concrete. It’s easier to install than concrete and is better at draining rainwater. Asphalt driveways, otherwise known as blacktop driveways, will offer a safe haven for your vehicles and could slightly increase the asking price of your home down the line. 

Though relatively easy to install, the cost to hire a pro to pour an asphalt driveway is still pretty steep, with a national average of $4,750. After plunking down that kind of money, you will want to make sure your freshly paved driveway will be with you for the long haul. Don’t fret. Asphalt driveways last anywhere from 15 to 30 years.

What Impacts the Lifespan of an Asphalt Driveway?

Several factors influence the lifespan of asphalt, all of which are important to consider before you seek out a qualified asphalt contractor.

Proper Installation

Though easier to install than concrete, laying down an asphalt driveway is still a complex procedure that is not without risk. A competent contractor will have to design the driveway, prepare the foundation to minimize cracking, rake the area to create a level surface, and ensure the finished driveway is correctly graded so water can drain easily. If you or your pro cut corners during the installation process, the driveway could experience frustrating issues years ahead of schedule.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Asphalt is fairly flexible and durable, though it can still crack during cold winter months. These cracks may be microscopic at first, but as the driveway freezes and thaws, year after year, they will expand. Left unattended, these small cracks will become unsightly large ones that require repairs and lower the lifespan of your asphalt driveway. 

If you live in an area prone to frigid temperatures, ask your pro to use hot-mix asphalt, which does a good job resisting cracks caused by the freeze-thaw cycle. 

On the opposite side of the weather spectrum, extreme heat can slowly soften the asphalt, which can lead to deformation as heavy vehicles sit on top of it. Additionally, solar UV radiation will also soften the driveway over time.

Type of Usage and Thickness

Your average residential asphalt driveway is three inches thick, which is perfect for passenger vehicles and even vans and lightweight trucks. However, heavy trucks, campers, trailers, and other larger-than-average vehicles place undue strain on a three-inch driveway. This will lower the lifespan of your driveway and could even lead to severe damage. If your home’s driveway occasionally has to bear the load of a heavy truck or camper, ask your pro to put down a thicker layer of asphalt. Four or five inches will do the trick.

Tips to Improve the Longevity of Asphalt Driveways

Close-up of a house’s asphalt driveway
alejandrophotography/E+ via Getty Images

If you want your asphalt driveway to last 30 years instead of 15, it’s time to get proactive. Here are some steps you can take to improve the lifespan of your driveway.

Let the Driveway Dry and Cure

Give a freshly poured asphalt driveway 72 hours to dry before putting anything on it. After three days, you can walk and park cars but do so with caution. An asphalt driveway can take 30 days to a year to fully harden and cure. While useable during this period, the asphalt will still be relatively soft and pliable. In other words, avoid parking large vehicles until the pavement has fully hardened. You should also be mindful of fluid spills during this time. Keep an eye on your car to make sure gas or coolant is not leaking because they could both damage the freshly poured asphalt.

Seal it Up

Asphalt is naturally porous, so you will have to apply a coat of sealant six to 12 months after the initial installation. Sealing too soon can cause permanent damage to the pavement, so contact a sealant professional to make sure the asphalt is hard enough to take the seal. A high-quality sealant will protect your driveway from moisture, gasoline, grease, oil, road salts, anti-freeze, and many more potentially dangerous substances. You can apply sealant on your own, but make sure the temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit before laying down a coat. You should also check the weather for a forecast of clear skies for three days after applying the sealant. Precipitation and frigid temperatures could endanger the seal coat. Repeat this process every two to three years.

Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance

We cannot stress this enough. You must properly maintain your asphalt driveway to ensure you squeeze the most time out of it. Make a habit out of cleaning the driveway and inspecting it for cracks and other irregularities. If you spot a crack, hire a pro to patch it up

You may also want to trim trees and remove roots that are running toward your driveway, as these roots can crawl underneath the foundation and wreak havoc. 

Finally, spray the asphalt with cold water on hot days to minimize heat-induced cracks.

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