Asphalt driveways are an excellent alternative to concrete: they are cheaper, more flexible and can even be similarly customized in appearance. Asphalt consists, most typically, of rock, sand and asphalt cement, which is a petroleum product. Asphalt is most commonly found only in black, but it is a common misconception that no other colors or elaborate patterns are available; most people, when they think of asphalt, think of a highway: effective, but bland. This, however, is not the case: asphalt stamping can create intricate and beautiful patterns, adding an aesthetic touch that can be further enhanced by mixing in polymer dyes that give the asphalt different colors, tints or hues.
Like concrete, asphalt requires a solid foundation upon which to build; it is imperative that the foundation is properly installed, because a faulty foundation can wreak havoc on the strength and durability of your asphalt driveway. Because of their petroleum base, asphalt driveways are relatively flexible, allowing them to better withstand the freezing of water and its subsequent expansion, which is a huge cause of cracking and distortion in concrete driveways. Furthermore, asphalt driveways can be salted in winter, providing greater traction and helping to melt any ice that might cover them; concrete driveways, on the other hand, are damaged by salt. Finally, asphalt driveways retain heat very well, especially the common black variants. Though this can be problematic in the summer, when the surface becomes so hot it is uncomfortable to walk barefoot across, it can be a great boon in winter, when the surface absorbs heat from the sun, storing it more effectively than gravel, concrete and stone, thereby making it more difficult for the driveway to ice over.
Asphalt driveways are extremely cost effective, and are among the cheapest driveways to install: price estimates typically range between $2-$5 per square foot, which, while double the cost of gravel, the cheapest driveway material, is still roughly half the cost of concrete. It should be noted that pattern stamping and coloring will augment these estimates.
Asphalt driveways require semi-regular maintenance to be kept in the best possible condition. Cracks or fissures should be sealed immediately using emulsified liquids or specially purchased asphalt sealants. Though asphalt driveways tend to crack more frequently than their concrete counter-parts, repairing these cracks in asphalt is significantly easier and less expensive, offsetting somewhat the more regular repairs (special note: after initial installation, a minimum period of six to nine months should pass before any sealant is used, as prior to this time it could damage the foundation).
Because of their incredible ability to contract and expand without sustaining damage, asphalt driveways are ideal in colder climates, or climates that experience drastic differences in temperature. They are a cost-effective means of paving, and, unlike gravel and concrete, are more suitable to steep inclines or slopes.
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