What Is Asphalt? Here Is Everything You Need to Know!

The National Asphalt Pavement Association reports that over 94% of the 2.6 million miles of paved roads in the United States are surfaced with asphalt. Runways at commercial airports are predominantly surfaced with asphalt, and it is also the most popular material for parking lots.

Asphalt, also referred to as blacktop, is a composite material that is made up of aggregates and bitumen. The aggregates are a mix of crushed stone, gravel, and sand. Bitumen is the dark, sticky material that holds the aggregates together. Asphalt can be made in a factory or on site in a mobile mixing plant.

What Applications Does Asphalt Serve?

As established, asphalt is a popular material for roads and runways, but it’s also used in many other applications. It makes a great surface for biking or running and other sports. Some playgrounds use asphalt as a foundational material before pouring rubber in place as a cushion.

Asphalt is also used for roofs and in construction. Believe it or not, it actually has a few marine applications as well, including canal linings and dam facings. The durability and affordability of asphalt makes it a popular material.

5 Different Types of Asphalt

Asphalt can take on many types of jobs, depending on the process that mixes the aggregates with bitumen. Choosing the right type of asphalt can mean the difference between success and failure.

  • Hot-Mix Asphalt – This is probably the most common type of asphalt. It is produced at very high temperatures between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot-mix asphalt is highly weather resistant and used on highways and runways. When the asphalt is hot, it is easy to work with. It cools quickly, so some expertise is required to use it. HMA is our choice for creating a durable pavement that meets your requirements.
  • Warm-Mix Asphalt – This type of asphalt is a newer technology in which the mixture is only heated up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It is safer for workers because of the lower temperatures, and it uses less fuel than hot-mix asphalt, making it better for the environment. Because the asphalt mix cools down slowly, it can be applied even when the weather is cooler. Warm-mix asphalt is easier to transport long distances without losing quality.
  • Cold-Mix Asphalt – This type of asphalt is used when it’s cold outside, usually to make temporary repairs that can’t be done when the weather doesn’t cooperate with hot-mix asphalt. Cold-mix isn’t as strong as hot-mix asphalt, but it will patch areas that don’t get heavy traffic. When permanent repairs can be made, the cold-mix asphalt can be removed.
  • Dense-graded asphalt – This type of asphalt is a type of hot-mix asphalt that is impermeable and more durable than a general hot-mix asphalt. However, it does need to be used properly to achieve a stronger surface.
  • Porous asphalt – This type of asphalt allows water to drain through it to the soil underneath. It’s popular for playgrounds and parking lots because it improves safety by eliminating puddles. Porous asphalt is also good for the environment and places less stress on sewer systems.

suburb-with-asphalt-roadHow Long Will Asphalt Last?

Asphalt pavement can last 25 to 30 years, depending on the strength of the base, the soil under the base, the amount of traffic it receives, and how well you maintain it. Here are a few ways to extend the life of asphalt:

  • Make sure the asphalt is installed professionally on a suitable foundation that drains well.
  • Use the correct type of asphalt for the application.
  • Apply a sealcoat that protects the top layer of asphalt from water damage and other elements.
  • Fix cracks and make repairs to the asphalt as soon as possible so they don’t get bigger.
  • Sweep your asphalt parking lot or surface to remove debris and dirt. If you seem to be removing the asphalt itself, it could mean that the asphalt is raveling. This problem won’t get better. You should make repairs with an overlay or sealcoat.

In addition to these tips, you may want to limit the traffic on your asphalt. Heavy vehicles may need to be diverted to another parking lot or road. Don’t let construction vehicles in your parking lot. If your asphalt cannot handle a garbage truck, move your dumpster to another area.

Check the drainage of your asphalt pavement because water can cause many problems. In colder months, the water freezes and expands the soil or asphalt, causing it to be weaker when the warmer temperatures thaw the ice. This makes your asphalt more susceptible to damage.

Is Asphalt Sustainable?

Asphalt is highly sustainable and recyclable. It is fully reclaimable and can be turned into new roads. Asphalt pavements take less energy to produce, resulting in fewer greenhouse gases than concrete pavement. Warm-mix asphalt further reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, smoother roads are better for the environment because fuel economy is increased on smoother pavements.

Speak with an Expert Asphalt Paving Company

We hope this primer helps you understand why using asphalt for your parking lot or sports facility makes the most sense. McConnell & Associates has over five decades of experience offering asphalt-related services in the Midwest.

Our team has installed asphalt at schools, country clubs, businesses, and in many of the local communities. We will gladly share our list of satisfied clients so you can see for yourself. Contact us to ask questions, receive a free estimate, and learn why our customers trust us!