A new asphalt driveway is a valuable investment that can greatly enhance the curb appeal of your property. To maximize the life and appearance of your driveway, however, proper care and maintenance is important. To ensure that your new driveway looks beautiful and stays in good shape for years to come, here are some of the top “do’s and don’ts” to keep in mind during the first year after installation.
Don’t drive or park on the driveway right away.
Your new asphalt driveway may look solid and tough, but it’s actually quite vulnerable when it’s first installed. Ideally, you should avoid driving on the driveway for at least the first two or three days, or up to five days in very hot weather. This is also the minimum time frame for keeping parked cars off the driveway, although some experts recommend you wait as much as two weeks before parking any vehicles on the new asphalt. Yes, this may seem like a long time to wait, but it’s worth it when you consider that it may help to add years to the life of your driveway.
Do park in different spots during the first year.
For the first six to 12 months after your new driveway is installed, the liquid asphalt in the blacktop is hardening: this process is known as “curing.” While you certainly don’t have to wait until the driveway is fully cured to drive or park on it, it’s important to understand that the asphalt may still be somewhat soft and pliable in those early months. For this reason, it’s best to make a habit of parking in different spots, as this will help prevent depressions from forming in the curing asphalt.
Don’t drive or park on the edges of the driveway.
The edges of an asphalt driveway can be a bit thinner and weaker because they are not supported by underlying layers like the rest of the driveway—asphalt itself has no structural strength of its own. To prevent these edges from cracking or crumbling, make sure not to drive or park on them. You could also consider giving the edges some extra support by extending the layer of compacted crushed stone that sits under the top layer of asphalt by about six inches on either side of the driveway.
Do keep excessive weight off the driveway.
Most residential asphalt driveways are constructed to accommodate personal automobile traffic only. Anything heavier—such as garbage trucks or cement mixers—is likely to create depressions or cause other damage to the asphalt. Ideally, you should also avoid parking things like a camper or a boat on a trailer on your driveway, but if you do have to park such a vehicle, make sure to place plywood under the tongue jack and tires to distribute the weight more evenly.
Don’t let weeds and grass grow through cracks.
Although they may not look that tough, many types of grass and weeds are in fact strong and tenacious enough to be able to push right through asphalt. Warning signs often appear in the form of bumps in the asphalt before the plant erupts through the surface. Left unchecked, weeds can cause cracking and other damage to the driveway, so it’s important to remove them as soon as you spot them using weed killer or a simple solution of table salt and water. If the roots of large plants or trees nearby begin pushing through the driveway, the best long-term solution is usually to remove the plant.
Do avoid spills and leaks.
Because asphalt is an oil-based material, substances such as oil, gasoline, and automotive fluids and chemicals can soften or dissolve the surface of your driveway, particularly if it hasn’t yet been sealed or resealed. Clean up any spills as soon as possible using an all-purpose absorbent such as Oil Dri, rags, or kitty litter. You can also clean and flush out the area with a mild detergent and plenty of water. Fill any holes left by a spill with the asphalt repair substance Cold Patch to prevent the hole from growing.
Don’t seal the driveway right away.
Sealing your driveway is one of the most important steps you can take to preserve its strength and appearance: unsealed driveways have a much shorter lifespan because they remain porous, dry out quickly, and become rough. However, it’s vital not to apply a sealer too soon. As mentioned above, asphalt can take around a year to cure, and to do so it needs exposure to the air and the elements. If you seal too soon, the time your driveway takes to fully harden will be longer, and it will be more vulnerable to damage in the meantime. A seal coating should be applied to your driveway a full year after initial installation, and most experts recommend resealing every two to three years afterwards.
Do choose a reputable contractor.
If your driveway has not been properly and carefully installed to begin with, there won’t be much you can later do to preserve its life and appearance. For this reason, it’s essential to choose a reputable and experienced contractor to install your driveway. Don’t be shy about asking for references or examples of previous work.