Pro Tips: How Long to Allow a Driveway to Settle Before Paving

October 13, 2020

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If you’re building a new home or planning renovations to an existing property, it’s vital you consider how long to allow a driveway to settle before paving. Installing new asphalt or concrete over soil still in the process of settling can mean eventual heaving, shifting, cracking, and other serious pavement damage, along with costly repairs.

A property owner might also consider how to prepare a driveway for paving and, once paved, how long before you should drive on a new asphalt driveway. Knowing all this important information can ensure your property has pavement that lasts and helps avoid otherwise unnecessary repair costs.

driveway paving settling before use

How Long Should a Driveway Settle Before Paving?

In general, a driveway should settle for six months before paving. This recommended time span will vary according to soil and weather conditions, and proper compaction can allow you to pave far sooner. If you’ll be adding new asphalt over current driveways, pavement is stamped and compacted as needed, to provide a solid base for new construction. The property is also graded, to allow for proper water runoff or to ensure soil is not overly dry and sandy.

While a homeowner might not want to wait before paving, note that your property’s soil will settle over the months whether you wait to pave or not! As soil settles, it might then allow one section of concrete or asphalt to sink, resulting in heaving, cracks, and potholes. Waiting for a driveway to settle and ensuring proper compaction means far fewer repair bills over time, and a driveway in good condition and looking its best.

How Do You Prepare a Driveway for Paving?

A new driveway installation requires lots of prep work, to ensure the property can support your fresh asphalt. A few simple steps in preparing a driveway for paving extends its lifespan and helps reduce otherwise unnecessary repairs.

  1. The first step to prepare a driveway for paving is demolition and removal. Adding a new layer of paving material over an existing driveway might work if the current material is in good condition and thin enough to support another layer; however, in most cases, it’s best to break up and remove old asphalt, concrete, pavers, gravel, and stone.
  2. Grading or sloping provides for proper water drainage, reducing the risk of water damage on the underside of new pavement. Once old materials are removed, a paving contractor will check the property’s grade and correct its slope, as needed.
  3. The sub-base of your driveway is actually its most important layer! This sub-base protects asphalt and concrete from freezing and water damage, while also providing a solid foundation for new paving materials.
  4.  Once installed, the material’s sub-base is rolled or compacted so it stays firmly in place and provides a level and even surface.
  5. A binder is then typically added. This material binds the sub-base together, making it more compact and durable. This binder also provides added support for the fresh asphalt, keeping it from sinking and shifting.
  6. Once the binder is set, new asphalt is poured and then rolled and pressed into place. If the new asphalt must meet the existing pavement, a contractor adds what is called butt joints, which joins these materials together. Other transitions and curbs are cut and sloped for necessary water runoff.
  7. After all butt joints and transitions are installed, the entire surface is given a final roll, for added smoothness. Fresh asphalt then needs sealing, to keep it protected from the elements.

asphalt driveway paving with roller

When Should You Pave Your Driveway?

You should pave your driveway anytime from late spring to autumn, but this schedule will obviously differ according to local weather conditions. For example, a light drizzle might not interfere with pavement’s composition, but it’s not recommended that you pave your driveway in the pouring rain, and especially during long-term storms that might leave standing water along the sub-base or fresh pavement.

Also, note that asphalt is heated before installation, to make it pliable and easy to install and roll. A homeowner might then pave a driveway during very warm summer weather, to help keep asphalt warm and soft and more pliable. Your asphalt installation contractor can note if there are weather concerns in your area which means you should put off new driveway paving.

How Long Before You Should Drive on a New Asphalt Driveway?

Asphalt sets and cures quickly so that you can typically drive on new asphalt within 24 hours. However, the longer you let asphalt set and cure undisturbed, the less risk of damage, so wait 48 hours before driving on it if possible.

Note, too, that very warm weather keeps asphalt soft and pliable, as said. If you’ve installed new asphalt during hot summertime weather, it’s best to wait several days before using your new driveway! Your asphalt installation contractor might also note any reason to avoid driving on your new asphalt within one day, such as warmer weather or thin layers of blacktop.

driving on asphalt paving

Does Rain Hurt a New Driveway?

A light drizzle doesn’t typically interfere with asphalt installation, as said. However, keep in mind that asphalt is petroleum or oil-based, and of course, oil and water simply don’t mix! Heavy rainfall causes the oil in asphalt to separate from its cement binders and aggregate, leading to weak material prone to chipping, cracking, and potholes.

In severe cases, rain might cause crumbling potholes to form as soon as the asphalt is installed, and might make the asphalt too runny to compact and then set properly. Rainfall also means standing water on the asphalt sub-base, so that the material doesn’t have a solid foundation and won’t set properly.

If you live in an area prone to lots of rainfall, you might rely on an asphalt paving contractor for a new driveway installation rather than trying to tackle this project yourself. An asphalt paving company can evaluate weather conditions and know if your new driveway installation should be delayed due to rain, high humidity levels, and the like.

How Do You Protect Fresh Asphalt?

Now that you know how long to allow a driveway to settle before paving and the steps needed to prepare a driveway for new asphalt, you might wonder how you protect that investment! Asphalt might last anywhere from 7 to 30 years, but the way you maintain it affects its lifespan, either ensuring it lasts as long as possible or causing undue stress and premature breakdown.

One vital tip for protecting fresh asphalt is sealing it as often as needed; your asphalt paving contractor can note how often you should schedule sealant for your new asphalt. Sealant provides an added layer of protection against weather, heavy rainfall, and other such damage.

Motor oil and other automotive fluids as well as corrosive chemicals such as fertilizer and snow salt also damage asphalt binders, leading to chips, cracks, spalling, and potholes. To avoid this damage, have your home’s driveway pressure washed every year or as often as needed to remove oil, fluids, and other materials.

Note a few other quick tips for protecting fresh asphalt:

  • Don’t turn a car’s wheels while it’s parked, as this can leave unsightly swirl marks in asphalt.
  • Avoid sharp objects on asphalt, including motorcycle kickstands and snowplow blades.
  • Avoid parking vehicles in the same spot on asphalt, so tires don’t sink in and leave potholes.
  • Keep asphalt cool in the summertime by spraying it with a garden hose as often as needed.
  • Try to keep caustic chemicals off the asphalt. If you do notice motor oil, snow salt, lawn care chemicals, and other residues on your asphalt driveway but aren’t ready for pressure washing services, use a garden hose to remove as much material as quickly as possible!

concrete driveway leading to a beautiful house

Which is Better for Driveways, Asphalt, or Concrete?

Concrete still remains a favorite paving material for residential properties but there are many reasons why homeowners are choosing asphalt for driveways more than ever! One consideration is the lower installation price; asphalt costs $2.50 to $4 per square foot, while concrete costs $4 to $6 per square foot on average. For homeowners on a budget and especially for properties with longer driveways, asphalt is definitely a more affordable choice.

Asphalt is also naturally porous so that it absorbs sound, vibration, and impact. If you have children who play in the driveway, asphalt might mean less stress on their joints and a quieter environment! The dark color of asphalt also provides lots of natural contrast to your home’s lawn, versus dull gray concrete.

Homeowners especially might appreciate the fact that it’s often easier to repair asphalt yourself than fix concrete, and especially if you need to tackle large cracks or potholes. Concrete cracks and potholes might need fresh concrete mix which is often harder to apply yourself, whereas asphalt epoxy and other materials make quick work of asphalt repair. An affordable chip and seal also covers larger areas of asphalt damage, offering a fresh new look for a fraction of the cost of concrete repaving.

Related Questions:

Can you put new asphalt over an existing driveway?

Depending on its thickness, you can typically put new asphalt over an existing driveway; however, damaged pavement provides a poor foundation for asphalt and should be removed instead despite its added cost.

Should you water a new asphalt driveway?

No matter how long you allow a driveway to settle before paving, you should water a new asphalt driveway if outside temperatures reach 80 degrees. Watering the driveway will keep asphalt cool so it doesn’t separate.

This information was brought to you by the team at Plano Asphalt Paving. If you’re in the Plano area and have questions about how long to allow a driveway to settle before paving and if asphalt if the best choice for your property, call the best of Texas paving companies! We offer full-scale asphalt installation and repairs, using only the highest-grade materials with an industry-leading warranty you can trust. Whatever your needs for new asphalt installation, chip and seal, asphalt sealing, or driveway paving in Texas, call us at Plano Asphalt Paving today!

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