A Guide to the Road Paving Process
There’s little doubt that most of us view road construction and road maintenance as an extreme annoyance. It’s something that slows us down as we try to make our way to our final destinations.
But, when you stop and think about it — with a truly unbiased opinion — the sight of a road construction crew rolling out a brand-new batch of asphalt or concrete patching products should be a cause for celebration, wonder, and awe, not frustration, annoyance, and anger.
What Is an Asphalt Road Made Of?
Before diving into the specifics of how a road is paved, it’s important to know the composition of asphalt to get a better understanding of what road crews are dealing with and the challenges that they face.
Asphalt features a combination of various aggregates, binders, and fillers to attain its final form. The aggregates utilized include a wide array of materials, but chief among them are sand, rock, gravel, slag, and diverse recycled materials.
Meanwhile, the binder, which is most often bitumen, holds the various aggregate materials together to form a unified, solid mixture that will get the job done.
How Are Asphalt Roads Paved?
Those orange barrels don’t just show up one day and disappear a few weeks later. An asphalt paving project is a highly sophisticated process, requiring careful planning and the systematic juggling of any number of steps.
And so, in a salute to what is probably one of the most underappreciated industries in our nation, we thought we would offer a brief look at how a road is paved and all the work that goes into it.
Phase 1: Planning and Designing Asphalt Road Paving
Excavation, earthwork, and paving are what most people think of when they hear the words “road construction” and think of how a road is paved. However, long before the first shovel is ever lifted, countless hours go into planning and design. Below are just a few of the items that must be considered before beginning road maintenance:
- Traffic volume and location
- Terrain and soil properties
- Utility lines, drainage, and sewers
- Climate, environmental and residential requirements
- Future expansion possibilities
- Road maintenance costs
Once these factors are assessed by road crews, city and county officials, businesses, and anyone else relevant to a given asphalt road paving project, work can commence.
Phase 2: Demolition, Excavation, and Earthwork
If a road is brand new, the area on which it will be laid must first be cleared of all vegetation, trees, shrubs, and bushes. If a road is being placed over existing roads or constructions, demolition work will need to be completed by an experienced team, clearing the path for future work.
Heavy machinery, such as bulldozers, forklifts, front loaders, dump trucks, and more may all be required during this step of the process to ensure a smooth, workable surface for paving to commence.
Phase 3: Mounting, Grading and Aggregating
After phase two has been finalized, the next steps for how a road is paved involve shaping, mounting, and grading the surface. The specifics of these procedures include the following:
- Mounting – This process gives the road its shape. During this stage, excavation machinery and bulldozers are used to move and mount dirt and soil across the road in preparation for later application of the asphalt.
- Grading – After the road has been mounted it then needs to be graded. Using a combination of manual labor and planning machinery, called graders, the surface layer is smoothed and leveled. During this step, proper water drainage is also designed to prevent water pooling in the future and damaging the final asphalt road. Without proper drainage, potholes, cracks, and heaving can all develop.
- Aggregating – Once the soil has been leveled, an aggregate base of soil, concrete, and limestone is used to stabilize the roadway. During this phase, curbs, gutters, and drains are also constructed.
Phase 4: Road Transitions
Since the construction of asphalt roads requires adjoining them to existing structures, part of the road paving process entails creating seamless transitions from one surface to the next.
This includes connecting existing roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, and more, and is essential so that drivers and pedestrians experience a smooth, finished surface that is virtually undetectable in changing from one portion to the next.
Phase 5: Asphalt Paving
During this final phase of how a road is paved, the asphalt is poured and laid. Take note: Depending on the estimated traffic volumes and regional climate conditions, the asphalt paving job can require up to four different layers of asphalt, which include the following:
- Gravel layer – Also known as the sub-base or the frost blanket, a mixture of gravel and sand is laid to eliminate the effects of freezing and thawing temperatures. A firm sub-base is required for proper support of the asphalt surface to ensure ongoing durability.
- Base layer – Using bitumen, cement, or lime as the predominant binder, a bound base course is laid over the unbound base course.
- Surface layer – Responsible for providing friction, smoothness, noise control, and drainage, the surface layer is composed of the highest quality materials.
Following compaction, where the various layers are fully joined together to ensure a secure hold and future stability, the asphalt road paving process is complete.
Of course, these are just a few of the steps involved in paving a road. In reality, the entire asphalt paving process can take years to complete. And while knowing how a road is paved may not help you reach your destination any faster, we hope it gives you something to think about the next time those orange barrels slow you down.
FAQs About the Process of Paving a Road
How do you preserve pavement?
Knowing how to pave a road takes time and effort, so you want your pavement to last as long as possible. Pavement preservation is an essential final touch that can save costs and other hassles in the long run. There are many ways to do it, but a key option is asphalt sealing.
Asphalt sealing protects and beautifies asphalt from aging without the typical odors and harmful toxins that are normally associated with coal-tar-based sealers. It also protects the pavement from oxidation, weather, salt, gas, and oil. If you properly sealcoat your surface, it will prevent potholes and extend the life of the pavement.
If a road has already been paved for some time, there are other methods to preserve the pavement. You can buy crack filler which is best for repairs on roads, pavements, driveways, and more.
Best yet, crack filler is cost-effective and can be used as needed for any unexpected crack. It is vital to stay on top of small cracks because over time they can become a bigger job than expected.
What are some challenges people face when paving a road?
When looking at how to pave a road, it is highly important to understand that employees and construction workers often face many challenges that can disrupt a major project. Even though intricate planning is conducted, challenges can pop up unexpectedly.
- The first major challenge in paving a road is traffic interruptions. Even though roads may be closed off to traffic, there have been many past occurrences of people driving through closed roads, causing the project to be disrupted. To avoid this, make sure to have clear signage denoting any construction and try to block the space off to the best of your ability.
- Another challenge faced is soil changes. Due to moisture, soil can shrink or expand, which in turn can affect paving a road because the ground will become unstable to lay pavement on. Employees must pay attention to the soil when laying down pavement, or the unstable ground can cause costly challenges in the future.
- Lastly, another common issue seen when paving a road is the risk of construction workers getting into accidents from nearby traffic. To prevent this, workers need to wear visible clothing at all times during the construction project to avoid putting themselves in a dangerous situation with other cars.
What equipment is needed to pave a road?
When paving a road, there is some essential equipment needed to get the job done. Here is a list of the main equipment required:
- Milling machines – Used to remove old pavement before beginning the process of putting down new pavement
- Asphalt pavers – Used to lay down asphalt evenly across the road
- Rollers – Used to compact asphalt into the road
- Dump trucks – Needed to transfer asphalt from the plant to the job site
What are important safety precautions to take while paving a road?
Safety is extremely important when paving a road because it can be hazardous work, and there are various precautions to take before beginning a pavement project. These include:
- Checking equipment to make sure it runs efficiently – Many of these projects include a large amount of equipment, and it is critical to ensure they all work correctly to avoid any injuries on the field.
- Using traffic signs and cones – Visible signage of a construction zone is essential to ensure drivers will know when they are approaching and passing a pavement project. This will prevent any accidents from moving vehicles and keep workers safe.
- Wearing protective clothing – Such clothing is necessary for workers’ safety because a construction site has a lot of moving materials, hot pavement, and loud machinery. Workers must wear a hard hat, eye protection, earplugs, work boots, and more to ensure their safety on site.
At UNIQUE Paving Materials, we strive to provide top-quality asphalt repair and concrete patching products for your business or municipality. Explore all of our patching and pavement preservation products today.
If you have any questions for our experienced team and want to learn more about our asphalt products, be sure to reach out to us. We’ll be happy to assist you.