Guide to the Uses of Asphalt | UNIQUE Paving Materials

What are the Uses for Asphalt?

Asphalt paving

Asphalt is a sticky, black, semi-solid form of petroleum used to bind aggregate together. A versatile material, asphalt creates a smooth, durable surface for driveways, walking paths, roads and parking lots, which is why it’s nearly everywhere you look in American communities.

Some other uses of asphalt may be less common but remain an important element in construction and outdoor areas. In its fluid-like form, asphalt is used to waterproof walls and surfaces, as well as in shingles for residential roofing. A variety of industrial and recreational uses of asphalt make it an ideal choice for many areas of construction.

What Is Asphalt?

Asphalt is a highly viscous form of petroleum with excellent binding properties and comes in various forms for diverse applications. Most commonly used in road construction, asphalt is preferred over other materials due to its versatility, ability to withstand heavy loads, and resistance to the elements. There are many uses of asphalt, as well as many advantages.

Benefits of Asphalt

  • Cost effectiveness – Compared to other pavement materials such as concrete, asphalt is more cost effective. The construction process of using asphalt is typically shorter which also lowers cost.
  • Longevity – If asphalt is formulated, constructed, and maintained properly, its lifespan can be extremely long. The material is designed to withstand weathering and heavy traffic, making it extremely durable.
  • Weather resistance – Asphalt is known to expand and contract as it experiences various weather conditions, making it able to withstand extreme temperatures and freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Energy efficiency – Utilizing asphalt for construction projects results in a much lower carbon footprint compared to concrete and requires less energy from start to finish for a project.
  • Flexibility – Asphalt is designed to maintain a flexible composition that reduces the likelihood of cracking. This also allows the material to be more evenly distributed during a project.

In addition to the various types of asphalt, there are also many uses of asphalt, making it the ideal material for diverse projects.

What Are the Different Types of Asphalt?

As one of the most recycled and reused types of pavement on the market, asphalt is used on 94% of paved roads in America. However, not all asphalt is created equal. Chemical composition and other properties determine what type of asphalt you’re driving on.

Types of Asphalt

There are several types of asphalt paving available to homeowners and contractors. What type is right for your project? Learn about five common asphalt paving types below.

  • Hot mix – A combination of approximately 95% stone, sand, or gravel bound together by asphalt cement, hot mix is heated and poured at 300 °F.
  • Warm mix – Because it is mixed and shipped at lower temperatures, warm mix does not cool as fast as hot mix. It includes emulsions that make it easier to pour and spread.
  • Cold mix – This formula doesn’t require heat and is the most affordable asphalt mix. Cold mix is used to repair potholes and pavement cracks.
  • Cut-back – A combination of asphalt cement and petroleum solvent, cut-back asphalt is used for its decreased viscosity, or thickness. It contains volatile chemicals and is restricted in many areas.
  • Mastic – A dense and durable formula, mastic asphalt is a waterproofing medium. It is a mixture of asphalt, stone filler and mineral powder that is heated and mixed at hot temperatures.

To learn more about the asphalt production process check out our blog, What Is Asphalt and How Is It Made?

What Are the Uses of Asphalt?

What Are the Uses of Asphalt?

There are many uses of asphalt and the material can be applied in many ways depending on a given project’s needs. Whether hot mix, cold mix, or mastic, every type of asphalt serves a different purpose and is suited for specific applications.

Hot mix is spread and rolled on highways, interstates and roads. Warm mix can also be used on highways and roads and is ideal for tunnels and days when air quality is low. Cold mix can be used in cold or warm weather for pothole and crack repairs—and it even outlasts the surrounding pavement.

Contractors use cut-back asphalt for tack coats, fog seals, slurry coats and as a stabilization element in mixes, while mastic asphalt is used in building and waterproofing for rooftops and underground storage.

History on the Uses of Asphalt

Asphalt has existed for thousands of years all over the world. In ancient civilizations, asphalt was used in its natural form for waterproofing and adhesive applications. Over the years, there have been major modern developments and refining processes that have taken place to create asphalt as we know it today.

While some of the historic uses of asphalt are still prevalent, the modern engineering of asphalt and the changes the substance has undergone has made it a crucial material in contemporary infrastructure and construction.

Prominent Uses of Asphalt

As mentioned earlier, asphalt is an extremely versatile material with various applications. While its main purpose is to be used on roads and highways, there are many other uses for asphalt, including:  

  • Parking lots
  • Airport runways
  • Driveways
  • Athletic tracks
  • Bike paths
  • Roofing
  • Waterproofing of surfaces
  • Bridge decks
  • Pipe coating
  • Pipe joint filler
  • Sound proofing
  • Tennis courts
  • Basketball courts
  • Playgrounds

Additionally, asphalt is commonly used for erosion control due to its unique characteristics and properties. Some cases where asphalt can be used for erosion control includes waterproofing, stabilization, underground structures, and water linings.

Uncommon Uses for Asphalt

Many architects use asphalt in construction for dams, reservoirs, playgrounds and parks. Farmers use asphalt to line the bottom of retention ponds where they raise fish and in livestock containment pens. Asphalt is also an ideal solution for flood control and soil erosion. Auto makers rely on asphalt to prevent rust and road noise in fenders and hoods of cars.

Need to make an asphalt repair? Explore our asphalt products to learn which product is right for your next project.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Uses of Asphalt

Why is asphalt most commonly used for road construction?

There are many advantages to asphalt that make it the ideal material for roadway construction. These advantages include flexibility, quick construction and repairs, the smoothness of its surface, skid resistance, water resistance, temperature tolerance, and more!

What are the key factors that affect the performance of asphalt?

In order for asphalt to maintain its durability, longevity, and overall quality, there are several key factors to consider. These include traffic loads, weather conditions, compaction, drainage, maintenance, construction practices, and more.

By carefully managing these aspects, you can expect asphalt to last for years to come and perform the job intended.

What are the safety benefits of using asphalt in roadways?

If created and maintained correctly, the use of asphalt on roadways can improve conditions and enhance the safety for drivers and pedestrians. Asphalt maintains a smooth surface, creating an even roadway and allows drivers to better control their vehicles.

Additionally, asphalt is known for skid resistance if it is designed and constructed properly. This allows for better traction during breaking and cornering, which reduces the risk of accidents. 

Can asphalt be used on hilly or mountainous terrain?

Asphalt can be used in many topographical conditions, including on hilly or mountainous terrain. This is because asphalt pavements can be designed to provide stable surfaces on slopes and hillsides with the right compaction and engineering considerations taken into account.

Additionally, asphalt can incorporate proper drainage features to manage water runoff to prevent erosion, reduce landslides, and maintain road stability.

Have Questions? Reach Out to Our Team!

If you have questions about asphalt materials, and the first-rate products UNIQUE can provide, be sure to contact us. We’ll be happy to assess your needs and help you get your project underway!

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About the author

Becky Dunlavey

With over 10 years of experience, I wear many hats at UNIQUE Paving Materials. In addition to managing our multimedia marketing efforts and coordinating trade shows and regional events, working with the sales and customer service departments has allowed me to gain a multifaceted knowledge of the industry.

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