What Is Asphalt and How Is It Made? | UNIQUE Paving Materials

What is Asphalt and How is it Made?

asphalt paving materials

Asphalt is one of the most commonly used pavements for driveways, roads, and parking lots. Despite its prevalence in our cities and neighborhoods, many people don’t know what asphalt is made of or how it’s manufactured. Asphalt pavement may seem like a mysterious mixture—until you need to resurface a driveway or repair a crack or pothole.

Learn asphalt paving basics below, including its ingredients and how manufacturers make the surface you drive on every day.

What Is Asphalt Paving?

Asphalt is a semi-solid form of petroleum. It has a few basic ingredients, including a mixture of crushed stone, gravel, sand, and a material called bitumen. Bitumen is a sticky, black byproduct of petroleum that holds the aggregate together. Asphalt is typically modified and mixed in batches at special processing plants.

How Is Asphalt Paving Manufactured?

Before asphalt is mixed at the manufacturing facility, plant operators identify which type of asphalt they need to create. They measure ingredients based on the project and climate at the project site. For example, different asphalt mixtures must be created for a project in Alaska compared to a project in Arizona.

Hot liquid asphalt is combined with heated aggregate in an asphalt plant to produce a paving mix typically called hot mix asphalt (HMA). Hot mix asphalt (HMA) is loaded directly into a truck or stored in heated silos until it’s ready to be applied to roads, interstates, and parking lots.

What Are Uses of Asphalt Paving?

There are several common uses of asphalt on the market, depending on the type of asphalt you need. Asphalt types include:

  1. Hot mix asphalt
  2. Warm mix asphalt
  3. Cold mix asphalt

Hot mix asphalt is flexible, water repellant, and used on highways and city streets. It’s heated and poured at temperatures up to 350° Fahrenheit. Warm mix asphalt is manufactured at lower temperatures and cools more slowly than hot mix.

Additionally, warm mix asphalt can be shipped more easily than hot mix and is more environmentally friendly. Finally, cold mix asphalt is an affordable, user-friendly mix for pothole repairs and winter projects. Cold mix asphalt can also be packed into bags for retail sale.

Interested in learning more about the uses of asphalt—from low-traffic driveways and sidewalks to high-traffic streets, parking lots, and more? Check out our blog about what asphalt is most commonly used for.

How Do I Maintain an Asphalt Pavement?

The process of maintaining your asphalt can depend on the various issues that can arise from an aging asphalt pavement. This can include cracking, fatigue, and even larger issues, such as potholes.

In the instance that you need to repair a crack in your asphalt, here are four quick steps we recommend for achieving the best results.

1. Clean the Crack

It is important to ensure that an asphalt crack is completely cleaned before moving to fill the hole. Depending on the size of the crack, you can use a screwdriver, a weed eater, or a power washer to remove any dirt or weeds that could have formed in the crack.

From there, you will want to make sure all remaining debris is effectively cleared from the crack and your workspace. You can do this by using a leaf blower or compressed air to blow anything away, or a broom to sweep the space. Once completed, ensure that the crack is dry and free of any standing water before proceeding.

2. Apply Your Asphalt Repair Material

During this step, apply your asphalt repair material of choice. Keep in mind that with cracks that are deeper than 2 inches, it is recommended to use compacted sand or finely crushed gravel before adding your asphalt repair product. Multiple layers or coats may need to be applied as well depending on the specific project.

3. Smooth Out the Crack

For smaller cracks, you can use a U- or V-shaped squeegee to smooth the crack filler to the same level as the pavement. For deeper cracks and holes, a tamper can be used for this step for the best results.

4. Allow Your Crack to Dry

On average, the curing process can take approximately 48 hours before the crack is considered dry enough for foot and vehicle traffic. So, ensure the asphalt sits and completely dries before moving on with your everyday operations.

It is important to note that larger asphalt repairs may need some extra time to fully cure before use. For more information about the asphalt repair application process, feel free to contact our team directly to learn more.

What Asphalt Paving Products Does UNIQUE Paving Materials Offer?

At UNIQUE Paving Materials, we offer a diverse array of asphalt preservation materials guaranteed to successfully complete a wide range of repair projects. With that in mind, here are just some of the pavement repair and preservation materials from our expansive product line:

How Is Asphalt Different from Concrete?

Though concrete and asphalt are both pavement materials that you can use for regular installation and repair, there are some notable differences between the two. So when choosing the right material for your application, here are just some things to consider as your proceed:

  • The cost difference – Concrete is usually more expensive than asphalt, averaging between $4.00 and $6.00 per square foot, as opposed to $2.00 to $4.00 per square foot for asphalt.
  • The lifespan of the material – Though both asphalt and concrete are considered durable and long-lasting, asphalt’s lifespan is approximately 30 years, whereas concrete can last around 50 years.
  • The climate and weather durability – Asphalt is recommended in climates where it is colder, as asphalt is more susceptible to softening in the sun. On the other hand, concrete is recommended in warmer climates where it is less likely to be damaged from freezing and thawing cycles.
  • The overall aesthetic – Even though concrete can be more customizable than asphalt, some asphalt sealers can contain colorings and tints to create a more decorative finished product.

Contact Our Team Today to Learn More

If you are looking for durable asphalt preservation products, let our team at UNIQUE Paving Materials assist you in finding the right solutions to satisfy your needs.

Reach out to our team of experts today with any questions you may have about asphalt products or to start your order with us.

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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.

Learn more about our asphalt & concrete repair products

If you’re looking for the best in asphalt repair companies that can supply premium materials, UNIQUE Paving Materials is the optimal choice for you. The road repair services and materials we offer are proven to save time, money, and even repeated repairs.