Asphalt Overlay: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Over time, we all start to show signs of age. We wrinkle, creak, crease and pucker. 

Did you know asphalt can do the same? As the years go by, the once-smooth surface can begin to crack.

If yours has started to show signs of wear, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. 

Tearing it all up and starting from scratch is costly. And, you already have the base materials there to create a like-new surface. 

This is where asphalt overlay comes in. 

Today, we’re discussing this process in detail to help you determine if it’s the best route for you.

Ready to learn more? Let’s go!

What is Asphalt Overlay?

As the name implies, asphalt overlay is the process of applying a new layer of asphalt on top of a deteriorating layer.

This paving method uses the existing layers as a base rather than tearing the entire surface up and beginning anew.

While this can be an ideal and cost-effective way to give your space a makeover, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Let’s take a look.

Assessing Your Surface

Has your asphalt suffered extensive structural damage?

If it’s riddled with giant potholes, surface ruts or root issues, it could be unsuitable for the asphalt overlay process. The same goes for asphalt that shows signs of block cracking, rutted wheel paths, or moisture issues in the base. 

In these cases, it’s wisest to rip the asphalt up. The same goes for surfaces that hold water and don’t allow proper drainage. The money, time and energy you’d spend re-grading the surface to fix the flow warrants a new project altogether. 

That said, there are some projects that are well-suited for overlaying. These include surfaces that:

  • Have become oxidized
  • Are minimally cracked
  • Are losing skid resistance
  • Require wheel path leveling
  • Have slight water intrusion

Notice a trend? These issues are more cosmetic in nature and aren’t enormous structural concerns.

Yet, if your surface is cracked or otherwise flawed, you may still qualify for overlaying. Here’s what to expect.

The Milling Process

In many cases, you’ll need to mill the existing layer of asphalt before overlaying a new one. This will help to ensure the new layer has an even and smooth surface to bond to.

If your asphalt is damaged with cracks or raveling, this can help to even everything out. A professional will use a milling machine to dig around one to three inches into the existing layer depending on how deep the damage is. 

Then, they’ll take the ground-up asphalt to a recycling facility, where it can be incorporated into new asphalt mixtures moving forward. 

Repairing the Base

If your asphalt is showing its age in spots but doesn’t show major signs of wear and tear, you may only require minimal base repairs before you can get started on the overlay. 

In this case, you’ll go ahead and replace the asphalt where potholes or other areas of sinking and rutting have occurred. As with milling, this step is required to make sure the new asphalt can adhere to a uniform, level surface.

To ensure these problem areas don’t happen again, a professional will use a combination of asphalt and aggregate to repair and rebuild the base layer. 

Performing the Overlay

Once the base layer is ready, you can begin the asphalt overlay process. 

How much new asphalt you’ll layer depends on how thick your base layer is. If it’s already deep, you may only need a thin layer for the overlay and vice versa. Most often, it’s between 1.5 inches and two inches thick.

Overlaying Asphalt on Concrete

Do you have a concrete surface that has seen better days?

Most of the time, you can’t overlay concrete on top of itself without doing a full re-do. You’ll likely have to tear the existing surface up, then pour a new one.

While you can technically pour asphalt over a deteriorating concrete surface, you should exercise caution. Here’s why.

Expansion Joint Concerns

Unlike asphalt surfaces, concrete ones are not compressed and compacted together. Instead, the asphalt adheres to the soil and subgrade beneath it, filling in gaps and voids in the ground. 

In one way, this is beneficial. Concrete is harder than asphalt and is durable enough to last a lifetime. Yet, it lacks the give that asphalt has. This is why concrete surfaces have cut-in expansion joints. These allow the material to expand with the seasons without cracking. 

On a concrete-only surface, this setup works. Yet, when you pave asphalt over concrete, those expansion joints remain. Over time, they can cause the asphalt to slip and shift, creating both bumps and cracks. 

The surface will still be structurally sound, but aesthetically unpleasing. You’ll also need to seal in the cracks as they occur to prevent future water damage.

A Solution for All Your Asphalt Needs

Whether you’re looking to build a parking lot, add a sidewalk or perform an asphalt overlay on your driveway, it’s important to find someone you can trust for the job.

After all, these surfaces are often someone’s first impression of your home or business. Keeping them in top shape is indicative of the pride you take in your property.

Are you on the hunt for a reputable asphalt company for your next project? We’d love to help.

We’re Maryland’s go-to sources for asphalt and concrete services. From new installations to maintenance and upkeep, we do it all.

Contact us today to get started and let us pave the way. 

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