Asphalt Paving Blog

13 Asphalt Paving Terms Every Leader Should Know

Gain the Knowledge You Need to Hit the Pavement Running

Considering a paving project this year? Now’s the time to prepare! 

It’s a good idea to start with a foundation of asphalt industry lingo. Because, like any industry, asphalt paving comes with its own technical jargon. When you know the key terms, you can help ensure you get the results you need.

Let’s get you up to speed with these 13 asphalt paving terms every leader should know.

1. Asphalt

Also called bitumen, asphalt is a refined product of crude oil. 

At Wolf Paving’s asphalt manufacturing plants, we combine asphalt with aggregate (crushed stone, gravel, sand or recycled asphalt) to make:

  • Hot-mix asphalt – The most common type for flexibility and weather resistance
  • Warm-mix asphalt, which is increasingly popular because it uses less fossil fuel
  • Cold-mix asphalt, which is ideal for winter pothole repair

2. Binder Layer

The binder is the first layer of a new asphalt installation. It goes just above the subbase (see farther down this list).

We mix large aggregate with the asphalt, making it strong and durable.

3. Butt Joints

It’s one of the funnier-sounding asphalt terms you’ll hear. However, butt joints are serious business! 

They’re the areas where the new surface meets old asphalt or concrete. We have to pay special attention in these areas to ensure effective water runoff and a safe, smooth transition.

4. Compaction

Compaction is how we make sure the asphalt is packed down strong.

Using rollers, we compress the base and the surface to remove air pockets and create a smooth, strong pavement. 

5. Geo-Grid

Geo-grid is an option to create a solid support structure for new asphalt.

It’s a synthetic mesh that helps stabilize the base material beneath the blacktop. When we use geo-grid, we don’t have to dig as deep as we do with the traditional undercutting method (see below) of stabilization.

6. Grading

Water pooling on your surface can cause damage fast. Proper grading allows the water to drain.

We use graders – machines with large blades – to set the pitch for the final surface. For example, we often grade so that water will flow toward a grassy area.

7. Milling

If the subbase (see below) is in great shape, milling is an excellent option for a rapid refresh of asphalt.

The process involves removing and replacing only the top layer of asphalt without disturbing the underlying subbase. So it’s much faster and the cost is much lower than a full reconstruction. 

8. Overlay

Also called asphalt resurfacing, an overlay can be even faster and lower cost than milling. 

It involves installing a layer of fresh asphalt (typically 1.5 up to 3 inches thick) right over the existing surface. But, of course, we need to make sure the existing surface and subbase are in good condition. Otherwise, an overlay won’t last long. 

9. Proof Roll

Once the subbase is nice and compact, we do this extra step to ensure the underlying surface is strong and ready for new asphalt.

A Wolf Paving proof roll involves driving a quad-axle dump truck, loaded with 72,000 pounds, row by row over the entire surface. Along the way, we look for any flexing of more than an inch – a sign that it needs more compaction.

10. Pulverizing

Also known by the fancier term “full depth reclamation,” asphalt pulverizing is like milling.

Only in this case we’re grinding up the existing asphalt and blending it with the subbase right on site. It saves money and time and it’s more sustainable because we don’t need to haul in new materials.

11. Sealcoating

Sealcoating is a surface treatment that restores and protects asphalt. It’s a thin liquid layer added to help prevent damage caused by UV rays, rain and snow, and fluids from vehicles. 

We recommend a sealcoat application every 3-5 years. 

12. Subbase

The subbase is the super-important layer of material beneath the asphalt surface. Besides providing stable support for new pavement, it also acts as a frost barrier to help reduce freeze-thaw damage.

It's crucial to get this layer right. Stabilizing the subbase often involves pulverizing, incorporating additives like lime and concrete to strengthen it, and rolling for optimal compaction.

13. Undercutting

Soft spots in your subbase? We use undercutting to repair those.

This process involves digging down below the surface 2 or 3 feet and replacing the underlying soft clay or soil with stronger aggregate material.


Keep Developing Your Knowledge

Got more questions about asphalt paving projects or Wolf Paving services? Check out our FAQ or contact us anytime!

Topics: Asphalt Parking Lot