Everything You Need To Know About Asphalt Paving

Why Asphalt?

Asphalt paving looks better, lasts longer and can be installed quickly. Most people take roads and driveways for granted, and don’t consider all the benefits offered when the right material is used. When properly implemented asphalt is better for overall driveability, appearance, your budget and the environment. Take a deep dive into the world of asphalt below.

Download Our Free Asphalt Paving Project Planning Guide

Get the most out of your upcoming project! Our planning guide covers:

  • How to properly evaluate the state of your asphalt
  • What repair options you should consider
  • Different types of asphalt to consider for your project
  • Budgeting for your project
  • And more!



Benefits Of Asphalt


Asphalt offers a number of advantages for consumers and the environment. The following are some of the most popular benefits of using an asphalt pavement.


Asphalt is 100% Recyclable 

Asphalt is the most recycled product in America. Wolf Paving recycles 100% of the asphalt removed from job sites as well as concrete and asphalt shingles. When it comes to asphalt not only is using recycled material better for the environment, it’s better for the product as well. Recycled asphalt mix is stronger, longer lasting, and has a stronger rut resistance than virgin asphalt mix.

Asphalt is Durable and Long Lasting

An asphalt driveway or road installed by an experienced asphalt contractor will usually last about 15 - 20 years, that estimated lifespan will lengthen if you perform regular preventative maintenance to your surface.

Asphalt is Good for Noise Reduction

Asphalt pavement is the “quiet” pavement option. Due to its open-graded surfaces, fine-graded surfaces and the materials used asphalt basically absorbs road noise.

Asphalt is Cost Efficient

Asphalt is generally much more cost efficient to install compared to concrete. One of the main components of any asphalt mix is crude oil. Because of this fluctuations in crude oil prices can cause fluctuations in asphalt prices.

Asphalt Projects Can be Completed Quickly

The materials needed to create asphalts are easy to get ahold of and able to be turned into asphalt very quickly.

Asphalt Paving is Good for Water Drainage

All asphalt is good for water drainage, but some types of asphalt are better than others. Porous asphalt allows water to pass-through the asphalt into a specially prepared gravel base with helps filter the water back into the ground. Other asphalts are laid specifically to help redirect water to gassy areas or other places where they can be well-managed.

Asphalt Paving is Safe

Asphalt contributes to the safety of your property in a number of ways. Because asphalt has water managing qualities it helps with skid resistance, and the dark color helps melt ice and snow making your pavement safer for cars and pedestrians alike.


Different Types Of Asphalt


Asphalt aggregates are easy to mix and customize. There are hundreds of potential mixes that could be made to meet any specific asphalt need. Many asphalt contractors have their own asphalt production plants in order to better create solutions for those needs. For the most part, all mixes will fall into these four categories.


Porous Asphalt

Porous asphalt is an environmentally friendly paving solution and is an EPA best practice paving, using it for your next project can even offer your business tax benefits. The term “porous” refers to the fact that there are tiny holes in the asphalt material which provide an environmentally friendly way to manage stormwater. The water travels into the ground beneath where it undergoes natural water cleansing processes. Learn the difference between permeable and porous asphalt by downloading our free brochure.

Brochure: The Difference Between Permeable Pavement And Porous Asphalt

Cold Mix Asphalt

Cold mix asphalt stays soft in cold temperatures and helps repel water, it’s mostly used for pothole repairs. The manufacturing process for this mix is fairly simple, which allows it to be crafted at almost any temperature.

Hot Mix Asphalt

Hot mix asphalt (HMA) is the designation given to asphalt mixtures that are heated and poured at temperatures between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the most commonly used asphalt.

HMA can be classified into three categories, including dense-graded mixes, stone matrix asphalt and open grade mixes. Dense-grade mixes are categorized according to the sizes of the aggregate used and fall into two subcategories, including fine-graded and coarse-graded. Fine-graded dense-grade mixes contain a higher percentage of sand and small stones compared to its coarse-graded counterpart. This type of mix can be used to pave high-traffic roadways, interstates and highways.

Warm Mix Asphalt

Warm mix asphalt (WMA) is manufactured between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The production of WMA uses less fossil fuels than HMA, but requires more binding materials to help with pouring and spreading at a lower temperature. WMA is also less costly to produce than HMA.

Coarse Graded Asphalt

Coarse graded asphalt is typically used as a binder or base coarse to give support for the fine-graded dense mixes that are used for surface lifts on parking lots, roads and driveways.


Types Of Asphalt Damage


Most types of asphalt damage are easily avoidable through preventative maintenance and proper installation. Should your asphalt show signs of damage it’s best to get it repaired right away as smaller problems cost less to fix and can be handled quickly.



Alligator Cracking

Also known as fatigue cracking, alligator cracking often caused by overloading which may be a result of the pavement being too thin or a problem with the subbase.

Slippage Cracks

Slippage cracks can form because the asphalt mix was too weak or there was a poor bond between pavement layers. You can tell these apart from other cracks, as they resemble stretch marks.

Edge Cracks

As the name suggests, edge cracks form near the outer edge of your pavement. Heavy vegetation and a lack of support at the edge of your pavement causes this type of damage.

Block Cracking

Block cracking is when cracks form in the shape of interconnected, relatively rectangular-like shapes. These cracks are caused when the asphalt binder shrinks and expands during temperature cycles. If this happens, it’s because the mix was too dry when it was layed.

Longitudinal Cracking

Longitudinal cracking is caused by poor longitudinal joint construction. These cracks run parallel to the pavement centerline.

Transverse Cracking

Transverse cracking forms perpendicular to a pavement’s centerline. They are formed when there are problems in an underlying layer.


Potholes form due to the wear and tear from weather and the amount of traffic on the pavement. Most potholes appear in late winter or early spring because water is continuously going through the freezing and melting cycle. If this water is in the asphalt base it can weaken the pavement. This kind of damage can be avoided or minimized with preventative maintenance.

Brochure: Understanding The Pothole Process

eBook: The Proper Way To Fill A Pothole


Depressions are areas of the pavement surface with lower elevations than the rest of the pavement. Depressions in pavement hold water, which can cause more damage later on.

Base Failure

Base failure can be a result of poor drainage, too much weight in one area, a lack of support or installation error. In order to repair the subbase you must first remove the entire surface layer.


Stripping is caused when the adhesion between asphalt and the aggregate is weakened, causing the surface to dislodge. This type of damage can quickly cause cracks to form.


Repair Options For Asphalt


Crack Filling

Crack filling is when hot sealant is used to fill cracks in pavement to prevent water from doing anymore damage. The sealant will adhere to the asphalt, keeping water and other natural elements from penetrating and exploiting the weakness in your pavement.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to cracks in their pavement, is waiting too long to get them filled. With time, cracks will only grow bigger. What was once a small crack can quickly become alligator cracking or even a pothole, compromising the integrity of your entire pavement surface.


Sealcoating will protect asphalt from fuel, oil, water, weather and traffic wear. It’s a quick and easy way to help prevent damage and should be applied every 3-5 years, always in the warmer months. Sealcoating is not done to new asphalt pavement, but used to extend the lifespan of old pavement. Sealcoating leaves your pavement looking sleek and dark. This is the perfect solution if you are looking for a simple way to improve the appearance of your asphalt and protect it from the elements.

Benefits of Sealcoating

  • Prolongs life of pavement
  • Accelerates the melting of snow and ice
  • Reduces long term repair costs
  • Protects pavement from oxidation, oil, chemical spills and water penetration
  • Enhances appearance of property

Learn More In Our Free Downloadable Brochure About Sealcoating


Milling is the process of removing the top layer of asphalt without disturbing the underlying subbase. This is an excellent option if your subbase is perfectly functional and only the top layer of your asphalt needs repair work. Milling can be completed at a fraction of the cost of a full reconstruction because only the top layer is removed and replaced. The entire process can be completed in a relatively short period of time.

Benefits of Milling

  • Cost effective
  • Fast project completion
  • Recycling of old material

Learn More In Our Free Downloadable Whitepaper About Milling


Patching is the process of filling in potholes. There are slight variations in patching methods but the general idea follows these five steps:

Step 1: Removal of the Damaged Pavement

Different tools will be used depending on the size and nature of the damage.

Step 2: Cleaning the Pothole

All debris must be removed, occasionally there may even be plant life poking through which must be disposed of from the root.

Step 3: Repairing the Foundation

Asphalt needs a sturdy base, otherwise, you’ll just have more problems in the future.

Step 4: Filling the Pothole

The type of asphalt used to fill potholes will depend on the weather and size of the pothole, typically hot or cold mix asphalt will be used.

Step 5: Tamping

The pothole will be slightly overfilled and then must be tamped down. Depending on the size of the pothole, different machinery or tools can be used for this.


An asphalt overlay can be thought of as a large patching job over a stretch of asphalt. Overlay is typically used when existing asphalt is showing some signs of cracking and potholes, but not quite enough damage to warrant a full replacement.

Looking for examples of an asphalt overlay project?

Municipal Asphalt Paving Case Study: Meier Road, Madison

Residential Asphalt Paving Case Study: Mr. Gallun’s Driveway

New Installation

A new asphalt installation is a brand new start for your pavement. It will typically follow this process:

Step 1: Demolition and Removal

It begins with removing whatever the existing surface is and disposing of it. If the existing surface is asphalt, it can be recycled and used in future asphalt surfaces, which will save you money on material.

Step 2: Grading and Sloping

Before laying anything down the surface must be graded, this will allow water to drain away from the pavement and into a grassy area. Your contractors may also need to re-shape the area to give it a sloping surface which will help direct the water away.

Step 3: Prepping the Sub Base

The sub base is the bottom most layer, it will be supporting your new pavement.

Step 4: Adding the Binder Layer

The binder layer is a large aggregate mixed with oil, which makes it strong and durable. Once this step is done it’s time for a proof roll.

A proof roll is a test to be sure the underlying surface is strong enough to support the new asphalt. If the proof roll finds soft areas, undercutting can be used to repair them. The process involves digging below to surface about 2 or 3 feet and replacing the soft soil with stronger aggregate material.

Step 5: Installing the New Asphalt Surface

The new is asphalt laid.

Step 6: The Final Roll

Once the asphalt has been laid, the surface will be smoothed and compacted.


Commercial, Residential, and Municipal Work


Typically paving work will be divided into three separate categories: commercial, residential and municipal.


Commercial Paving

Commercial paving work covers privately owned properties such as business, parking lots and tennis courts.


Case Study: Plum Media Parking Lot Asphalt Reconstruction & Installation

Case Study: Badger Raceway Asphalt Reconstruction & Installation

Case Study: Commercial Asphalt Parking Lot Removal, Installation

Case Study: You Can Bank On Wolf Paving

Residential Paving

Residential paving work covers private residents, mostly driveways.


Case Study: Integrating Landscaping with Residential Asphalt Design and Paving

Case Study: The Long And Winding Road To Residential Paving Success

Municipal Paving

Municipal paving work covers properties owned by a city or town. This includes roadway projects and large highways.


Case Study: Madison Municipal Asphalt Paving Road Overlay

Case Study: Behind The Scenes Of Stabilizing The Asphalt Base At Glen Hills Middle School


Equipment Used


There are many different types of machines used in the asphalt paving process.
The following are some of the more commonly used.


Flatliners are used for projects that don’t require a complete repave. Basically, this machine grinds off the bumps on the top layer to recreate a smooth surface. To learn more about flatliners and the benefits they offer download our free informational guide.

Download Flatliner Services Informational Guide

Milling Machines

Milling machines mill off the top layer of a pavement. Unlike flatliners, it will leave the surface rough and grooved. This surface will then be paved over. If you’re interested in learning more about milling and if the process is right for your project download our free milling brochure. To learn more about the process of asphalt milling go to our blog.

Download Milling Services Whitepaper


A stabilizer/reclaimer is a large machine with a rotor blade which pulverizes old pavement. This machine can also be used to mix material into a subbase which will strengthen it. You can learn more about soil stabilization in our blog.


Graders are machines with large blades that create a flat surface for asphalt to be poured on. Unlike milling machines, graders are used only when the base is made of dirt or gravel. The graders also set the pitch on the project to direct the water to drain in a certain direction.

Asphalt Pavers

An asphalt paver is the machine that lays the asphalt. The asphalt mix is loaded into the machine which then spreads out and lays the asphalt which is then leveled and compacted by a part of the machine called the screed.


As the name suggests, sweepers are used to sweep a road clean after it has been graded or milled. If there is too much debris left on the ground before the asphalt is poured it will have trouble bonding.


Rollers are used for compacting asphalt after it has been laid. A roller will sometimes be used multiple times over the same pavement for extra compaction.


Drones are a relatively new tool used in the asphalt industry. They can be used to help plan projects by mapping the topography of jobsites. They can quickly provide project managers with accurate elevation levels which helps overall project management.


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