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All about Asphalt Paving

Asphalt paving

In this article, we'll take a closer look at residential asphalt applications. We'll clue you in to the hottest current trends, as well as give you some pointers for avoiding the most common mistakes. We'll also help you find the most reliable and appropriate asphalt contractors in your local area.

Although we tend to think of asphalt as the rough, plain material which makes up roads, there are many common (and not-so-common) applications for asphalt around the house. In addition to plain driveways and paths, today's homeowners can personalize their property by investing in stamped or colored asphalt.

While the pouring and stamping of asphalt are relatively simple procedures when performed by trained professionals, there are some common potential mistakes. These mistakes have to do with the planning of your asphalt project and hiring the installation crew.

Asphalt Paving Trends

Asphalt has many different residential applications. In addition to driveways, asphalt is often the material of choice for pathways, front walks and patios. Swimming pool and hot tub surrounds are other popular uses for asphalt.

While plain, smooth asphalt is very attractive when installed properly, today's homeowners often crave an extra level of personalization. This personalized look is surprisingly easy to attain through the creative use of asphalt! Asphalt stamping is just what the name implies...stamps are pressed into still-wet asphalt, resulting in a finished product which is decorative in addition to being durable and useful.

Creating the look of brick is possibly the most common trend these days. A brick drive or walkway gives any home a more traditional, luxurious appearance. However, for many homeowners, the time and money required for real brick just aren't logical or practical. This is why stamped asphalt is becoming so popular. With the use of brick stamps, your driveway can have the appearance of brick, in a variety of patterns. Special dyes are also available which can add to the authentic appearance. These dyes are designed for outdoor use and are extremely weather resistant.

Stamped asphalt brick driveways are more than just beautiful. They're safer than real brick, as well. Even after hiring the most skilled brick masons available, many homeowners notice that their driveways have undesirable points where a brick sticks up a bit at one end. This is usually due to the unique nature of each individual brick, and is not the fault of the installation crew.

These points usually aren't a big deal, but they can cause problems, and even injuries, under the right conditions. The two biggest issues are falls caused by tripping over these points and snow-blower incidents. In cold climates, the whirring metal blades of a snow-blower can potentially catch on these irregular brick points. Depending on conditions, this can result in either a broken blade or a broken brick, either of which can go flying. These sharp, fast-moving pieces of brick or metal are obvious safety hazards. A brick-look driveway made of asphalt is completely level, eliminating this worry.

When creating an attractive surround for your pool or hot tub, mixing different patterns of asphalt stamping is another popular trend. Many homeowners choose a larger brick pattern for the area immediately surrounding the pool or hot tub's edges. The rest of the pool area is often filled in with a smaller brick pattern. This creates an attractive border, highlighting the pool by creating a frame. Depending on the style of your home and backyard, you can create a luxurious, old-world feel or a whimsical pool-party atmosphere.

Stamped asphalt isn't limited to brick. Today's most trend-savvy homeowners are utilizing this design element to add unique touches in any pattern imaginable. Many companies which specialize in stamped asphalt will work with you to design your own stamp. Others have a wide variety of stamps from which to choose. You can add a whimsical touch to your patio with a sunburst pattern, or pay homage to your heritage with a customized stamp of your family crest! When it comes to creative asphalt work, your only limit is your own imagination!

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Asphalt paving is something that the average homeowner simply can't tackle on a DIY basis. The job must be done by professionals who have the proper training and access to the proper tools and machinery.

Therefore, the most common mistakes made by homeowners regarding asphalt paving have to do with planning and hiring. A good contractor will act as a knowledgeable guide through your many options, but it never hurts to have a clear picture of exactly what you want before you even begin your search.

Common Mistake Failure to Match Your Home Design

Faced with all the attractive and unique patterns available in asphalt stamping, it's easy for homeowners to get carried away. However, your ultimate goal should be a property which is in harmony. All the elements should work together and complement each other.

If your pool area has been designed with a look of old-school luxury in mind, there are many stamping patterns available which will complement it beautifully. Don't make the common mistake of choosing the most unique stamping pattern you see simply because it is the most unique. We cant' think of anything more jarring to the eye than a sophisticated, spa-like pool surround with a few cartoon-inspired fish stamped into a corner. Can you?

Not all design mistakes are so obvious. Sometimes it's simply a matter of matching the style of brick to the style of your home. An exact match can look truly odd...as though your driveway is running right up and over your entire house! Choose a brick pattern which is within the same style family, but which complements instead of perfectly matching.

Common Mistake Hiring an Inexperienced Contractor

Since the application and installation of asphalt seems so simple, it's easy to assume that every contractor knows exactly what they're doing. While the vast majority of contractors are reliable, reputable and experienced, it's essential to do your homework. Hiring the very first contractor you come across is one of the most common mistakes homeowners make when approaching an asphalt job.

Experience is as important in asphalt as it is in any other type of home improvement. The more experience a contractor and crew has, the more likely they will turn out a beautiful job on time and on budget. Everybody has to start somewhere, but in the interest of obtaining the best work possible, seek out experience.

Another aspect to experience is location. If you're thinking about a particular local contractor, be sure to ask how long they've been working in your area. Certain factors can make a big difference in outdoor applications such as asphalt. Your local climate is one of these factors. The soil conditions on which the asphalt will be applied is another. Having a basic knowledge of these factors will allow your contractor to make all the necessary adjustments and take all applicable precautions.

Your final consideration when it comes to experience should be the type of asphalt application you're hiring for. A company may have stellar references for pouring and finishing plain asphalt driveways and paths, yet have absolutely no experience with stamped, decorative asphalt. Since the tools necessary for more detailed and decorative applications are available to all professionals in the industry, some contractors may promise wonderful results without having the experience necessary to actually deliver. While they mean well, this could translate into a less-than-ideal finished product. Play it safe, and make certain that the contractor you hire has experience in the right type of asphalt paving.

Common Mistake Failure to See Finished Results

Even after asking all the right questions, many homeowners neglect to ask for pictures of a contractor's finished projects. These pictures give you invaluable insight. Many contractors will offer you a portfolio of pictures. If they don't, be sure to ask. If possible, ask if you can have the addresses of former clients so you can see the work first-hand.

Contacting the list of references given to you by a potential contractor is also essential, even if you can't see the results for yourself. Ask how the asphalt is holding up under the elements. If a decorative stain or dye was used, is it fading prematurely? How long ago was the work done, and how much wear is visible? Are portions of a stamped design crumbling or cracking? Was the surface even upon installation, and it is still even today? The more questions you ask, the better your chances of ending up with a finished project which will beautify your home for years to come.

Common Mistake Lack of Communication

Letting your contractor know how you want your finished project to look is fairly basic. However, other concerns are often ignored. A very common mistake is failing to ask your contractor about earth-friendly materials. Nearly every aspect of asphalt paving can now be done in a manner which is easier on the environment, from the asphalt materials themselves to the stains and dyes used for decorative purposes.

Unless they're told otherwise, many contractors will assume that a homeowner wants the job done as inexpensively as possible. This often means using products which can be toxic to the environment. Be sure to let your contractor know that even if it means a few extra dollars, you'd like them to use the most earth-friendly products whenever possible.

Finding the Best Local Asphalt Contractors

Gone are the days when you had to pick a name out of the phone book and simply hope you made a good choice. Today's home improvement websites offer a wonderful resource for finding reliable, reputable and experienced asphalt contractors in your local area. You can view applicable licenses, insurance, and see how many years the contractor has been in business. In many cases, you can even read reviews written by former clients.

Posted by: Diane Sheppard
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