How Often Do Roads Need To Be Paved?

Road Paving Machine

Asphalt is one of the most common materials used in the construction of roads. Chances are, you’ve recently seen asphalt roads being paved. Once the streets have been paved, though, how long will they last before requiring repaving? 

With proper maintenance, roads need to be paved every 30-50 years, depending on traffic. Asphalt roads last for different lengths depending on how much traffic and what type of vehicles pass over them. Heavy traffic and vehicles will deteriorate the road condition quicker.

Keep reading to learn more in detail about maintaining asphalt roads and the expenses involved, and the aspects that influence how long asphalt roads last. By the end of this article, you’ll better understand the needs and costs of maintaining and paving asphalt. 

Conditions That Cause Roads to Need Resurfacing

Resurfacing roads is an essential component of maintaining asphalt roads. 

Asphalt roads that are resurfaced as needed will last for much longer. Resurfacing involves a fresh layer of asphalt applied to an existing road surface. This process is quicker and much less labor-intensive than repaving. 

How often a road needs resurfacing depends heavily on the traffic and the type of vehicles passing over them. 

Routes with a few light cars passing over them will significantly outlast a busy highway with trucks passing by regularly. As a result, asphalt roads will require resurfacing anywhere from 10 to 30 years after initial paving. 

The following chart gives you a good idea of which roads will need resurfacing and when.

Type of RoadHow Often Resurfacing is Required
Quiet residential road20-30 Years
High Traffic Roads10-15 Years
Parking Lots15-25 Years

Quiet residential roads can last for decades without needing any care or maintenance at all. 

This is because few large vehicles and a low amount of traffic use small residential streets, which dramatically reduces the wear and tear and prolongs the lifespan of the asphalt road surface. 

High traffic areas require paving every decade or so as long as potholes or unexpected issues appear. Asphalt can be displaced by heavy vehicles and traffic, though this process takes a while. 

As a result, even high traffic areas can last for up to 15 years after initial installation, before retiring resurfacing. 

Parking lots vary greatly when it comes to durability. They can sometimes be constructed cheaply and with fewer regulations than a public road. As a result, the asphalt surface may degrade quicker. 

Parking lots also host traffic of all sorts and sizes, which influences the durability of the asphalt surface. Small parking lots that only provide space for small vehicles can last for decades without requiring resurfacing. 

Asphalt surfaces will require resurfacing anywhere from 10 to 30 years after initial paving. 

However, once the resurfacing has been completed, it will likely require further resurfacing within the next decade, depending on the traffic flow and environmental factors in the area. 

What Factors Influence the Durability of Asphalt Roads?

Asphalt roads don’t hold up very well everywhere. It is vulnerable to numerous threats and potential issues, including potholes, cracks, gaps, and it can quickly deteriorate if installed incorrectly or maintained poorly. 

There are a variety of factors that influence the durability of asphalt roads, including: 

  • Quality of construction work
  • Environmental factors
  • Chemical spills
  • Traffic

Quality of Construction Work

Perhaps the most significant influence on how long an asphalt road will last after installation is the quality of construction. 

Asphalt won’t hold up if it hasn’t been installed effectively. There are numerous areas where construction workers often make minor mistakes that can have devastating effects on the asphalt road. 

If the base underneath the asphalt hasn’t been installed deep enough, the road will quickly be ruined. 

The route will also deteriorate if the surface hasn’t been compacted sufficiently or if it has been compacted too much. Also, the asphalt won’t last long if effective grading and sloping haven’t been completed either. 

Mistakes during construction or missing elements that weren’t considered during planning will quickly lead to gaps, cracks, and potholes forming asphalt surfaces. 

Environmental Factors

Environmental conditions play a massive role in the durability of asphalt. Asphalt is held together with a sort of glue, which is the base beneath the asphalt. 

When this glue breaks down, so does the asphalt above it. 

Water and Ice Damage

Asphalt is vulnerable to water, especially in colder climates. It is a porous material that allows for liquids to pass through, and as a result, when rain falls, it can seep through the asphalt and off of the road’s surface. 

However, if the temperature drops below freezing point, the water inside and underneath the asphalt freezes into ice. 

As water freezes, it expands in size, which puts a strain on the asphalt surface and the base beneath it. As a result, tracks and gaps start to appear on the road. These gaps will separate and worsen the next time temperatures dip below freezing. 

This process is known as the freeze-thaw process and is one of the most significant issues with asphalt. 

Sunlight Damage

Asphalt is also vulnerable to sunlight. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight can cause asphalt to dry out. When this happens, the asphalt becomes brittle and more susceptible to damage, which leads to cracks quickly forming. 

Chemical Spills 

Asphalt is vulnerable to some chemicals. Unfortunately, the substances that damage asphalt include gasoline, antifreeze, diesel, motor oil, and pretty much any other liquid that may leak from a vehicle. 

These chemicals disrupt the bond between the base and the surface of the asphalt. 

As a result, the base of the asphalt loosens its grip on the surface, which leads to damages quickly occurring to the asphalt road and its deterioration. 

Traffic

The amount and type of traffic that passes over an asphalt road significantly influences its longevity. Oversized vehicles and high traffic congestion can put a significant strain on the road surface which will lead to the road deteriorating quickly. 

If an asphalt road is installed in a high traffic area, extra measures are required to ensure the road lasts for as long as needed. This may include establishing a deeper base underneath or maybe even creating a thicker surface layer. 

How Expensive Are Asphalt Roads To Maintain?

The cost of maintaining an asphalt road varies greatly depending on the factors mentioned above. Rural and residential asphalt roads can cost as little as $800 per mile every year to maintain. However, extensive highways and busier streets cost about $28,000 per mile every year to keep on average. 

The cost of keeping asphalt roads can even climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile of the roadway every year to maintain. That’s an economically high figure when considering how many miles of roads there are in the US. 

Final Thoughts 

Asphalt roads can last for over 30 years between pavings. However, asphalt does require maintenance and resurfacing every 10 to 20 years to preserve the structural integrity of the asphalt. 

Issues during construction, adequate drainage, climate conditions, and traffic all majorly influence the durability of an asphalt road. Effective maintenance is also a vital aspect of keeping asphalt surfaces longer. The cost of maintaining asphalt varies from state to state and the traffic density that passes by. 

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