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Question DetailsAsked on 7/8/2013

What are the specifications to install a quality residential asphalt driveway in the Northeast?

Need to know what steps in the process are necessary, amount of inches and type of materials used, is a fabric between soil and sub-base necessary?

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Here is an Angie's List basic article on the subject -

If you really want the details, get the local specifications from your local building department, or you can probably download the driveway specifications from your state DOT. Be sure you are looking at the small parkinglot/driveway specs, not streets - those call for FAR thicker layers.

The Asphalt Institute ( also has a number of primers as well as sample specifications for driveway construction. The National Paving Contractors Association ( also has homeowner-oriented info pages on their website.

The depth of excavation for driveways is generally to firm, free-draining bearing material or desired profile, whioch is deeper, not to exceed 18 inches to 2 feet unless still in extremely soft, muddy material at 2 feet. If you hit firm bearing material (Gravel, bedrock, mixed gravel and sand, firm packed dune or river sand, etc - basically anything that does not go "squish" or move easily underfoot when you walk on it) then that is called the subgrade level. If it contains a lot of silty fines or fine grained like sand, a filter fabric would then go on it to prevent it from working up into your base material over time.

If a good firm gravelly material or bedrock at subgrade level, then the crushed rock bedding or base material (a CRUSHED rock, running typically from 3/4" to fine sand size, with less than 3% silt size) would be compacted (typically in 3-4 inch compacted rolled layers) for a total of 4-6 inches. If the underlying material is soft or very fine grained, then a 8-12 inch free-draining sub-base material (crushed rock or gravel, typically 1.5 inch max diameter, with less than 5% silt and clay) would go down first in 4-6 inch compacted layers, on top of the road construction filter fabric (NOT the thin garden-variety weed blocker and filter fabric), to provide load distribution capacity so you don't get rutting.

The asphalt paving can be as thin as 2 inches, but I would never recommend less than 3 inches on the best crushed base material, and if it will have heavy vehicles like pickups or RV's sitting on it or is on a slope exceeding 5%, should be probably a 2 to 2-1/2 inch first layer topped by a second 1-1/2 to 2" top layer, for a total of 4 inches.

Unless you are way out in the boonies where it is over a 20-30 minute drive from the asphalt plant (so it cools too much), always use HOT MIX, not COLD MIX. Cold mix can be just as good if done right, but you really have to know how to handle it - hot mix flows together much nicer and compacts better, so it takes less know how to produce a good looking, durable job.

Here is a fairly good quick article on the subject -

If you look in the Home > Driveways link under your question for recent questions on sealcoating, you can read up on the alternative and pros and cons of hot versus cold sealing and different sealants. You will not want to do that for several months to let the volatiles in the paving evaporate, but it should be sealed before winter if feasible, as the sealcoating limits the water penetration that causes surface degradation and cracking. My recommendation is hot-applied asphalt sealer, especially as the first sealer on a new drive, but that does bump the price up a bit at a time when you are already laying out a goodly chunk for the paving.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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