Driveway Surfacing Choices: Asphalt
What's out there: Choices include plain hot-mix asphalt; chip seal with gravel pressed in for texture; pattern-stamped asphalt; and acrylic polymer colors.

Pros: Resists cracks, because it flexes with minor ground movement. Asphalt is easy to contour, and usually lasts 15 to 20 years when properly maintained. Topcoats can often be applied over existing layers.

Cons: Getting straight, clean edges is difficult. Asphalt can deteriorate in as little as five years without proper drainage, and should be resealed every two years. Burdock and other plants can grow through it, breaking it up.

Cost: Prices vary considerably by region. Figure on $1 to $2.50 per square foot for the base coat. Geotextile and drains cost extra. Then add $1 to $2.50 per square foot for a plain topcoat, about $3.50 for chip seal or $3 to $5 for a stamped or colored topcoat. If you're putting in a driveway where none existed, add $1 to $2.50 per square foot for an 8- to 10-in. gravel layer beneath the asphalt.

Recommendations: Remember that an asphalt topcoat is only as good as the base and lasts longest with proper drainage. Have a soil sterilizer applied beneath a new gravel layer to kill weeds. And apply a latex sealer every two years to keep out water and improve appearance.

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