How to prepare an asphalt driveway

Written by elton dunn
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Whether you're upgrading an old home or putting the finishing touches on a new one, an asphalt driveway is an easy and low-maintenance project. Forgo the asphalt driveway and you'll get mud on your car as you drive over that gravel or dirt driveway in heavy rains. Once you've installed your new asphalt driveway, wait at least 90 days to sealcoat the driveway, then apply a new coat of sealant every two to three years to prevent from cracking.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Twine
  • Measuring tape
  • Edger
  • Trowel
  • Shovel
  • Geo-textile fabric
  • Crushed gravel
  • Vibrating plate compactor

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  1. 1

    Map out the route of your driveway using a ball of twine. Walk in the route you want the driveway to take, unspooling the twine as you walk. Then repeat this process on the other side so you have a left and right track for your driveway.

    Driveway recommends that your driveway be no narrower than 10 feet across and suggests 12 feet as a good width for the single car driveway. Driveway also advises that you leave each vehicle 18 to 20 feet of length to park, and that you add 6 to 12 feet on to the end for foot traffic, trash bins and other traffic. You may have no choice but to create a shallower driveway if you live in an urban area, so compromise on the length but not on the width.

  2. 2

    Measure your driveway using a measuring tape. You will need the measurements for length and width when ordering asphalt.

  3. 3

    Remove the sod if you have grass there. If you have a gravel driveway or dirt driveway, skip this step.

    Remove sod by cutting across the width of the driveway with an edger, making lines every 2 feet. Then cut the long edges so you have strips. Pick up one edge of the strip and begin to lift the rectangular strip out of the ground. Cut any roots you encounter with a spade or trowel. Work in this manner until you've removed all sod.

  4. 4

    Measure the depth of the driveway area you've cleared. You will need the soil grade to be at least 12 inches lower in the driveway track to account for the gravel and asphalt. You may need to remove more dirt to get this depth, so measure the difference between your trench and the sod and take out more dirt if necessary, using a shovel.

  5. 5

    Fill in any holes or gaps so the soil is even. You don't want an uneven driveway.

  6. 6

    Lay geo-textile fabric on top of the dirt to prevent grass or weeds from growing and to guard against soil erosion. Geo-textile fabric comes in a long roll like a carpet; roll it out along the length of your driveway.

  7. 7

    Pour crushed gravel on top of the geo-textile fabric. The website Ask the Builder recommends using 8 to 10 inches of gravel for a solid foundation that will support your asphalt driveway.

  8. 8

    Compact the gravel by using a vibrating plate compactor, which you can rent from a home improvement store or rental company. Push this compactor along the length of your driveway and it will compact the gravel underneath. Some vibrating plate compactors can go in forward and reverse while others work in one direction, so ask which kind you're renting. Once you've compacted all the gravel along your entire driveway track, it's time to call the asphalt paving company to finish your driveway.

Tips and warnings

  • Find geo-textile fabric at a good garden or greenhouse supply store, or you can order it online.

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