Life Cycle of Asphalt and Concrete

Did you know that concrete poured into the Hoover Dam in 1935 is still curing today? Both concrete and asphalt are more complex than they appear on the surface including their usable life cycle.

If you’re planning a commercial asphalt or concrete installation you need to plan weeks, months, and even decades ahead to choose the right material for serviceable life, needs, and price. A big part of that planning is determining the life cycle of asphalt and concrete, so you know which one is right for you.

Let’s learn about the life cycle of asphalt and concrete so you know what can get you more years, what you can expect of different materials, and how to get help choosing the right paving material. With the right pavement at the right price, you’ll get the right lifetime.

Life Cycle of Asphalt and Concrete

Life Cycle of Asphalt

The Formulation

The formulation is the beginning of asphalt’s life cycle. Commercial asphalt comes in different blends that use varying formulations of asphalt, aggregate, and supplements. On the low-end you have ‘cheaper’ formulations that will last around 5 to 15 years up to premium blends that can last upwards of twenty-five years. Once the formula is decided on the materials are hot mixed and loaded onto an asphalt truck for the pour.

The Pour

The next step in the life cycle is the pour. An experienced concrete contractor will excavate, clean, reinforce and prepare the site for the pour. The more care that’s taken in the pour, the longer your serviceable life will be. If you hire a reputable contractor there will not be large differences in serviceable life – it will be poured the right way.

The Maintenance

Asphalt that’s properly maintained can last upwards of 5 to 10 years longer than asphalt left to the elements. Proper maintenance including keeping debris off, cleaning oil stains, and regularly re-sealing can keep your blacktop looking and performing great for years longer.

The Environment

The environment plays the biggest tole in asphalt’s life cycle. Exposure to wind, sun, and ice will all age asphalt and the more exposed the asphalt is, the shorter its life will be. The best thing you can do against the environment is sealing your asphalt.

The Rest of the Cycle

After it’s poured your asphalt takes 6 to 12 months to fully cure and will then be at its toughest. With a good formulation and good care asphalt lasts around 15 to 25 years.

End of Asphalt’s Life

If your asphalt is showing the following signs, it has reached the end of its life cycle:

  • Numerous spiderweb cracks
  • Large scale cracking
  • No luster (graytop)
  • Retaining water
  • Crumbling
  • Full of pits and pockmarks
  • Is easily damaged

When is Asphalt Ready for Use?

Hot melt asphalt is generally ready for foot traffic in as little as 24 hours and vehicle traffic in 2-3 days. When asphalt is ready depends on many factors so always play it slowly when opening new asphalt for use.

Life Cycle of Asphalt

The Formulation

Modern concrete is a combination of cement, substrate like sand and gravel, and water. Different amounts of fillers and substrates make for different qualities and serviceable life. Better combinations last longer than others so get with a concrete contractor to choose the best formula for your project.

The Pour

A professional pour is the only way to pour concrete. Concrete engineers use math, chemistry, and their expertise to craft the perfect re-enforcement and perfect pour. Hiring a cheap contractor will lead to a shoddy pour and lower lifetime.

The Maintenance

Concrete generally doesn’t require as much maintenance as asphalt but should still be kept clean, regularly inspected, and resealed if you’re using sealed concrete. Check everything off by having a concrete contractor visit your lot for inspection and maintenance recommendations once yearly.

The Environment

Like asphalt, concrete’s lifetime is drastically influenced by the environment its installed in. Concrete poured in a shady corner away from drainage will last longer than concrete left to the sun and traffic all day. Think about what type of exposure and traffic your concrete will face to choose the best pour.

The Rest of the Cycle

Concrete never really ends its lifecycle and cures indefinitely. The concrete road outside your house poured twenty years ago is curing right now. Concrete never fully cures but cures enough for our purposes after a few days to a week.

End of Concrete Life

If your concrete is showing the following signs, it has reached the end of its life cycle:

  • Easily damaged
  • Looks dull
  • Numerous small cracks
  • Large cracks
  • Pits and pockmarks
  • Concrete becoming loose
  • Slabs forced out of place

When is Concrete Ready for Use?

Most concrete is ready for foot traffic after 48 hours and ready for vehicle traffic within 5-7 days. Don’t allow foot or vehicle traffic on your concrete until your contractor gives you the go-ahead.

Choosing the Right Asphalt or Concrete

Asphalt generally stops its active life cycle from the formulation to around 6 to 12 months after the pour but concrete lives forever. By knowing your concrete and asphalt and choosing a great asphalt and concrete contractor like Colorado Pavement Solutions you’ll get the best paving and life cycle at the best price. Give us a call today to talk paving life cycles and get your paving project started today.