How to lay asphalt?

Laying asphalt is a process often used to create smooth, durable surfaces like driveways, parking lots, and roads. Though it might seem complicated, it can be broken down into simple steps. Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or just curious about the process, this guide will help you understand how asphalt is laid.

1. Planning and Preparation

Assess the Area: First, look at the area where you want to lay the asphalt. Measure the length and width to determine how much asphalt you need. It’s important to plan properly to ensure you have enough materials.

Get the Necessary Permits: Some places require permits for laying asphalt. Check with your local authorities to find out if you need one.

Prepare Your Tools and Materials: You will need the following:

  • Asphalt mix
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Plate compactor or roller
  • Grader (for larger areas)
  • Safety gear (gloves, goggles, and a mask)

2. Clearing and Excavating

Clear the Area: Remove any grass, plants, or debris from the area. This can be done using a shovel or a small bulldozer for larger spaces.

Excavate the Ground: Excavation means digging out the top layer of soil. You need to dig down about 4-8 inches depending on the intended use of the asphalt. For a driveway, 4-6 inches is usually enough.

3. Creating a Strong Base

Add a Sub-Base: The sub-base is a layer of gravel or crushed stone. Spread this material evenly across the excavated area. It should be about 4 inches thick.

Compact the Sub-Base: Using a plate compactor or roller, press down the gravel to make it solid and stable. A strong base is crucial for a long-lasting asphalt surface.

4. Preparing for Asphalt

Install Edge Forms (if necessary): If you want neat edges, use wooden or metal forms around the area. These forms will hold the asphalt in place while it sets.

Add a Binder Layer: For added strength, you can lay a binder layer before the asphalt. This is a mix of larger stones and asphalt. Spread it evenly and compact it.

5. Laying the Asphalt

Heat the Asphalt: Asphalt needs to be hot when laid. It is usually delivered from a plant in a heated truck. If you are using bagged asphalt mix, heat it according to the instructions.

Pour and Spread the Asphalt: Pour the hot asphalt onto the prepared base. Use a shovel and rake to spread it out evenly. For large areas, a paving machine might be used.

Compact the Asphalt: Immediately after spreading, compact the asphalt with a roller or plate compactor. This should be done quickly to ensure the surface is smooth and solid. Make sure to pass over the entire area multiple times.

6. Finishing Touches

Check for Uniformity: After compacting, look over the asphalt to ensure it’s even and there are no bumps or dips. Add more asphalt to low spots and re-compact if necessary.

Smooth the Surface: For a smoother finish, you can use a hand tamper or a smaller roller. This is especially useful for the edges and corners.

Let it Cure: Asphalt needs time to harden, or “cure.” Avoid using the new surface for at least 24 hours. For the first week, try not to park heavy vehicles on it.

7. Maintenance Tips

Regular Cleaning: Keep the asphalt clean by removing leaves, dirt, and debris. This helps prevent stains and damage.

Sealcoating: Apply a sealcoat every few years to protect the asphalt from weather and wear. Sealcoating adds a layer of protection and can extend the life of your asphalt surface.

Repair Cracks: Over time, small cracks might appear. Repair them promptly with asphalt crack filler to prevent them from growing.


Laying asphalt might seem like a big job, but breaking it down into manageable steps makes it easier. By following this simple guide, you can understand the basics of how to lay asphalt and appreciate the effort that goes into creating those smooth, black surfaces we see every day. Remember to plan carefully, prepare the area well, and take your time with each step to ensure a high-quality finish. Whether you do it yourself or hire professionals, knowing the process helps you make better decisions and maintain the asphalt properly.

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