Asphalt dates back to ancient times and was first used in the Middle East as caulking, mortar between bricks, and even as art. It was in the 1830’s that asphalt was first used in Britain in its now most common role as pavement. It was first used as a pavement in the United States in 1870 when it was used to pave the street in front of the town hall in Newark, NJ.
In it’s most basic form, asphalt is a semi-solid or very thick liquid that is present in crude petroleum. The asphalt product that is used for paving and surfacing is the result of a careful distillation and refining process. In addition to the common residential and industrial asphalt paving, another common type of asphalt surfacing is tar & chip application which provides the durability of traditional asphalt with the aesthetics of an exposed aggregate look.
Asphalt remains a popular and common pavement because of its numerous advantages. It is cost effective and long lasting. Properly laid asphalt can last 15 or 20 years. It sets up much quicker than concrete, reducing the cost of installation by reducing man hours. It is is ideal for use in varying climates because it is less prone to cracking thanks to the fact that, as a petroleum based product, it has the ability to expand and contract as the temperature changes. It is also unaffected by salt and ice. Because of its dark color, asphalt does not readily show stains.
Asphalt is also ecologically friendly. It is the most recycled material in the United states–both by weight and percentage. 80 percent of asphalt removed during road repair is reused in new paving. Additionally, because of its petroleum base, it is easily and cost effectively repaired. The most common method for repair is seal coating. In the seal coating process an emulsion or oil based liquid is applied to the asphalt by brushes or sprayers. The sealant prevents water or other contaminants from entering the pores of the asphalt and causing cracks or damage. It also keeps the asphalt looking new.
Because of its many qualities, asphalt’s history as a paving surface dates back over 180 years. These same qualities will allow asphalt to persevere as the top choice for paved surfaces for another 180 years and beyond.