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When to Repave Your Driveway: An Interview with Seth Ames of Blaktop Inc.

By Seth Ames

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Blaktop is a family-owned business that produces asphalt and supplies asphalt paving services to the Connecticut River Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. Blaktop was founded in 1950 by Bill Taylor and Tom Close as a complement to its sister company, Twin State Sand & Gravel. At that time, Blaktop was the first company in the region to build an asphalt plant and had one paving crew. Today, Blaktop operates a modern asphalt plant, runs two paving crews out of West Lebanon, NH, and one crew out of Littleton, NH.

The average length of stay for year round employees is 16 years and our paving superintendent has been with us for over 30 years. Customers can count on the experience and wealth of knowledge that they bring to the job. In addition, the quality of our work is of the utmost importance to us we wouldn't still be in business today if it wasn't.

Please explain more about the products you use to re pave:

Hot mix consists of a blend of stone, sand, and liquid asphalt. While this sounds simple in principle, in reality a lot of engineering and testing goes into the design of a particular mix. While there is a wide array of different types of hot mix available, homeowners really only need to know about 3 basic types of hot mix: ¾" base, ½" top, and 3/8" top. ¾" base hot mix is used as the base layer to provide strength to the mat. It is used for new construction or if the driveway had to be excavated. The ¾" size references the size of the largest stone in the mix, not the thickness. The thickness of a layer of hot mix should at least be greater than twice the depth of the size of the largest stone. So the minimum thickness for ¾" base is 1 ¾". The thickness of a layer of asphalt is very important because a mat that is too thin will be weak and won't last. We always put down a minimum 2" when paving with ¾" base. ½" and 3/8" top hot mix is the finish layer and it is paved over the top of the base layer or over existing asphalt. The minimum depth for ½" top is 1 ¼". ½" top is used in applications where greater strength and durability is desired, such as for a homeowner that owns trailers, a tractor, or other pieces of heavy equipment. 3/8" top will provide a much smoother finish and is great for driveways that also double as basketball court. It is usually put down with a thickness of 1".

If you could, please list the steps of re paving a driveway

The most critical aspect of a paved driveway is what lies underneath the pavement, referred to as the sub-base. If the sub-base is inadequate, the driveway may look pretty for a few years, but it won't be long before it will start to crack and heave. This is the main reason why so many roads in New England are in bad condition and why it doesn't take very long for many of them to crack and heave when they are re-paved. However, once a road or driveway has been paved the first time, it is expensive to dig it up and start all over. Ideally, the sub-base should be 15" deep with 10" of quality 3" or 1 ½"crushed gravel or ledge stone and 5" of ¾" crushed gravel or ledge stone. To assess your sub-base without digging anything up, look for heaving and depressions. This is a good indication that your sub-base is inadequate. Cracking can be due to the age of the asphalt and/or a poor sub-base. If the cracks are associated with heaving, then it's due to a poor sub-base. If the driveway is flat but still has cracks, it is likely due to the age. If the driveway is cracked excessively, it will likely have to be excavated, even if the sub-base is good.

The next thing to assess is the drainage. When it rains, does the water go where it's supposed to? Does it back up against the house or garage? Does it puddle in certain areas? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have to at least have a portion of your driveway excavated to fix the problem, depending upon the particulars of the issue.

Any major cracks that are going to be paved over should be filled with crack filler first, which is a rubberized asphalt product.

If crack filler is used on your driveway, it should be shimmed over before paving as the heat from the hot mix may cause the crack filler to bubble through to the surface. Shimming consists of laying down a thin layer of 3/8" hot mix. Shimming can also be used to help level out problem areas before re-paving.

Pave the driveway with 3/8" or ½" top, depending upon what your preference is.

How do you suggest clients prepare for a this process?

Assess the health of your driveway yourself. If you decide you want to re-pave it, call at least a couple of paving contractors and have them look at your driveway and compare quotes. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask what thickness of hot mix they intend to use. Keep in mind that the lowest quote may not get you the best results. Do your research first. What is the paving contractor's reputation? What paving work have they done in the area? Go look at the work they did find out from the owner if they are satisfied with it. Find out where their base of operations is ? Are they an established company? Unfortunately, there are a number of paving contractors out there that will temporarily set up shop in an area and then in a few months move to another location before anyone that they've done work for starts to have issues with it. If they ask for payment in full before paving your driveway, it can be a good indication that they may not be reputable. If someone stops by your house with a load of mix in their truck that they claim is left over from another job and offers you a great deal to pave your driveway, don't do it,it is likely a scam.

How can a homeowner known when it is time to re paving their driveway?

If your driveway has relatively few cracks and doesn't have any heaving or depressions, its probably ok. If not, you may want to consider re-paving your driveway.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you?

The best way to get in contact with us is to call our main office and set up a time for one of our estimators to go look at your driveway. We will look at your driveway and give you an estimate free of charge. Our office number is 603-298-8885 or toll free at 1-800-894-8886. Or our website: http://blaktop.com

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