Asphalt paving makes an excellent driveway choice, even in areas with harsh winter weather. Knowing the best way to care for the drive when the temperatures drop and the snow flies will ensure it survives winter unscathed.

Tip #1: Keep the Snow Off the Drive

Huge piles of plowed snow on the side of your driveway can weaken the asphalt. The colder temperatures and longer thaw time beneath the snow pile is more likely to cause winter heaving or cracking, especially along the weaker edges of your drive.

Your best option is to leave a cleared space along the side of the drive. When clearing off the snow, shovel it completely off the asphalt and onto this cleared area. Not only will this completely remove the snow hazard from the driveway, it will also extend the life of the asphalt.

Tip #2: Avoid Standing Water

Although snow can be damaging, standing water is almost worse. It can work its way into small cracks and holes. These cracks then become worse when the water freezes and expands. Shoveling off snow piles will prevent some water issues, but others may require more intensive repairs before winter arrives. Things that lead to water problems include:

  • Ruts in the drive from heavy vehicles or from driving on the asphalt too soon after installation.

  • Normal "bowls" that form after the asphalt drive settles.

  • Holes from damage, such as jack stands or motorcycle stands.

  • Drainage issues that cause part of the drive to sink.

If the depressions lead to standing water more than 1 inch deep, or if they are accompanied by cracks, schedule an asphalt repair before temperatures drop below freezing. A quick repair now can save you on a more expensive resurfacing or repair job later.

Tip #3: Seal It Against Damage

Sealing your asphalt driveway at regular intervals prevents damage that leads to cracks, while also helping to keep excess moisture out. A properly sealed driveway can better survive winter hardships and it's less prone to damage from the freeze and thaw cycle.

How often your driveway needs to be sealed depends on your weather, average temperatures, and how much traffic your driveway experiences. Generally, most driveways can benefit from sealing every two to four years.

Tip #4: Lift the Blade

Shoveling rarely damages asphalt, but you use care if you use a plow attachment on a riding lawnmower. Setting the plow too low can scrape the asphalt, leading to driveway damage. An overly low blade can also damage your plow. Adjust the blade so it sits just above the surface of the driveway. When properly set, the blade should skim over the top of the snow, leaving just a thin layer of snow behind that will melt quickly in the winter sun.

Tip #5: Melt the Right Way

Ice melt products can make your drive safer to drive and walk on, especially in climates where snow and ice doesn't melt quickly. Skip the salt – it can weaken the asphalt and lead to cracks and pitting. Instead, use a chemical snow melt product, such as one containing potassium chloride. Chemicals melt ice just as quickly as salt, but without the damage to your paving.

Asphalt driveways are durable and can usually withstand freezing temperatures just fine. Taking the time to keep the drive in top condition, combined with proper winter maintenance, prevents most damage before it happens.

For more information about asphalt, contact Armour Pavement Inc. or a similar contractor.

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