Asphalt pavements, like everything, have a life cycle.

They start out new, they age, and eventually they decline to the point where they need to be replaced. How long pavements last depends on a variety of factors, including how well they are constructed initially, the weather, the amount and weight of traffic and—most importantly—how well they are maintained. A well-constructed asphalt pavement that experiences low levels of traffic can last 25 years or more. That life can be substantially extended—and provide a greater return on your pavement investment—if proper maintenance is performed on a regular, timely basis. Maintenance options are outlined in detail, complete with photos, in our Saving the Paving Handbooks, but the most-common maintenance options are sealcoating, crack sealing, patch paving and asphalt overlay.

While it’s essential to have a contractor evaluate your pavement to determine its specific maintenance needs, a pavement’s life cycle falls into five broad stages. Determining where you fall in the life cycle is a fairly straightforward process, and using these five stages you can get some idea of the types of maintenance you will need. We’ve summarized a pavement’s life cycle in the following chart:

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Stage 1: New Pavement (0-5 Years)

  • Little or no maintenance required

Stage 2: Initial Preventive Maintenance Phase (5–7 Years)

Typical maintenance procedures:

  • Initial sealcoating
  • Crack sealing

Stage 3: Minor Repairs and Continued Preventive Maintenance (7–15 Years)

Typical maintenance procedures:

  • Some patch repairs
  • Crack sealing
  • Second sealcoating

Major Repairs (15–25 Years)

Typical maintenance procedures:

  • Extensive patching repairs
  • Asphalt overlay
  • Third sealcoating

Stage 5: Extensive Repairs or Complete Reconstruction (25–35 Years)

Typical maintenance procedures:

  • Major repairs throughout the community or complete removal and replacement of the asphalt

Watch the “Pavement Life Cycle” video here: