Asphalt paving, especially on a large scale like a parking lot, ring road or homeowners association streets, is a significant investment, so you want to make sure you actually need what you’re buying.
Properly constructed asphalt pavement that’s maintained in a timely manner can last 15 years or more. Sealcoating is part of the maintenance process and so are strategic pavement repairs of smaller areas. But eventually, to extend the life of your pavement (and reduce its lifecycle cost) you’ll need an asphalt overlay, which is simply another layer of hot mix asphalt that’s constructed on top of an existing pavement.
And, particularly in the case of overlays, timeliness is key. That’s because once a pavement deteriorates past a certain point, an overlay investment is essentially a waste of your maintenance dollars. Sure, an overlay will always improve the appearance of your parking lot or other pavement. But if the pavement on which the overlay is constructed has deteriorated too much, the overlay itself will deteriorate quickly.
Unlike sealcoating, an inexpensive process that looks good and provides a protective coating that helps extend pavement life, a 1- to 2-inch-thick asphalt overlay actually provides structure to the existing pavement; an overlay strengthens the existing pavement. But an overlay doesn’t provide strength where there is none—it adds to the strength that is already there. So an overlay can’t enhance the strength of existing pavement that is too damaged and too weak. In other words, the overlay is only as strong as the pavement beneath it, so make sure an overlay is the right course of action.
But make no mistake, to get the most out of your pavement investment you will, at some point, need an overlay—and with proper maintenance a second overlay can extend pavement life even further (driving those lifecycle costs down as your pavement lasts longer and longer). Just make sure the existing pavement is strong enough to take full advantage of what an overlay can provide.