Factors affecting the cost to pave a driveway with asphalt per square foot

Not all the costs to pave a driveway with asphalt per square foot revolve around the materials; installation charges can vary hugely depending on lots of different variables and this means that either driveway can end up costing more for reasons which have nothing to do with the material choice.

Here are some of the different influences on asphalt driveway costs.

  • The size of driveway
  • Whether the drive is odd-shaped or irregular
  • How much excavation and foundation work is required
  • Whether an old driveway is being removed with associated labour costs and haulage of waste materials
  • The use of a weed membrane
  • Any finishing or edging material
  • The amount of drainage included if any
  • Complexity of design
  • Access to the site
  • Planning permission charges
  • Professional fees for a planning consultant or engineer
  • Where you live – postcode can make a big difference with London and the Southeast inevitably more expensive

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Different types of asphalt driveway

Porous asphalt allows water to drain through the surface to the soil and stones below. If you don’t choose a porous or permeable driveway surface, then there may be a requirement for planning permission. Planning regulations are concerned about the flood risk from surface water runoff particularly in severe weather.

Stamped asphalt is the same as standard asphalt, so it offers all the same benefits such as low maintenance and durability, but it is decorated to provide more visual appeal. Using clever techniques, stamped asphalt can mimic the look of a more expensive surface such as block paving. A pattern or design is stamped onto the surface using a grid and plate compactor. This additional service can push an asphalt driveway cost up between £80 and £100.

How to make the cost of an asphalt driveway cheaper

There are steps a homeowner can take to lower the cost to pave a driveway with asphalt per square foot. If you already have an asphalt driveway which has seen better days, then you could have it resurfaced with a new layer of asphalt over the top. The foundations will need to be sound and the driveway surface free from serious cracks or crumbling. This saves the cost of excavation and laying new foundations.

If you are replacing an existing driveway, then you could remove this yourself which will save the labour costs of paying a contractor. You will still need to dispose of the waste which means hiring a skip or grab lorry and you may need to hire pneumatic equipment to break up the old surface.

If the area requiring resurfacing is large, you could consider reducing it or doing the work in stages although there may be a difference in appearance as the surface installed earlier will have weathered to a different colour.

Always remember the 20/80 rule that 20% of the cost of the project is made up of materials and 80% comes from the sub-base and installation. For this reason, a high-end paving product or decorative asphalt finish will increase the final cost by less than you might think. It might be tempting to try and lower the cost to pave a driveway with asphalt per square foot by skimping or cutting back on the excavation and sub-base, but this is a false economy. The quality of the driveway finish is only as good as the base it sits on and so you may find that the driveway deteriorates or even that it is not stable.

If your chosen contractor has come in over budget, then discuss options with them to reduce the asphalt driveway cost.

Why are asphalt driveways so popular?

There are lots of reasons why asphalt driveways are popular:-

  • They are cost effective, affordable and offer value for money
  • Quick to install
  • Present a smooth and uniform appearance
  • Durable
  • Low maintenance
  • Asphalt is flexible so is less prone to cracking unlike concrete. If cracks do appear they tend to be smaller than concrete

The disadvantages of asphalt driveways

Asphalt like all driveway surfaces does have some drawbacks. It does need to be professionally installed to look smooth and pristine; a poor job will not only deteriorate quickly but it won’t look very good.

Some people like the fact that their driveway looks like the road outside the house, but others don’t like this. Asphalt doesn’t always suit traditional or period properties.

Colour choices are limited and chemicals and oils from the cars react with and may dissolve the tarmac.

If you don’t use an edging material, then an asphalt driveway can look very rough and unfinished.

In very hot conditions, asphalt can overheat and become sticky and soft. This can cause the surface to degrade and also impact the vehicles sitting on top of it. Hosing down the driveway with cold water can help to lower the surface temperature.

Planning Permission

Planning permission for a new driveway tends to hinge on the drainage situation so this means whether or not you are using a permeable surface and/or if you are installing additional drainage.

It is not permitted to run your driveway drainage system or water from your driveway if there is no drainage provided, into existing drainage without planning permission. If you can keep the run-off within your curtilage and not flowing into existing drainage, then you won’t need planning permission.

Local planning departments are concerned about non-permeable surfaces without any added drainage which means surface water runoff will be directed into the public space and could cause flooding in severe weather.

On new build properties, if you take an area that was free draining and turn it into hardstanding with an asphalt driveway then it is likely you will need planning permission.

If your new driveway requires a dropped kerb either because you are converting a front garden to a driveway or you are extending an existing driveway with a new asphalt surface, then this will always require planning permission even if the driveway itself doesn’t.

Discuss this with your driveway contractor but it is always best to check with your local authority to be absolutely sure about the rules.

Sealing an asphalt driveway

Asphalt should never be sealed straightaway as this will affect the curing process which can take up to twelve months. Curing immediately will trap the oils in the asphalt which need to evaporate as part of the curing process. Most installers recommend sealing the driveway after about 30 days and then regularly every 12-24 months thereafter, but some driveway companies maintain this isn’t necessary. The Asphalt Institute recommends every two to five years. Again the cost to seal asphalt driveways when required should be included when calculating the cost to pave a driveway with asphalt per square foot.

The main thing to ensure is that the driveway is sealed when you begin to notice the aggregates in the top layer of asphalt showing through or when the original deep black colour starts to look grey and faded. Always deal with any cracking and make patch repairs.

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Finding the right asphalt driveway contractor

Asphalt driveways are pretty popular so plenty of driveway companies offer this as an installation product.

Ask friends, work colleagues or family members for a personal recommendation. There are plenty of groups on social media which will cover your local community or neighbourhood, and this can also be a good place to try. Just make sure that any recommendations that you follow up are genuine and given by people who have actually used that particular company to install an asphalt driveway. Social media is a great place for people to promote their friends and family.

Online trader platforms are another device where you can access lots of local contractors and contact them with one hit rather than spending hours trawling the internet and emailing or phoning individual companies.

Just list some key personal data such as your location and exactly what you are looking for and you will be contacted by local installers in your area who can drop a quote into your inbox. You can also check out trader reviews from previous customers on most of these sites.

Questions to ask a driveway installer

It’s always worth obtaining at least three quotes as the variation in price can be surprising. This is a list of handy questions to ask all contractors. Never use a contractor who doesn’t come out to make a site visit and detailed measurement of your new driveway. Their quote won’t be accurate, and the work is likely to be sub-standard.

  • Are there any extras which I will need to pay for that are not listed on your quote such as third-party costs for skip or tool hire?
  • What are the different choices of asphalt?
  • Do you foresee any problems with access to the site?
  • How long will it take to remove the old driveway?
  • How long will it take to lay the asphalt?
  • How long will it be before I can walk/drive on the new surface?
  • Is there a requirement for additional drainage?
  • Will the surface bear the weight of something heavier than the average domestic car?
  • Is there any maintenance required?
  • Does this price include sealing the new surface?
  • How can I keep the asphalt surface looking as good as new and protect it from oil and chemicals from the vehicles?
  • Will I need planning permission because the surface is non-porous?
  • How much deposit do you require in advance?
  • What guarantees and warranties are available for both the materials and the workmanship?
  • Do you have any previous testimonials from satisfied customers?
  • Are you correctly licensed and insured?
  • How long have you been in business for?
  • Do you belong to any professional or trade bodies or organisations?

Funding a new asphalt driveway

New driveways don’t have to be expensive but by the time you have added good drainage, proper kerb stones, lighting and perhaps a decorative effect on the asphalt surface then your quote may have assumed quite different proportions!

The main ways to fund a project like this are either with savings or some sort of finance option. Many homeowners take advantage of a re-mortgage if they have enough equity in their property, to release some capital sums for home projects. The other option is a home improvement loan via your mortgage company which again, relies on equity in the property and will be subject to your lender’s affordability test.

Some driveway installation companies will offer finance via a third-party institution as part of their sales proposal. It can be tempting to agree to a whole package just for ease and convenience but always look around as there may be more competitive rates or offers available.

Other considerations when planning a new driveway

Whatever surface you opt for, there are quite a lot of things to think about when it comes to planning a new driveway. Here are some factors which may affect your choice of design, size of driveway and budget.

  • How many vehicles do you want to park? If you have children, then think ahead to teenage drivers
  • Will a linear driveway work for your household or do different lifestyles and daily patterns mean that a circular or square area where cars can park one beside the other would be better?
  • Don’t forget to allow space for car doors to open, it is really easy when assessing measurements for cars parking adjacent to one another to forget to leave the extra space. The same applies to rear access to vehicles particularly if you have a wheelchair user who has a ramp, and for loading and unloading larger vehicles and vans
  • Do you need to reverse into the road – this can affect the width of the entrance/exit point
  • For buyer appeal later on, try and practically match driveway capacity with the size of the house. A family home with five bedrooms should have parking for at least three cars
  • Heavier vehicles like small vans, lorries, trailers or boats will need a surface to bear the extra weight plus manhole covers also need to be of the correct strength
  • Drainage is a big consideration even if you are choosing a permeable surface. There has to be a point for surface water to run to and this may also be a requirement under planning regulations
  • If your property is in a conservation area and/or listed, then there can be restrictions or requirements as to the type of driveway you are allowed to install both in terms of materials and aesthetic appearance. Listings status usually includes the property and the land around it and is not just confined to the building
  • Does the design and appearance of the driveway suit the style of the house? Some contemporary driveway designs don’t always work with an older style or period property
  • Does your chosen driveway surface require a lot of maintenance and what about weed growth? Asphalt has the advantage that it is laid as one continuous piece and so there should be no grass or weed incursion unless the surface starts to crumble. No-one wants a labour-intensive driveway, one of the reasons people convert garden space other than for additional parking is to cut down on weekend chores. Discuss maintenance carefully with your contractor and find out how easy or difficult it will be to keep your driveway looking as new and pristine as the day it was installed
  • Consider how you will separate any remaining garden from the driveway to produce a nice, clean delineated effect and also to protect shrubs and flowers. Edging stones are a good way to do this and finish the drive beautifully. These can be provided by your driveway contractor
  • If you have existing trees and established shrubs, then bear in mind that new driveway excavations can damage the roots. Conversely, if you are creating beds and borders to complement your new asphalt driveway then you need to select plants that won’t send roots into the driveway and undermine the sub-base
  • Think about lighting before you install a new driveway as you may want to hide cabling in the foundations. Kerb lights are a great option, they are subtle and look attractive and make it easier to park at night

All of the key points mentioned above should be included when planning the cost to pave a driveway with asphalt per square foot, and should help to paint the picture on how much an asphalt driveway will actually cost, both short term and long term.

If you need to find more information on related costs for an asphalt driveway, why not learn more about how much a stamped asphalt driveway costs, the costs to seal a driveway and the most cost effective driveways.

It’s always worth obtaining at least three quotes as the variation in price can be surprising.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between tarmac and asphalt?

These terms are often used interchangeably but tarmac and asphalt are not the same thing. Asphalt is made from crushed gravel and bitumen whereas tarmac is made using natural tar.

How long does it take to install a new asphalt driveway?

It will take a couple of days for a single driveway and potentially 4-5 days for a larger area.

How long must I wait before I can park on the new driveway?

Most contractors recommend waiting at least three days before you put vehicles on the driveway, sometimes as long as seven days.

What is the uplift in value of a new asphalt driveway?

A new driveway can uplift the value of a home by between 5%-10%. It adds kerb appeal and is the first thing a prospective buyer will see when they approach the house. Parking is top priority for many purchasers as most families have at least two cars. If you live in an area where street parking is difficult or restricted by permit, then driveway space carries even more of a premium.

How long will an asphalt driveway last for?

A correctly laid and professionally installed asphalt driveway should last for twenty years.

Is there such a thing as recycled asphalt?

Asphalt is 100% recyclable, so it is possible to install recycled asphalt as your driveway surface. This is asphalt material which has been removed from construction sites and recycled. Recyclable asphalt tends to have a stronger rut resistance and longevity.

Can an asphalt driveway support a heavy load like a camper, boat or commercial van?

Asphalt won’t always support weight heavier than your average domestic car but always check with your driveway installer. Sometimes, if you need to long-term park or store a heavier item like a boat on a trailer then you can use pieces of wood underneath the wheels to help spread the load and to avoid divots or depressions appearing.

What does curing mean?

Curing is the process of setting, a chemical reaction which stabilises and toughens the final surface. Did you know that asphalt driveways can take up to twelve months to cure? This doesn’t mean you can’t use it for the first year, but some contractors will advise you not to keep parking in the same place for the first few months to avoid marks and indents. Try also to avoid the edges of the driveway as these are always a little thinner and will be prone to cracking and crumbling. Installers often recommend extending the crushed stone layer for a further six inches either side of the asphalt to provide added support and avoid this happening.

How can I best protect my asphalt driveway?

Avoid parking in the same place all the time if possible. Seal the driveway in line with the installer’s recommendations after it is installed. Avoid spilling chemicals or working on vehicles on the driveway. Spillages usually contain corrosive elements which will damage the asphalt surface.

How can I stop my asphalt driveway from becoming too hot in a heatwave?

Asphalt does not respond well to very hot temperatures. If there is no surrounding shade from trees or shrubs, then consider hosing down the surface at regular intervals to lower the temperature. Try and avoid parking on the driveway until the weather is cooler.

Paul Robinson
Hi I'm Paul. After years in the mathematical field, I went on to help rescue a flooring and driveways company and spent 10 years building the company. I’m a property expert with extensive driveway and home improvement industry knowledge.
Mike Alexander

I’m Mike – writer and part-time home improvement expert at Refurbb. Since owning and refurbishing my own property in 2018, I’ve since been developing rental properties, writing about my home improvement endeavours, sharing what I’ve learned and connecting readers to reputable tradespeople in the UK. I’m also head of marketing and technical at Raindancer Ltd

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