Ditch the Dust: How to Convert a Dirt Drive to Asphalt

Living away from the bustle of the city has its benefits, but dirt drives and private roads aren't one of them. Pot holes and rutting require expensive and time consuming maintenance, such as frequent grading. Investing in an asphalt overlay makes your private drive nearly maintenance-free, and it will keep down the road dust on your property.

Size Requirements

Chances are your existing drive or road is sufficiently wide enough for asphalt installation, as long as it's a finished road and not just a dirt track. The drive should be between 2 and 3 meters wide along its entire length to allow for single car passage, or twice as wide for two-way traffic or side-by-side parking.

This does not include the side grade and drainage measurements. Paving contractors such as K-W Cornerstone Paving LTD can inspect your current grade and ditches to make sure they are properly sized for carrying the excess moisture off the drive and away from the asphalt. Size does depend on soil permeability and local annual rainfall, so it does vary. If you need larger ditches or more grading, you may need to extend the width of the your current drive.

Subgrade Preparation

The old dirt road base can provide an adequate base for the new asphalt with minimal preparation. The contractor will grade the dirt and fill in any ruts or pot holes. The center of the drive will be higher, with the sides graded at a downward angle toward the ditches on either side. This allows water to run off the pavement.

To create a strong subgrade, the contractor installs a thick layer of stone aggregate on top of your graded dirt, and then compacts it to form a firm base. The depth of the aggregate layer depends on how well your soil drains—thicker layers are used for poorly drained areas.

Basic Installation

Once the subgrade is installed, it's usually left to settle for several days or even up to a week. Natural settling, along with mechanical compaction, provides the firm base necessary for a long-lasting paved drive. After the subgrade settles, the contractor will lay a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of asphalt over the entire drive. You can opt for a second, thinner coating of asphalt containing fine particles if you want a smooth finish.

You shouldn't drive or walk on the new asphalt for the first 48 hours as it cures. Even after it cures, it's a good idea to avoid placing sharp objects, such as jack stands, bike stands and high heels, on the asphalt. With proper care, your asphalt will provide a welcome relief from the dust and maintenance of your old dirt drive.