Cost-Saving Techniques for Installing Asphalt

There are plenty of different ways to lay asphalt. However, if you are looking for the meeting point of quality and cost-saving, it’s not hard to find.

You might not think so, but laying asphalt can be surprisingly-environmentally friendly, too. The reason for this is that the same cost-saving techniques often reuse and recycle existing materials, obviating the whole supply chain.


What is the asphalt laying process?

These are the steps that your paving contractor should follow in order to lay asphalt properly:

Clearing and removal

The first step, like almost any construction project, is to clear the building area. Whatever the existing surface is, whether asphalt, concrete, or soil, it has to be cleared of debris. This is often done with heavy machinery, and sometimes demolitions.


Then, when the surface is prepared, it is properly graded and sloped. This basically means that the ground is built so that it has a slight tilt. This is essential because it gives water a place to run off and prevents asphalt damage as a consequence. Water is the main source of asphalt damage on any surface.

Sub-base preparation

The soil below the asphalt must be properly leveled and compacted. This is arguably the most important step. If the sub-base is improperly prepared, the lifespan of the pavement on top will be a fraction of what it would otherwise be.

Adding the binder

Once the sub-base is properly prepared, it’s time to add the binder. The binder is made from aggregate and oil. Aggregate is a mix of small stones and pebbles that form the vast majority (94%) of asphalt pavement. The binder is a processed oil product that does exactly what you think it would—it “glues” the aggregate together, forming the asphalt into one solid piece. Even though the binder is only 6%, it is the highest-cost part of the asphalt by far.

Surface installation

With the sub-base, binder, and aggregate installed, the surface comes next. The surface asphalt is made of small aggregate, sand, tiny pebbles, and oil (the binder). The smaller aggregate means that the surface is smooth, with a clean appearance.


Most asphalt is installed adjacent to other existing asphalt, pavement, or concrete. Parking lots connect to sidewalks, sidewalks connect to buildings, and so on. The places where these areas join up requires special attention. They must be level to prevent damage to vehicles and for ease of pedestrians. Also, the areas where asphalt joins up must have proper places for water to drain. Without proper drainage, water can get between the asphalt and do major damage when it cools or warms.


Also known as “the final roll,” this process simply involves moving over the asphalt with a large flattener—usually a steamroller. This smooths and compacts everything and prepares it for everyday use.


How to cut costs on asphalt pavement installation

Now that you know roughly how asphalt is installed, let’s look at where the cost-saving steps come in.

Believe it or not, asphalt is actually the most recycled material in the world. Since 2009, in the United States, less than 1% of asphalt winds up disposed of in landfills. A total of 97% of used asphalt winds up in new pavement, while the other 3% goes to civil engineering applications. Nowadays, new asphalt pavements produced in the U.S. contain more than 21% reclaimed pavement. Who knew asphalt was so environmental?

This recycling is more than good for the environment, it has become a major way to save money. On large scales, asphalt is recycled in a plant on industrial levels. These savings can easily be passed on to the consumer, as recycled asphalt can be procured from nearby sites, processed and then sent. New materials don’t need to be mined or drilled (particularly the oil binder), so many costs are avoided. Large scale asphalt recycling is usually what is used in making new asphalt or simultaneously tearing up and replacing old asphalt.

On smaller scales, asphalt recycling can be done in various ways that save money as well. Usually, these steps occur after sub-base preparation, when the binder and aggregate needs to be added. Small-scale recycling is often on-site and completed at high speed or overnight. It is used most commonly for smaller repairs on existing asphalt structures.

Read more about how asphalt recycling has gone from a move towards greener construction to a wise financial choice here.


3 Categories of small-scale asphalt recycling

Asphalt Millings

These are small pieces of pavement produced by grinding the surface of asphalt. Usually, the millings come from the surface layer of asphalt, as the sub-base layer can be contaminated with soil, and other things from the earth. Although asphalt can be milled from concrete, it’s better to be milled from asphalt, as it has more oil (binder) content. Ideal millings have a rich black tint, and are best for asphalt recycling.

Reclaimed asphalt pavement

Also known as RAP, reclaimed asphalt pavement are chunks of existing pavement that have been removed. These pieces are broken off when asphalt is being repaired or modified. 

Blacktop cookies

Blacktop cookies are chunks of hot mix asphalt that can be used for repairs. These un-compacted wafers can be stored, reheated, and used to make repairs using far less labor than pouring new asphalt. Blacktop cookies often are unused material from previous paving jobs.


How to save money on your asphalt installation

So, using recycled materials is better for the earth and your wallet. But how should you go about making the most money-saving move in getting new pavement put in? Should you buy recycled pavement from a large scale recycling plant? Should you get a small-scale asphalt recycling operation to rip up what’s already there and put it back in?

There are a lot of choices to be made, so rely on the professionals to tell you what options are best for your situation. Reliable Paving has over 35 years of paving and asphalt installation and repair experience under their belt. Contact us today to talk to a professional paving contractor who can give you the best advice on how to recycle asphalt and save on your new installation.