In 2023, the asphalt pavement industry was worth a whopping $5.4 billion in Canada. With asphalt covering more than 94% of North American roadways, this naturally occurring and commercially produced material is expected to be worth up to $23 billion by 2029 on a global scale.

As much as we depend on asphalt roads, parking lots, and driveways, however, there’s a lot we don’t know about it. Keep reading to learn some interesting facts about asphalt and how it came to be the most widely used paving material in the world.

asphalt paving basics

The Basics of Asphalt

Asphalt is a ubiquitous paving material that is made up of a blend of materials, including aggregates like sand, gravel, and crushed stone, as well as a petroleum-based binder. It is also a mixture of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen. When combined, these materials create a durable, flexible surface that can withstand the elements and intense traffic.

12 Fascinating Pavement Facts You Most Likely Didn’t Know

If you’re looking to get your commercial property paved, here are some interesting facts about the asphalt paving industry you should know.

  1. Long Daunting History: Asphalt was initially used to build roads in the city of Babylon around 625 B.C. Historians have also discovered tangible items made with asphalt adhesive from Indigenous people in the 13th century and as waterproofing materials in the ancient Roman Empire. While Pairs is home to the first completed asphalt road in 1824, the material wasn’t used in North America until the 1860s.
  2. Environmentally Friendly: Asphalt is a naturally occurring substance in some parts of the world, which means it is an eco-friendly material. Commercially produced asphalt can be recycled, reducing the need to manufacture finite resources. The fact that it is sustainable makes asphalt a top choice for paving contractors.
  3. The Asphalt Demand Forecast Is Strong: Since asphalt has been around for a long time, there are no signs of the demand for asphalt slowing. With advanced technology and research finding new ways to improve and/or use the versatile material, the economic forecast will likely lead to more job opportunities in the asphalt industry.
  4. Quick & Easy Maintenance: Asphalt repair and maintenance can be done promptly to reduce traffic interruptions. As a cost-saving measure for businesses, having a parking lot or access road still available for traffic during times of maintenance is a worthwhile investment.
  5. Versatility: Aside from roads and parking lots, asphalt can be used to construct or develop materials for batteries, pools, roof shingles, paint, flooring, insulation, soundproofing, and waterproofing products.
  6. Long Lifespan: Although it depends on various factors such as the quality of materials used, location, weather conditions, and maintenance, generally, asphalt can last up to 30 years. This results in a higher return on investment.
  7. Recyclable: Asphalt is the top recycled product, above cardboard, paper, and plastics. Of all of the asphalt produced in North America, more than 80% is recycled. Whenever professional paving contractors need to remove or replace asphalt to repair a commercial property, they try to salvage as much of the original material as possible and mix it into the new aggregate.
  8. Reduces Road Noise Pollution: A well-proven fact is the asphalt on highways can be used to lower sound levels by 3 to 5 decibels. This is due to the gaps and spaces within the asphalt that trap the air between the vehicle tires and the surface, thus dampening the noise.
  9. Ancient Egyptians and Mummies: When preserved ancient Egyptians and mummies were first discovered, there was a dark residue found. This was discovered to be bitumen (a key ingredient in asphalt) which is believed by historians to have been used as an embalming material.
  10. Smooth Asphalt Pavement Reduces Fuel Consumption: A smooth asphalt surface can help reduce the fuel consumption of all types of vehicles. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration claims it reduces fuel consumption by up to 4.5% for heavy-weighted vehicles such as transport trucks.
  11. Asphalt Is Poured Hot: Asphalt is applied to a subbase at a hot temperature to ensure an even coating of the ground. The hot liquid form allows for easy spread, roll, and compacting of the substance.
  12. Not All Asphalt Is the Same: The production of asphalt creates various strengths, flexibility, and resilience in terms of the binder used. The Performance Grade (PG) scale determines the viability of the product at different temperatures.

Myth-Busting Asphalt

There are several myths about asphalt involving the costs, environmental effects, durability, and even presentation.

  • MYTH – Asphalt Is More Expensive Than Concrete: This is simply not true. If anything, maintenance and repairs for asphalt are far cheaper than concrete, leading to more cost savings in the long run.
  • MYTH – Asphalt Is the Same as Concrete: Asphalt is not the same as concrete in terms of the binding agents used in production. Asphalt’s components offer stronger and more resilient protection.
  • MYTH – Asphalt Will Crack or Buckle Under Pressure: It takes years of wear and tear for asphalt to show signs of aging. Any major issues, such as cracks or breakage, are due to the improper installation of the subbase or application of the asphalt itself.
  • MYTH – Asphalt Is Bad for the Environment: In terms of paving materials, it has the lowest impact and can be easily recycled for continued uses or upcycled into different products. Even the coloured asphalt used to enhance the aesthetics of a property is created using environmentally friendly dyes.

Asphalt Applications

With pavement maintenance services, asphalt can be used in a variety of applications in addition to creating access to major infrastructure. Asphalt is used for roads, airport runways, railway beds, building construction, industrial work sites, agriculture, and recreational areas such as walking trails and sports tracks.

Commercial paving services have evolved over the years mainly due in part to the advanced technology available to enhance the production and application of asphalt. As cities such as Toronto continue to grow and develop, asphalt services are more in demand.

Contact the Leading Asphalt Paving Contractor in the GTA

Sure-Seal Pavement Maintenance Inc. offers services for parking lots, local businesses, schools, hospitals, residential buildings, public facilities, and municipal properties.

As a leading pavement maintenance contractor, we are the one-stop shop for all your commercial asphalt paving projects. Contact us to schedule an onsite consultation to see how our services can benefit your property.