A new asphalt driveway is an investment, and as such you want to make sure it lasts. The first six months are the most crucial, as this is about how long it takes asphalt to fully set up and cure.
1. Wait for Initial Cure
It takes about three days for new asphalt to complete the initial cure, but this timeline can vary depending on the weather and the specific asphalt mixed used. Your installer will provide you with the exact length of the initial cure. During this period it is best to stay off the driveway. Do not drive any vehicle, even small lawnmowers, across the surface and do not park or place any heavy objects on the surface.
2. Vary Parking Patterns
Although the initial cure takes less than a week, the driveway won't be fully cured for at least six months. During this period it's important that you don't leave anything heavy sitting in one location for too long, or the asphalt may slowly depress beneath the weight. Park cars in a slightly different location every day so ruts don't form on the driveway. This may mean rotating parking to either side of the driveway or pulling in several inches to the side of the previous parking spot.
3. Keep It Cool
Extremely hot weather in the summer will further soften curing asphalt, which can make it more prone to developing depressions, ruts, and warping. On the hottest days, spray the driveway down with water periodically, particularly when the sun is beating down on it. This will help cool the asphalt so that damage is less likely. One option is to set an automatic sprinkler to mist the driveway down just before you are expected home in the evening. This way the driveway is cool when you drive onto it.
4. Spread Out Any Weight
If you must leave something parked long term within the first six months, such as an RV or boat, then spread out the weight beneath the tires and jack stands. Place sheets of plywood under the tires and a long board beneath each jack stand. This distributes the weight so that depressions don't form.
5. Sealcoat at the Appropriate Time
Sealcoating creates a protective layer against moisture, weathering, and UV light. It can't be applied until after the asphalt fully cures, though. Premature applications prevent proper curing and can lead to more problems than the sealcoat can solve. Wait at least six months before applying any type of protective coating.
Contact an asphalt paving service if you need more help with the initial care of your new drive.