Most homeowners and business managers are in charge of building and/or keeping up a paved surface — even if this is a detail they’d rather not think about. Driveways, walkways and parking lots are a fairly important aspect of modern life, however — and like or not, asphalt pavement is something in which most people will have to invest at some point in their lives.

In terms of longevity, durability and overall value, asphalt is an incredible invention. When asphalt pavement is installed by a reputable local expert, it’s common for the installation to last for twenty years, requiring only periodic routine maintenance. Asphalt continues to look new and perform like new for many years. Again, this is assuming the installation was done right.

Eventually though — even if you’ve hired the best of the best — asphalt will begin to break down. There are many reasons for this. Time, weather, elements, temperature swings, pressure (weight), maintenance, and chemicals (such as de-icing solutions) all have a part to play in reducing the lifespan of asphalt. There’s simply no such thing as an asphalt surface that lasts forever — although 20+ years is a long time by anybody’s book.

When asphalt becomes badly deteriorated, performing repairs will eventually be counterproductive. In some cases, it may be possible to lay a fresh layer of asphalt over the broken up, existing surface. Most of the time, however, the best course of action is to remove the existing asphalt and start over.

This is called asphalt milling, and it basically involves breaking up the existing asphalt material, down the base layers beneath the surface. Special equipment is used for this. The material is then collected and hauled away (where it is recycled into new asphalt — asphalt is one of the most recyclable building materials out there).

This sounds like a labor-intensive project, and of course, it is. However, it may not be as expensive or laborious as some people assume. For starters, it might be possible to mill certain sections of pavement while leaving others intact. Even if that’s not possible, the cost of ongoing repairs to the existing surface (not to mention the risks and dangers of leaving broken up asphalt in place) is much higher in the long term.

So what’s the average cost of asphalt milling?

Based on national averages, you can expect to shell out between 10 cents and 90 cents per square foot of asphalt removed. The exact cost will depend on the nature of the installation, and how deep the milling has to go. When you add up the square footage of your driveway, these costs aren’t as prohibitive as you might expect. Again, this is especially true when compared to the costs of doing nothing, or of continuing to patch up the old, faulty surface.

How do I know of removing asphalt is the right move?

It’s tough to know exactly what to do unless you have some training and experience with asphalt pavement, and a clear idea of how bad the problem really is. The easiest way to get this information is seeking a consultation with a skilled asphalt service provider whose professional insight is informed by years of experience.

If budget is less of an issue, you may wish to go forward with the milling process and give yourself a brand new surface with a better foundation. In cases where budgets are tighter, parts of the surface may be milled, or other repair methods can be used to extend the lifespan of the existing pavement. Talking to specialists, friends and neighbors is the most effective way to find the best solution in your particular case.