Asphalt Bids in Depth: the Wear Course

Goodmanson Construction Grading a parking lot site

Asphalt is paved in courses

If you’re a good asphalt contractor and someone gives you the chance to do a parking lot or an alleyway or even something as cool as a whole new road, you are going to pave it in a few different courses. Most of the time, we pave asphalt in two courses, the base course and the wear course.

We will talk about the base course in another post, today we just want to focus on the wear course. By the end of this, you should be able to talk pretty confidently with your contractor about your next project and get some real insight into examining your next bids. So let’s get started!

What is a wear course?

The wear course is the course of asphalt you drive on. It’s the course that comes into most contact with the environment and the traffic that’s moving over it. It’s the one that endures the “wear” of constant use.

What makes the wear course different?

The wear course is different because the mix of asphalt (the binding agent) to crushed rock is different and the amount of air in the mix is different as well. The kind of crushed rock is also different in the wear course and it’s designed specifically for the use you have in mind for your product.

Wait, why is there air in my wear course?

Because asphalt has flexion. That means it needs to be able to shift and move a little when you drive on it or when there is freeze/thaw going on. The binder subtly compresses and the aggregate presses together and contracts when acted upon by things like the weight of traffic–trucks, cars, even your feet.

Also: freeze/thaw has impact. When things get cold they contract, and when they warm up they expand. Asphalt needs to have some air in it in order to do that. Otherwise, it’s just going to break apart.

How do I know what kind of wear course I need?

The technical aspects of the wear course you need aren’t going to help you, because we post up a chart the chances are you’ve got so much going on you’ll probably forget the details and that’s OK. You don’t need to know the full details to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. It just comes down to a really simple question: “is this right for what I’m trying to do?”

The kind of wear course you need is determined ultimately by the results you’re looking to achieve in terms of the traffic you want to use the asphalt pavement. The wear course can also be different for what the traffic is doing on the pavement. Is traffic driving on the pavement? Is it turning on the pavement? Is it parking on the pavement? Or is it just foot traffic on the pavement?

That’s how we determine the wear course you need. It has to be adjusted precisely to what you’re looking to achieve. While you might be able to get away with some cheaper substitutions, if you’re looking at a low bid and they cut costs by using a mix that isn’t anywhere near the kind you need for your wear course? You’re going to be in trouble.

That’s why Goodmanson Construction plans our asphalt projects the way we do.

For Goodmanson Construction, the most important thing with projects we take on is that we achieve the result the customer is looking for without cutting corners or making decisions that cost you more money down the road.

And we handle most everything in house: curb and gutter, drainage, grading and ADA compliance. That way, someone isn’t passing the buck to someone else saying “oh, well I subbed that out so it’s actually so-and-so’s fault.” None of that stuff. We take total accountability seriously.

And we’re ready to take your free online estimate at any time. We’ve been at this 50 years and we’re gearing up for 50 more. We’d be glad to have your business be part of these next 50 years.

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