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What is an Asphalt Test?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 17, 2024

An asphalt test is a type of materials test conducted for the purpose of learning more about a sample of asphalt. Asphalt testing is performed for a variety of reasons by an assortment of firms. Companies which offer asphalt testing have laboratories which can be used to analyze samples of asphalt using both destructive and nondestructive means. Many government highway and road departments have their own asphalt testing facility for the purpose of conducting tests on asphalt used by the government.

One common reason to conduct an asphalt test is for quality control and consistency reasons. The test is used to confirm that the asphalt contains the materials it is supposed to contain, and that the asphalt being produced by a company is of a uniform nature. Asphalt testing can also be used to check asphalt to confirm that it is safe for the recommended application, or to inspect asphalt in the wake of a road failure or similar incident to find out why the asphalt did not withstand normal use.

Some properties which can be explored include viscosity, ductility, cracking, and penetration. Asphalt testing can also be used to examine the binder used in the material, both independently and in an asphalt mix. During an asphalt test, the components of the asphalt are usually identified as well. Testing can include the use of equipment which is designed to rapidly age asphalt to see how it will hold up over several years, and equipment which puts tremendous pressure on asphalt which is designed to simulate conditions such as those found on trucking routes.

At the end of an asphalt test, the laboratory will prepare a written report discussing the findings of the test. The lab may indicate that the asphalt has passed or failed certain key tests, and provide additional information about the nature of the asphalt and its predicted strength over time. Inspecting asphalt is an important part of safe, reliable construction of roads, driveways, parking lots, and so forth, as application of poor quality asphalt can have consequences well into the future.

People who have reason to believe that asphalt test results are suspect or incorrect can request evaluation through an independent lab. Most labs are happy to undergo auditing to confirm that their methods and equipment are up to date, and they will provide the auditing lab with all of the information about how they performed their tests. Listings of independent labs which perform materials testing can often be found through professional organizations which promote high standards in materials testing.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1003255 — On May 30, 2020

Way oversimplified. Also, this article is mostly related to the testing of the asphalt cement (binder) not the asphalt mix that is used on the roads.

I do the quality testing and design of asphalt mix for a living.

There is a lot more to it than this. "It ain't rocket science, but it is rock science," as we say.

If you really want to know about this subject, I suggest you dig deeper than this blurb.

By Mor — On May 29, 2012

@browncoat - Yeah, my step-father works for the local council as quality control for the roads and even though we don't live in a really big town, he's always busy, always having to go to one construction site or another to make sure they are doing the job right.

Roads have several different layers, they aren't just a slab of concrete, and all those layers have to be of good quality so that they will last as long as possible without damage.

It's kind of cool being able to go to the road construction sites and see all the asphalt laying equipment though. I've always thought maybe they ought to bring school kids out to see it being done, as they'd be less likely to complain about traffic delays when they get older if they see what a complicated process it is and how much work has to go into it.

By browncoat — On May 28, 2012

It's difficult to believe how fragile our roads are until you go to another country where they aren't maintained with such regularity.

I was in a developing country for a while and even in the parts of the country that had asphalt the roads were a mess. They let them go for too long without replacing them, or testing them for faults and the roads eventually disintegrate, making the asphalt even more dangerous to drive on than the unpaved roads, where at least they dump a bit of gravel now and then to fill in the pot holes.

I tended to take roads for granted and think that once they are paved there's not much left to do. But, after seeing that, I realized that you really have to spend a lot of money on maintaining them and making sure that they are going to be safe for everyone.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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