Concrete vs. Asphalt: Which is Better?

March 15, 2016

When it comes to building, the concrete vs. asphalt debate is always taking place. Both of these products are commonly used for driveways, parking lots, and roads, and while they can be used for similar applications, they don’t offer the same benefits. In order to make your final decision for your upcoming project, you must settle the concrete vs. asphalt debate.

Cost

Asphalt is cheaper to install than concrete. Averaging around $3-$5 a square foot, it can cost around $900-$1,500 to add a 300-square-foot asphalt driveway to a home. Averaging around $5-$10 a square foot, it can cost around $1,500-$3,000 to use concrete for the same driveway.

However, when considering cost, you cannot just consider the installation. Asphalt needs to be maintenanced more than concrete, and it also doesn’t last nearly as long. When you factor in the durability, maintenance, and installation, concrete ends up coming out as the more cost-effective option.

Maintenance

Every product requires some type of maintenance to ensure it always looks great and performs even greater. Due to discoloration and weakening structure, asphalt needs to be sealed every 2-3 years, and it needs to be completely recoated every 5-10 years. If you pay someone to do this, the cost can add up, and if you opt to do it yourself, you’ll need to find the time to get it done.

On the contrary, concrete typically only needs a good cleaning, and depending on the type of concrete used and where you live, it may only need to be sealed every five or so years, if at all.

Aesthetics

When it comes to choosing a driveway that’s aesthetically pleasing, concrete wins. Concrete on its own provides a clean, crisp look that complements any house. You also have the option of using a concrete stain, color, and/or concrete stamp to create a specific look and make it more appealing. Asphalt, on the other hand, is just a blacktop, and there’s not much you can do to dress it up.

Durability

Having a durable product is always beneficial. Concrete is stronger than asphalt, which means it can handle heavier loads. If asphalt wants to receive the same load carrying capacity as concrete, a thicker profile would be required. As an example, a 5”-thick concrete pavement has the same load carrying capacity as an 8”-thick asphalt pavement. Concrete also lasts longer, averaging about 30-40 years compared to asphalt’s 15-20 years. So if it’s durability you’re looking for, there’s one clear-cut choice.

Weather

Constant exposure to high temperatures will make asphalt soft, which puts it at risk of cracking. Concrete, on the other hand, is more resistant to high temperatures, which makes it a better option in areas where higher temperatures are normal.

Asphalt also absorbs heat more easily than concrete, and since it’s highly reflective, it’s extremely hot during warm temperatures. This hot temperature can make it impossible for children to play on the asphalt surface during a summer day, and it can even cause a higher interior temperature in vehicles parked on asphalt. Concrete, on the other hand, can be as much as 10 degrees cooler than asphalt, which makes it a better option.

The concrete vs. asphalt debate will likely continue, but when you factor in all the variables, there’s a reason that more and more people are opting for concrete as their number one choice.

Are you interested in concrete for your next project? Get inspired with our Decorative Concrete Design Guide.

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