Asphalt Paving Versus Concrete; Which Is Better?

July 22, 2019

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While concrete is a popular option for homeowners and commercial property owners, asphalt paving is also an excellent choice for parking lots and residential driveways. There are many advantages of asphalt installation versus concrete and knowing a bit more about these materials and the installation process can help you decide the right choice for your commercial or residential property.

Asphalt installation is more affordable than concrete and often easier to maintain and repair. Asphalt also offers more traction and less glare, while concrete might last longer than asphalt before it needs replacement.

Since your choice of paving materials is a costly investment in your property, consider some differences between an asphalt installation and concrete, and some reasons why you might choose asphalt over any other material for a commercial or residential property! You can then discuss your options with an asphalt installation contractor near you and decide the right choice for your needs in particular.

asphalt paving

Asphalt Installation Versus Concrete

Asphalt installation is fast becoming a popular choice for residential properties as well as commercial parking lots and public roadways, and for many good reasons. Note some important differences between asphalt versus concrete and why you might choose blacktop for your property or a public road for which you’re responsible:

  • An asphalt installation takes far less time to set and cure than concrete; in some cases, you can drive on your new asphalt the same day or the day after its installation, whereas concrete might require a full week or even longer before it’s ready for traffic. This is a vital consideration for parking lots and public roads that you don’t want closed off any longer than necessary.
  • While additional aggregates give concrete some texture, the naturally bumpy surface of asphalt provides added traction even in inclement weather. Traffic accidents might then be reduced when you choose an asphalt installation versus concrete.
  • The bumpier surface of asphalt also reduces the risk of standing water on your new driveway, parking lot, or roadway. Concrete and asphalt absorb standing water easily, leading to premature damage. Standing water also results in a slippery surface that might contribute to traffic accidents.
  • The dark surface of asphalt provides far less glare in sunny weather than concrete. Traffic lines and parking signs are often more visible against the black backdrop of asphalt than concrete, which also reduces the risk of traffic accidents.
  • Dark asphalt also helps to melt snow and ice, allowing you to use far less snow clearing salt and other chemicals and reducing the risk of wintertime traffic accidents.
  • Asphalt crack repair and pothole filling is often easier than repairing concrete. While cracks in concrete and small potholes might be filled with patching compound, larger areas of damage typically require freshly mixed concrete and professional crack repair. Smaller areas of damaged asphalt are often easier to fill by homeowners and property owners, without the need for professional repair services.
  • Asphalt is softer underfoot, making it an excellent paving choice for basketball courts and driveways where children tend to play!
  • The bumpy texture of asphalt absorbs sound waves, creating a quieter exterior environment than concrete.
  • Concrete is somewhat brittle so that it tends to crack more readily in freezing temperatures and when exposed to rapid freeze-thaw cycles.

One last, very vital point to consider is that asphalt installation and asphalt repairs are often far less costly than concrete installation and repairs. If you have a large parking lot or lots of roadway to cover, you need to keep in mind your installation costs as well as the long-term costs of repaving and repairing that material over time.

How Long Does an Asphalt Installation Last Versus Concrete?

One advantage of concrete over asphalt is that concrete does tend to last for a few more years than asphalt, but this doesn’t mean that concrete is necessarily a better choice for roadways and driveways. A concrete installation might last some 30 years whereas an asphalt installation typically lasts between 20 and 30 years.

While asphalt might need repaving sooner than concrete, note that a very affordable chip seal covers over spalling and other such asphalt surface damage. A chip seal is comprised of the same materials as asphalt but is applied in layers, starting with liquid asphalt and then chips or aggregates. The chip seal is then pressed and allowed to harden, creating a new surface for asphalt.

A chip seal extends the life of your asphalt by several years while creating a fresh, solid surface that is safe for vehicles and pedestrians. A new chip sealing also improves the look of your pavement in an instant, providing a solid base for new parking and driving lines. When comparing the cost of new asphalt installation and the cost of an eventual asphalt chip seal, you might find that it’s the better choice overall, even if concrete does tend to last longer than fresh asphalt.

paving asphalt

Can You Put an Asphalt Installation Over Concrete?

While you might save money by putting an asphalt installation over concrete, it’s often recommended that an old driveway or parking lot be removed instead. Note a few reasons why it’s sometimes best to plan on a full concrete driveway tear-out as part of your new asphalt installation:

  • Asphalt needs a solid and secure base to set properly and remain strong and stable over the years. If your concrete driveway or parking lot has buckled and cracked due to a poor-quality base, unstable soil, excess moisture under the soil, and other such conditions, your new asphalt will no doubt crack, buckle, and spall as well.
  • Overly large expansion joints in concrete will typically result in cracks in asphalt.
  • An old concrete driveway or parking lot might be hiding drainage issues and poor soil conditions that will affect the stability of your new asphalt in upcoming years.
  • Applying new asphalt over concrete might reduce the number of new asphalt layers you can safely add to your driveway or parking lot. Investing in a full tear-out before asphalt installation allows you to repave asphalt more often over the years, saving you money on your long-term costs.

Only an asphalt paving contractor near you can determine if your property is a good candidate for installing asphalt over concrete, but whatever the case, consider the benefits of removing that concrete first before you choose a new asphalt installation.

How to Maintain Your New Asphalt Installation

The expected lifespan of your new asphalt installation will depend on the quality of the asphalt mix and its installation itself, as well as the stability of its base. However, how you maintain your new asphalt will also affect its overall condition throughout the years. Note a few tips on how to maintain your new asphalt installation and keep your new driveway or parking lot in tiptop shape:

  • Cleaning the surface of asphalt at least annually if not even more often throughout the year will protect it from damage. Motor oil and other automotive fluids especially break down the binders of asphalt and allow cracks and potholes to forms, whereas mud and gritty debris eat away at its surface. A professional power washing removes that damaging debris and protects your new asphalt.
  • It’s vital that you repair damage to asphalt immediately, as cracks and potholes allow water to seep under the surface of this paving material, softening it and leading to premature breakdown. Potholes and cracks also collect and hold dirt, storm debris, snow clearing salt and lawn care chemicals, and other damaging debris, also leading to premature asphalt damage.
  • Seal coating asphalt provides an added layer of protection against asphalt breakdown and early damage caused by exposure to hot sunlight and harsh weather conditions. Check with your asphalt installation contractor or an asphalt crack repair expert as to how often your asphalt needs seal coating.
  • Avoid using any harsh tools or equipment along the surface of asphalt that might dislodge aggregates and cause damage. This includes snow blowers and plows and other such sharp lawn care tools and equipment.
  • Avoid parking overly heavy vehicles in one spot on asphalt, as they might tend to create ruts and potholes.

Your asphalt installation contractor can also note any added tips for ensuring your asphalt stays stable and strong throughout the years, and can inspect your property for needed grading, drainage, and other such upkeep.

Related Questions

How often should you seal an asphalt driveway?

While seal coating is vital for the maintenance of your new asphalt, you also don’t want to seal coat a driveway too often as too much sealant might damage the surface of asphalt. Typically you need to sealcoat a driveway once every two to three years and no more.

Is two inches of asphalt enough for a driveway?

While a residential driveway doesn’t need to be overly thick, a layer of asphalt that is too thin might crack and buckle easily. Most residential driveways are four to six inches thick, or your asphalt paving contractor might apply four to six inches of gravel or aggregate and then three inches of asphalt over that.

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