Is Asphalt Cheaper than Concrete? | Considering Price Points

October 6, 2020

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If you own a home or maintain a commercial property, it’s vital to consider if asphalt is cheaper than concrete, not just for installation but also long-term property ownership! When deciding on a paving material for your property, installation costs must be worked into your budget but it’s wise to also consider repair and maintenance costs over the years.

There are also a number of other factors to think about when it comes to new pavement installation; for example, the best material to pave a driveway is one you can repair yourself, to save on contractor costs over the years. As another example, a commercial property owner should consider how long it takes a certain material to set and cure, for the least disruption to their business! To choose the best paving material for your property, check out why asphalt is cheaper than concrete and other details you’ll want to consider before making your decision.

paving asphalt versus concrete driveway

How Much Does Asphalt Cost Compared to Concrete?

On average, asphalt installation costs from $2.50 to $4 per square foot. As asphalt is petroleum-based, so fluctuating petroleum prices may slightly affect these costs.

Concrete typically runs between $4 and $6 per square feet. Concrete is made from abundant materials including sand and gravel, therefore, its price isn’t likely to fluctuate. However, concrete finishes will increase your cost; expect to pay $15 per square foot on average for stamped, stained, or painted concrete, and for specialty aggregates.

It’s also vital for property owners to note that soil conditions and needed prep work can increase installation costs of both concrete and asphalt. For example, proper drainage protect both materials from moisture damage; if your property needs grading before installation, this can increase your installation costs. Removing existing asphalt or concrete, if needed, can also add to those costs.

How Long Does Asphalt Last Compared to Concrete?

Generally speaking, asphalt may last 15 to 30 years while concrete typically lasts some 40 years. However, before you assume that it's longer lifespan makes concrete a better investment, note some added details about how long asphalt lasts compared to concrete, and why blacktop is often the better buy for many property owners.

  • One consideration for homeowners is how long you expect to own that house! If you might put your home on the market in a few decades, the higher cost of concrete might not justify its longer lifespan. Consider seriously if you’ll need a new home to accommodate a growing family, or if you’ll be nearing retirement age and will want to sell and downsize in the next decade or two.
  • Small-scale asphalt damage is also easier to repair yourself than concrete; asphalt patches also tend to blend better into the original material, whereas a concrete patch might stick out like the proverbial sore thumb! This is especially true for painted or stained concrete, which might require specialty repairs to ensure seamless patching. Asphalt can then mean lower repair costs over the years.
  • Consider, too, that asphalt tends to hide stains and discoloration better than concrete, which might need specialty scrubbing and power washing to remove motor oil, rust, and other discoloration. While you still want to pressure wash your home’s driveway or a commercial parking lot regularly, you might need this service far less often when you invest in asphalt.
house with a new concrete criveway

Which Is Better, a Concrete or Asphalt Driveway?

While asphalt is cheaper than concrete, there are many reasons to consider blacktop versus other paving materials. Before you choose a material for your driveway or parking lot, check out some other seemingly minor but very important details to remember!

  • Asphalt cures and sets quickly, allowing you to drive on new asphalt within a day or two. Concrete, however, might take a week or even longer! Consider how new concrete paving might interfere with your business or interrupt traffic and driveway usage, versus asphalt.
  • Do you live in an area with long, harsh winters? The darker color of asphalt holds heat better than concrete, melting snow and ice; this can mean less cost for snow salt and less risk of accidents.
  • Tropical areas might not see lots of snow and ice but they are prone to heavy rains that make pavement slick and dangerous. The naturally bumpy texture of asphalt reduces the risk of standing water and offers more traction than slick concrete.
  • The soft texture of asphalt absorbs vibration and sound waves, creating a quieter outdoor environment. Asphalt also absorbs shock, making it an excellent choice for families with kids who play in the driveway and commercial facilities with lots of foot traffic outside, such as for shipping and receiving. More shock absorption means less wear and tear on everyone’s joints.
  • One last thought to consider is asphalt’s appearance versus concrete. While you can choose painted or stained concrete, asphalt’s naturally dark color offers lots of contrast and visual interest especially when you order it with crisp white brick. Coupled with its lower installation cost, this often makes asphalt a much better choice for residential driveways than concrete!

Can You Do Asphalt Yourself?

Installing asphalt is hard work and not a job for one person. If you have friends willing to help, you might manage a small asphalt installation yourself, but it’s vital you consider some important details about blacktop and repaving in general before you decide to DIY asphalt installation.

  1. Start by removing existing paving materials. Even if that material is in good condition, you want to start with a fresh, solid foundation and ensure you’re not adding too many heavy layers to your property’s pavement.
  2. Check your property’s grade by hammering a stake near the home’s foundation and then another stake ten feet away; tie a string between the two and place a level on the string, in the middle of the two stakes. Adjust one end of the string as needed until it’s level.
  3. At the outer stake, measure the distance between the string and the ground; if the string is not at least 6” above ground, your yard must be graded or sloped. This means removing soil until you reach the proper grade.
  4. Compact the soil where the asphalt will be installed; a heavy-duty drum roller is the best choice for residential soil. Cover the base with crushed rock. This keeps soil compacted and helps water run away from the soil and asphalt base. Ensure you have at least a 4” layer, or up to 8” for sandy soil.
  5. Use your drum roller to pack the crushed rock into the soil and allow it to settle for a full week.

If you run into any difficulty during the asphalt installation process, it’s vital that you call a paving contractor near you and have them finish the job. Even a simple mistake with grading, compacting, and all these other steps can mean asphalt that degrades sooner than it should. It’s also recommended that you order more asphalt than you think you’ll need, to ensure you don’t run out of product and have to let part of your new pavement set and cure before you can get a shipment of new asphalt!

Asphalt paving workers fort worth

What Is the Cheapest Type of Driveway?

While asphalt is cheaper than concrete, the cheapest driveway options are typically gravel or river rock, or tar and chip paving. If you’re considering either option, note that gravel isn’t simply poured onto an empty driveway; this can result in lots of loose rocks flying out from under your tires every time you use that space! Gravel and rock should be compacted into place, and it’s vital you have excess material available, to fill in places where you do lose some rocks.

A tar and chip driveway is a bit more expensive than plain gravel but offers more stability. This paving process uses the same materials as asphalt; however, asphalt is a petroleum-based cement mixed with aggregate and then poured onto your drive, while a tar and chip process starts with a spray of liquid asphalt and then a coating of aggregate. This mixture is pressed into place and allowed to set.

While gravel and tar and chip driveways are very cheap, both might last around 7 years before needing replacing. Both are also less stable than asphalt and not recommended for heavy vehicles such as a trailer, motor home, ATV, and the like.

A Word From Our Paving Experts

This post has been put together by Fort Worth Asphalt Paving. If you live in the Fort Worth area, or maintain a commercial property in the city and are curious if asphalt is cheaper than concrete and which is the right paving option for you, call the paving experts at Fort Worth Asphalt Paving. The entire team at  Fort Worth Asphalt Paving takes great pride in working with every customer individually, helping them choose the best asphalt option for their home or business. We use only the highest-grade materials and stand behind all our work with an ironclad guarantee you can trust, so for all your asphalt paving in Forth Worth and surrounding areas, call the pros at Fort Worth Asphalt Paving today!

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