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Asphalt and concrete driveways are two of the most commonly used residential driveway materials in North America today. Both asphalt and concrete offer benefits for homeowners, but each has its own unique characteristics that may make it more desirable than the other, depending on your needs.
From cost to design to durability, this guide will take you through some of the pros and cons of both materials so you can choose which is best for your home.
What are the Differences Between Asphalt and Concrete?
Both asphalt and concrete are manufactured materials that come from the ground. However, once they have been refined, they take on completely different forms and serve very different purposes.
Concrete has been around for thousands of years in some form or another but was not used for sidewalks or driveways until the mid-to-late 20th century when new technologies allowed it to be formed more quickly and inexpensively than ever before. Concrete is made from a mixture of water, sand or gravel, and Portland cement. Although different types of concrete can have slightly different compositions depending on their use, they all share the same basic components. Once this mixture has been poured into a mold and allowed to dry, concrete becomes hard enough that it can be used for driveways, sidewalks, or even buildings.
Asphalt also comes from the ground in the form of crude oil and natural gas deposits. This raw material is refined in a process that turns it into a black liquid state which is then combined with other materials in order to form a solid product when it cools down and hardens. Asphalt's ingredients allow it to be flexible when hot but strong when cool. Unlike concrete, which can be poured into a mold to form a driveway, asphalt is heated and then mixed with other materials to form the final product.
What are the Advantages of an Asphalt Driveway?
Asphalt has a few distinct advantages over concrete as a driveway material:
- Easier installation – Concrete driveways require more time and effort to install compared to asphalt. In this sense, asphalt is actually much more affordable than concrete since it can take fewer man-hours to complete. Also, because asphalt only needs to be spread onto your driveway surface, whereas concrete needs to be molded and dried before it becomes usable, you will experience much less downtime if you choose asphalt vs. concrete for your new driveway.
- Less expensive – Although asphalt and concrete driveways tend to cost about the same once the installation is factored in, you will find that asphalt tends to be more affordable on a per square foot basis. Since it is easier and faster to install than concrete, fewer materials are needed, and your savings can add up quickly!
- Greater variety of colors and textures – One of the most exciting things about choosing asphalt for your driveway is that you can literally choose any color or pattern you want! While there are only a few standard color options available when it comes to concrete (usually white, grey, black, tan, or red), asphalt offers dozens of distinct appearance possibilities so you can get exactly what you want without paying extra fees for customizations.
What are the Disadvantages of an Asphalt Driveway?
Although asphalt is certainly more affordable than concrete, it does come with a few disadvantages that may make you consider other alternatives:
- Sensitivity to temperature changes – Because asphalt is made from petroleum, its quality can fluctuate depending on the temperature at which it is stored or applied. When asphalt gets very hot, for example, during the summer months, it becomes softer and will require more time to settle after installation. However, if your driveway experiences significant temperature fluctuations between the winter & summer months, this constant shifting could cause fractures in your new asphalt surface over time. Therefore when choosing asphalt vs. concrete for your driveway, it is important to only use the highest quality asphalt and make sure the temperature will remain relatively constant after installation.
- Impossible to repair – Unlike cracks in concrete driveways, which can be easily repaired by pouring new concrete into the affected area, you will not want to attempt repairing an asphalt driveway yourself. Any holes or fractures on your asphalt surface must be patched by a professional asphalt repair service company. This usually requires removing all of the old pavement down to its original paving stones. This process is often expensive and inconvenient for homeowners who choose asphalt vs. concrete for their driveway surface since it results in additional downtime due to repaving projects.
What are the Advantages of a Concrete Driveway?
Concrete has several advantages over asphalt including:
- Resistance to temperature changes – If you live in a climate where temperatures can swing dramatically between seasons, concrete may be the better choice for your driveway surface. While extreme heat & cold can cause asphalt to expand & contract which leads to cracking, concrete does not experience these same types of problems with its low-maintenance surface.
- Imperviousness to water damage – Unlike asphalt driveways that are sensitive to puddles and other standing water on your surface, concrete doesn't absorb moisture into its pores. This means that ice will never have a chance to form on any cracks or pits in your cement since it won't be able to penetrate the material. Also, since concrete does not have to be sealed from the elements like asphalt driveways, you will find that it costs less to maintain over time.
- Customizable appearance – Concrete offers homeowners a wide variety of color & texture options compared to asphalt, which means you can get precisely what you want without breaking the bank by paying extra fees for customizations. Additionally, because there are no limitations on its design possibilities, your new cement driveway will look truly unique and impressive once the installation is complete!
What are the Disadvantages of a Concrete Driveway?
Although there are several advantages to choosing concrete for your driveway, there are also some disadvantages you should be aware of including:
- Limited design options – Unlike asphalt which offers homeowners dozens of different colors & looks to choose from, concrete is available in only a few standard color palettes. If you prefer more unique designs with lots of curb appeal, then the expense of customizing an asphalt driveway may be well worth it. However, if you want a high-class look without paying extra fees for customizations, choosing concrete instead of asphalt might not be your best bet.
- Expensive reinforcement materials needed – Because concrete is incredibly dense compared to asphalt, it requires special reinforcing materials like steel or fibers to make it strong enough to support vehicles and heavy equipment. This can significantly raise the overall price of your new driveway since these materials are often not included in the initial estimate that concrete installation companies give homeowners.
- Higher installation costs – According to cost data from HomeAdvisor, concrete driveways tend to be around 10% more expensive than asphalt driveways. While this might seem like a small difference at first, it can add up quickly when you consider having another repaving project done on your property within only a few years of installing your new cement driveway. Since asphalt is more flexible & less prone to cracking than concrete, it won't require full replacement as soon after installation even if it's exposed to extreme weather conditions every single day for many decades.
Asphalt vs. Concrete: The Verdict
There is no " right " answer when choosing between asphalt and concrete for your driveway, as both surfaces offer distinct advantages and disadvantages depending upon your personality and preferences. Because asphalt is cheaper and requires much less maintenance than concrete, many homeowners find it's the right choice for their lifestyle and spending habits. However, if you live in a climate where extreme temperatures can damage your driveway and cost you money in repairs over time, choosing to install an asphalt surface instead of concrete pavement could end up costing you more down the road.
If you live in or around the Houston area and need help determining which material is best for your driveway, reach out to the experts at Houston Driveway Replacement today! Our skilled and knowledgeable paving contractors can provide you with a free estimate for your project and walk you through the installation process to make sure all of your questions and concerns are addressed.