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Concrete Vs. Asphalt Driveways: Which One Should You Go With?

When it comes to construction of driveways, asphalt and concrete are widely used as paving materials. If you find it difficult to choose between the two, here are some tips to help you out.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Apr 13, 2018
If you are on a stringent budget, asphalt is the best. While concrete is ideal for those living in areas with extreme hot weather, asphalt is recommended for locations with very cold winters.

A well-designed and properly constructed driveway enhances the beauty of your premises and the value of your home. The right paving material is the most vital factor, as far as driveways are concerned. Usually, driveways are made of asphalt and concrete. While both are made of sand and gravel, it is the binding material that differs. While asphalt has tar as the binding material, cement is used as the binder in concrete. Both these paving materials have their own advantages and disadvantages.

While choosing the right paving material, various factors have to be considered. They include the climatic conditions of the region, cost of the material including installation charges, upkeep and maintenance charges, and looks. The material you choose must gel with the landscape design too. You must also check the local laws regarding driveway construction materials. Hence, you must have a basic understanding about the pros and cons of concrete and asphalt driveways, before selecting the right one.

Differences Between Concrete and Asphalt Driveways

Visual Aspects
It is a common misconception that asphalt driveways can only be black, and concrete driveways are always off-white in color. Both can be tinted using other materials, but the color options are minimum in case of asphalt. Stained, engraved, and stamped concrete are very popular nowadays. Such finishes are not possible in asphalt, which has to be pressed to make it compact. As far as the looks are concerned, both are good in their own ways. While some people like asphalt, others choose concrete.

Climate Compatibility
It is a well-known fact that asphalt is more suitable for houses in cold regions, because hot weather makes the material soft, thereby causing cracks and holes. Asphalt driveways release oils when exposed to heat and sunlight. So there is a risk of carrying oil stains into the house. Though concrete driveways do not release oils, any other stain can be easily seen in this material, as it is light in color, when compared to asphalt. In such cases, a degreaser has to be used in between, to remove the stains. Concrete is more suited for locations with hot weather, as it is resistant to high temperatures. In cold regions, care must be taken to fill the base of the concrete driveway with compact gravel. Frost heaving can prove detrimental to concrete driveways, if the base is not properly constructed. In such cases, the driveway may develop cracks. Moreover, salt used for melting ice may damage concrete driveways.

Installation and Maintenance Charges
When it comes to installation charges, concrete costs around 45% more than asphalt. This is the reason why asphalt is more widely used than concrete, for constructing driveways. However, asphalt requires more maintenance, as it has to be resealed every three to five years. The first sealing should be done after nine to ten months from the date of installation. Otherwise, the material becomes soft and gets damaged easily. Asphalt driveways need to be resurfaced completely once in every ten years. Asphalt requires more maintenance and repair work, which can be done without spending much. Apart from the cost, repairing asphalt driveways is easier than repairing concrete. On the other hand, concrete is more durable and requires very less maintenance. While minor problems can be fixed easily, major ones require more time and money. While resurfacing of asphalt can be done at a meager cost, in case of concrete such work costs more. Though a concrete driveway performs well without sealers, application of a sealer at regular intervals is good for enhancing the lifespan of the material.

Common Problems
It takes a day or two for installing an asphalt driveway, whereas four to five days are needed if you use concrete as the paving material. Once installed, an asphalt driveway requires less curing time than a concrete one. While asphalt takes some hours to cure, concrete needs several days. Time required for curing is dependent on various factors, like temperature and humidity. Concrete is hard and rigid, when compared to asphalt, which is more prone to develop pits and potholes, through which grass and roots may appear. Concrete is lighter in color and stains easily. Stains are not noticeable in dark-colored asphalt. An asphalt driveway has rough edges, which is also prone to wear and tear. The edges of a concrete driveway hold up better. So you must avoid driving on the edges of an asphalt driveway.

In short, both asphalt and concrete are equally popular as driveway paving materials. Asphalt is cheaper, easy to repair, and is resistant to cold weather. Snow and ice melt faster in an asphalt driveway, which does not suffer any damage from salt. As compared to asphalt, concrete is expensive, but is more durable and requires less maintenance. It is resistant to hot weather and is hard and strong. If properly maintained and sealed, asphalt driveways may last for a period of around 30 years, and concrete driveways may last for around 50 years. Poor maintenance may reduce the life of asphalt driveways to a short period of five years. Proper construction makes a concrete driveway durable, long-lasting, and maintenance-free for a long duration. So a comparison between the pros and cons of these materials will prove helpful for choosing a driveway paving material that is best suited for you.

To conclude, cost and climate are the most important factors to be considered, especially for those who live in places with extreme weather conditions. While concrete is preferred for its durability, asphalt is preferred for its low cost and ease of repair. It is also said that, a properly installed and maintained asphalt driveway can be as durable as concrete. So understand the basic differences between concrete and asphalt driveways, before choosing the best. If you are really confused, consult an expert for guidance.