Asphalt vs Concrete

Asphalt vs Concrete Driveway: Which Is Right For You?

If your driveway has seen better days, plagued by unsightly stains, cracks, and uneven patches, it’s high time for a fresh start. The question is: Should you go for an asphalt or concrete driveway?

As a seasoned concrete contractor, I’ve helped tons of homeowners in making this crucial decision, so let me break it down for you.

Asphalt is a budget-friendly, relatively easy-to-install option, but it demands more ongoing maintenance. On the other hand, concrete offers greater design flexibility and impressive durability but comes with a higher initial cost. In most cases, homeowners lean towards concrete for its timeless look.

Given that installing a new driveway is a significant project, it’s wise to enlist the help of a professional. Below, we’ll delve into the key differences between asphalt and concrete driveways, helping you make an informed choice.

What Sets Asphalt and Concrete Driveways Apart?

Your choice of a new driveway will serve you well for decades, so it’s essential not to rush the decision between asphalt and concrete. Consider factors such as customization preferences, maintenance requirements, budget, and local climate conditions to make an informed choice.

Let’s start by examining the primary disparities between asphalt and concrete.

Asphalt

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easier to install
  • Suitable for cold climates

Cons:

  • Requires more maintenance

Concrete

Pros:

  • Higher durability
  • Highly customizable
  • Minimal maintenance needs

Cons:

  • Higher upfront cost

Comparing Durability of Concrete and Asphalt Driveways

In terms of durability, concrete outperforms asphalt under ideal conditions. However, factors such as freezing temperatures and heavy traffic can affect both materials differently.

Compressive Strength

Concrete boasts double the compressive strength of asphalt and is able to withstand up to 6k pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure. For added strength, consider reinforcing concrete with rebar, especially if you plan to park heavy vehicles on your driveway.

Climate Sensitivity

  • Asphalt fares better in colder climates but is sensitive to UV exposure and high temperatures, which can lead to softening and surface issues.
  • Concrete may crack and heave in response to freezing temperatures. While additives, drainage systems, and insulation can help, they don’t guarantee crack prevention.

Traffic Volume

Concrete can bear more weight than asphalt but may not handle high traffic volume as well. If your driveway sees frequent use, asphalt may be a better choice.

Durability Comparison:

CharacteristicAsphaltConcrete
DurabilityModerateHigh
Pressure Resistance3,000 PSI6,000 PSI
Crack ProbabilityLowModerate
Traffic LoadHighLow
Climate SuitabilitySusceptible to UV damageProne to cracking in cold weather
Lifespan30 years50 years

Maintenance and Repair Differences

Asphalt requires nearly twice as much maintenance as concrete, but it’s often easier to address issues when they arise.

Maintenance

  • For asphalt, apply a sealcoating within a year of installation and reapply every 3 to 5 years.
  • Concrete driveways can benefit from sealants but don’t require them. Consider resealing every 5 to 10 years.

Repairs

  • Asphalt repairs are relatively straightforward, often involving sealant application or resurfacing.
  • Concrete repairs are more intricate and may require epoxy injections or overlays. Matching the patch material to the driveway can be challenging.

Maintenance and Repair Frequency:

Maintenance and RepairsAsphaltConcrete
Sealant3 to 5 years5 to 10 years
Crack sealingLowModerate
PatchingModerateLow
Pothole repairsModerateLow
ResurfacingModerateLow

Comparing Costs of Asphalt and Concrete Driveways

The initial installation cost of a concrete driveway is approximately double that of asphalt. However, considering long-term maintenance and lifespan, the costs even out.

Installation

  • Asphalt costs between $6 to $9 per square foot, with materials at $2 to $4 per square foot and labor at $4 to $5 per square foot.
  • Concrete ranges from $8 to $15 per square foot, including materials at $3 to $7 per square foot and labor at $5 to $8 per square foot. Additional costs apply for staining, tinting, stamping, or engraving.

Lifespan

When properly installed, asphalt driveways last 15 to 30 years, while concrete driveways can endure for 30 to 50 years.

Cost Comparison:

Cost FactorAsphaltConcrete
Cost Per Square Foot$6 – $9$8 – $15
Extra CustomizationUp to $3/sq ftUp to $16/sq ft
Average Driveway Cost$3,600 – $5,400$4,800 – $9,000
Average Lifespan15 to 30 years30 to 50 years
Needs to be ResurfacedEvery 5 to 10 yearsEvery 10 to 15 years

Appearance and Customization

Asphalt and concrete have distinct appearances, and customization options can further differentiate them.

Appearance

  • Asphalt offers a sleek, modern, and jet-black surface that can develop a light gray patina over time.
  • Concrete driveways feature a light gray surface with texture variations depending on the aggregate used. Properly maintained, concrete maintains its appearance.

Customization

  • Concrete allows for extensive customization, including stamping, engraving, color changes, and mimicking natural stone.
  • While asphalt has fewer customization options, it can be colored with additives, though maintenance is more complex.

Appearance and Customization Overview:

AppearanceAsphaltConcrete
Basic LookSleek and modernTimeless and versatile
SurfaceSmooth blackVaries based on finish
CustomizationLimited optionsExtensive customization
WeatheringGray patina over timeMaintains with care

DIY vs. Professional Installation

Regardless of your choice, installing an asphalt or concrete driveway is a significant undertaking. It requires specialized equipment, a skilled crew, and a substantial investment of time and effort. Incorrect installation may necessitate costly rework. Therefore, professional installation is highly recommended.

Which Driveway Material Is Right for You?

As you weigh the factors at play, your ideal driveway choice will become clearer. Consider your aesthetic preferences, maintenance tolerance, budget, and local climate when making your decision.

For most homeowners, concrete proves to be the superior choice due to its durability, minimal maintenance, and timeless appeal. However, if your driveway faces heavy traffic or extreme cold, asphalt may be worth considering.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is asphalt or concrete more environmentally friendly?

Both asphalt and concrete have a negative environmental impact. Sourcing their raw materials consumes significant energy. Asphalt production can result in crude oil and petroleum leaks, harming the ecosystem, while concrete releases volatile organic compounds during curing.

How long does it take to install an asphalt or concrete driveway?

Typically, the installation process for both materials takes one to two days. Asphalt hardens enough to support vehicle weights in about five days and fully cures in three weeks. Concrete, on the other hand, can handle vehicle loads within a week and fully cures in 28 days.

How should I maintain and clean my asphalt or concrete driveway?

To clean your asphalt or concrete driveway, use a pressure washer on a low setting. For stubborn stains like oil, apply a degreaser in addition to water. Maintaining your driveway involves adhering to a predetermined schedule for surface sealing.