When you’re working on a construction project, one decision you’ll probably have to make is whether to go with asphalt or concrete for the areas where vehicles will be driving and parking. Both materials are widely used for those purposes, and almost every property owner has an opinion about which one is best. That can make it hard to decide which one is best for your project.
Here’s a simple guide to choosing which material will work out best for you.
Concrete has a number of positive features. First, it requires little annual maintenance. You might choose to pressure-wash it once or twice a year, but that’s for cosmetic purposes rather than functional. Should you have cracks or chips appear on your concrete, the process of repairing them could be more difficult than it is with asphalt.
Of course, those chips and scratches are less common with concrete. Its surface is more resistant to routine bumps and scuffs than asphalt, and when they do happen, they’re less visible because the color is consistent.
Concrete will also expand and contract less than asphalt. This can make it a better choice for crowded locations where the change in asphalt’s size could cause it to damage other surfaces.
Speaking of surfaces, concrete has much better performance when it comes to traction. Finished outdoor concrete has some texture that makes it safer for foot traffic, but the tread is still shallow enough that you can easily scrape off snow and ice using a shovel. If pets or barefoot people will be in your parking lot or driveway, concrete’s light color keeps it much cooler in summer’s heat.
Those two points go for standard concrete, but you do have options to customize it. Concrete can be colored to match better with adjacent palettes, and you can create textures on concrete to mimic cobblestones or other types of surfaces.
Asphalt carries its own set of advantages. The most obvious is its availability. You can have asphalt poured and rolled today and drive on it today. Concrete requires a week or more of curing time, during which it could be damaged by vehicles, tools, people, or pets that accidentally come into contact with it. It’s also easier to apply asphalt on slopes because it stays in place. Wet concrete may try to slide downhill.
There are also wintertime advantages to asphalt. While concrete does scrape rather well, asphalt is superior in melting because it’s black. That dark surface will absorb more of the sun’s energy, quickly expanding clean areas and helping you get the entire driveway ready for foot and vehicle traffic.
Cost is a major issue on most projects, and asphalt wins here. It might be as low as half the cost of concrete, a difference that can really save the day if other cost overruns have the project in dangerous budgetary waters. There is the additional expense of cleaning and sealing, but it pays for itself in the extended life it provides.
One final area where asphalt is superior is in repair. Concrete is so rigid that if it cracks, it may crack all the way across. As the two halves begin to settle, the crack becomes wider. Eventually, a rather large repair is necessary. Asphalt is more flexible than concrete, so it usually spreads the settling over a larger area of smaller cracks instead of a single big crack.
Whatever type of repairs your asphalt may need, they are much easier to complete yourself or with in-house maintenance personnel. Most cracks and gaps can be filled with a caulk-type asphalt repair material that provides good performance with minimal cost and labor.
Every project is loaded with decisions. Some of them involve choosing among dozens of options, while others come down to two options. When you’re working on a driveway or parking area, you’ll have just two choices. As long as you understand the pros and cons of both asphalt and concrete, you’ll make the right choice.