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Asphalt or Concrete Driveways: Which is Right for You?

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concrete vs asphalt driveway

If you’re building a new home or simply refreshing aspects of your current home, using the right driveway material is essential. For driveways, there are two essential paving materials to choose from: concrete and asphalt. The first question many ask is: “What is the difference between an asphalt vs concrete driveway?”

Though these materials vary in many ways, they also have some similarities. First, both asphalt and concrete have a gravel base. They are both made with stone and sand. The primary difference involves their adhesive materials. Asphalt is petroleum based while concrete is made of cement.

This simple variance leads to a variety of differences between the materials. Here are five ways asphalt and concrete driveways differ.

1. Cost

The cost of an asphalt driveway is typically cheaper than concrete, costing $2.00 – $4.00 per square foot. Asphalt prices tend to fluctuate with fluctuations in crude oil prices. In contrast, a concrete driveway costs between $4.00 – $6.00 per square foot for a standard installation. Finishes, details and stains can increase the price tag to as much as $15.00 per square foot.

2. Maintenance and Repairs

When you consider an asphalt driveway, you should understand the maintenance and repairs that accompany it. Generally, six months to a year after installation, an asphalt driveway should be sealed—and then sealed again every three to five years. This will extend the life of the driveway and does not require a professional. With the right materials, many homeowners seal their own driveways.

However, concrete driveways don’t require as much sealing. Applying a seal to concrete driveways will enhance the look and preserve the finish, so many homeowners opt for this maintenance. Degreasers increase maintenance costs for concrete driveways, but they are often a necessary step to remove oil, fuel and chemical stains that build up over time.

Cracks affect both asphalt and concrete driveways and should always be repaired. Homeowners will find that asphalt cracks are easier to fix and result in more aesthetically pleasing repairs. While concrete cracks, on the other hand, are harder to repair and impossible to resurface.

3. Lifespan and Durability

Overall, asphalt is less durable than concrete. With proper maintenance, it can last 30 years. Alternatively, concrete provides a sturdy, long-lasting option and can last homeowners 50+ years with occasional repairs and degreasing.

4. Aesthetic and Design

When it comes to the look of your driveway, pavement material plays an important role. You can stain, tint, etch or stamp a concrete driveway to get a desired look. Finishes provide alternative colors or hues to the natural off-white, grayish color of concrete.

Asphalt, however, must be rolled and compressed during installation. It does not lend itself well to finishes, stamping or etching. Some sealants contain tints or coloring, but options are generally limited to black.

5. Climate and Weather

Homeowners living in very cold or hot regions should consider how climate and weather patterns affect their pavement decisions. In cold winters, concrete may crack from constant freezing and thawing, while road salt eats away at concrete surfaces. Hot climates affect asphalt driveways in negative ways, as well. Asphalt softens in the hot sun and can stick to shoes, clothing and car tires.

To recap, the differences between asphalt and concrete are many. Here are a few takeaways to remember as you continue to make the best decision for your needs and budget:

Characteristics of an Asphalt Driveway

  • Asphalt is less expensive
  • Asphalt is a softer material, leading it to deteriorate faster and easier than concrete repairs.
  • With proper maintenance, expensive repairs can be avoided.
  • It does not have the creative design aspect that concrete does, but recent developments now allow asphalt to be mixed with coloring or be sealed with color tints.
  • The material offers 30+ years of use.
  • It requires occasional resurfacing and resealing every three to five years.
  • Although it requires more maintenance, asphalt repairs are easier than concrete

For these reasons, asphalt driveways aren’t best for busy families that will have a lot of driveway traffic and heavy use. But, for those of you looking for a cost-efficient option with a clean and sleek look, asphalt is the right choice.

Characteristics of a Concrete Driveway:

  • Concrete is more durable than asphalt.
  • Because it is a less flexible material, it cracks in freezing temperatures, and many people turn to concrete patching products.
  • Concrete offers 50+ years of use.
  • The only maintenance required is occasional degreasing.
  • Resurfacing a concrete driveway offers more opportunities for creative appearance. It can be stamped with patterns, tinted to different colors, given different finishes, or engraved with designs.
  • Though it is more durable overall, when damages do occur, concrete repair is harder and costlier
  •  than asphalt repair.

If you’re looking for a driveway that may be an investment upfront but will last long and offers customizability, look to a concrete driveway. This option is great for homeowners that plan to stay in their current home for many years and need an option that can withstand a long, bustling life.

Conclusion

Overall, there are many factors to consider when choosing between an asphalt driveway or concrete driveway. Appearance, initial cost, and possible driveway repair and maintenance needs are all things to consider. Plus, more specific questions such as the climate you live in, the wear and tear you might exert on the driveway, and any personal restrictions you have should be factored in as well.

If you’re working on a pavement repair project, read this blog post about whether asphalt or concrete is right for the job.