Asphalt vs. Concrete Driveways: What Are the Differences and Which Is Right for You? | UNIQUE Paving Materials

Asphalt vs. Concrete Driveways: What Are the Differences and Which Is Right for You?

asphalt vs. concrete 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 paving materials to choose from: concrete and asphalt. The first question many ask is: “What are the differences between asphalt and concrete driveways?”

With that in mind, our team has put together a list of key differences to be aware of when looking for the right material for your driveway repair. Learn more from our quick guide to concrete vs. asphalt driveways today!

What Is an Asphalt Driveway?

Asphalt is most commonly comprised of stone, sand, and petroleum products to create a durable adhesive. When using asphalt for a driveway, this mixture is heated so that it will soften and roll onto your driveway’s surface. From there, it cools to create what is known as an asphalt driveway.

What Is a Concrete Driveway?

Unlike an asphalt driveway, a concrete driveway is made up of sand, cement, and gravel. This mixture is then poured and left to cure for approximately one week, creating a strong, durable, and long-lasting concrete driveway.

Though these materials are applied for the same purpose, there are many differences between asphalt and concrete driveways that can influence which of the two is the right fit for your needs. Here are a few takeaways and key characteristics to remember as you continue to make the best decision for your needs and budget.

Asphalt vs. Concrete Driveways: What Are the Differences and Which Is Right for You?

What Are the Characteristics of an Asphalt Driveway?

Here are just some of the characteristics, as well as pros and cons when it comes to maintaining an asphalt driveway:

  • Asphalt is less expensive than concrete
  • Asphalt is a softer material, leading it to deteriorate faster and easier than concrete
  • 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.

asphalt driveway

What Are the Characteristics of a Concrete Driveway?

Some of the pros and cons of having a concrete driveway include the following:

  • 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, making it more eco-friendly than asphalt
  • 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 for a concrete driveway. This option is great for homeowners who plan to stay in their current home for many years and need an option that can withstand a long, bustling life.

concrete driveway

What Are the Differences Between Concrete and Asphalt Driveways?

Though the materials that make up asphalt vs. concrete driveways vary in many ways, they also have some similarities. For example, both asphalt and concrete driveways have a gravel base. They can also both be made with stone and sand. The primary difference involves their adhesive components. 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 Differences Between Asphalt and Concrete Driveways

The cost of an asphalt driveway is typically cheaper than concrete, costing $2.00 to $4.00 per square foot. Asphalt prices tend to fluctuate in comparison with crude oil prices.

In contrast, a concrete driveway costs between $4.00 and $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 on Asphalt and Concrete Driveways

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. Asphalt vs. Concrete Differences in Lifespan and Durability

Overall, the difference between asphalt and concrete driveways is that 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 of Asphalt vs. Concrete Driveways

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. It is important to note that these finishes can generally make concrete more expensive when comparing asphalt and concrete driveways.

Asphalt, however, must be rolled and compressed during installation, making it more difficult to customize. 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. Asphalt vs. Concrete Differences When It Comes to Climate and Weather

Homeowners living in very cold or hot regions should consider how climate and weather patterns affect their pavement decisions between asphalt and concrete driveways. 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.

So between concrete vs. asphalt driveways, asphalt is recommended in colder climates where it is less susceptible to softening from the sun. On the other hand, concrete is recommended in warmer climates where it is less likely to crack from water expanding.

Concrete and Asphalt Driveways: The Final Verdict

Overall, there are many factors to think about when choosing an asphalt vs. 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.

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About the author

Becky Dunlavey

With over 10 years of experience, I wear many hats at UNIQUE Paving Materials. In addition to managing our multimedia marketing efforts and coordinating trade shows and regional events, working with the sales and customer service departments has allowed me to gain a multifaceted knowledge of the industry.

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