If you’ve had enough of the ruts, cracks, and stains of your current driveway and are considering installing a new one, you’re probably debating between the two most common solid materials: concrete and asphalt. While both are laid over a substrate of gravel, and both are basically a mixture of sand and stone, different adhesives are used to hold those components together: tar for asphalt and cement for concrete driveways. The characteristics of those adhesives amount to the differences—both pro and con—between the two popular driveway surfaces.
When choosing what surface material is best for a driveway project, there are a few major advantages and disadvantages of asphalt and concrete to consider. Taking into account cost, longevity, design and climate will help to clarify which material best fits your needs.
Asphalt’s greatest advantage over concrete is cost
According to Kompareit.com, asphalt driveways run between $2-6 per square foot while concrete runs $5-10 per square foot. With a typical two-car driveway averaging 500 sq ft, that’s a cost difference of $1,500-2,000.
Additionally, if there is already an existing concrete driveway where you plan to lay the new driveway, you will need to remove the old one and have a new base graded and laid before pouring the new driveway. Asphalt scores another advantage here as you can put it on top of an existing concrete driveway as long as the surface offers a solid base.
Concrete’s greatest advantage is longevity
The cheaper cost of an asphalt driveway comes at a disadvantage. Asphalt doesn’t usually boast the same longevity as concrete. A properly installed concrete driveway can last around 30 years while an asphalt driveway comes in at just two-thirds that lifespan at about 20 years.
And although concrete may crack over time in severe climates, wear and tear on asphalt surfaces can leave rough patches or potholes and its oily surface can stick to tires and shoes.
Asphalt has a practical advantage with a maintenance disadvantage
As a low budget, fast curing option, asphalt driveways appeal to those looking for a quick solution. The curing time of asphalt is only a day or two while concrete driveways require 1-3 weeks to cure.
Asphalt requires more maintenance over time than concrete, however. Expect to have to reseal your asphalt driveway every 3-5 years to prevent rapid deterioration. Even so, Homeadvisor.com recommends contracting with an asphalt sealer at or under $100. Because there are a few years between maintenance, for many this is an affordable option for achieving longevity that can be worked into a budget instead of the upfront cost of a concrete driveway with a longer lifespan.
Concrete has an artistic advantage with a cost disadvantage
You can incorporate a variety of patterns and finishes into the design of a concrete driveway to enhance durability as well as longevity. Scoring patterns provide joints in the concrete, allowing for expansion and contraction and help in preventing cracking over time. Sealants prevent discoloration and deterioration of a concrete driveway.
Though adding these artistic touches has some practical value, they’re mainly chosen for trendy aesthetics or to increase a property’s curb appeal. Also, such design choices in a project come at a price — up to $15 per square foot. A colored or stamped finish can be added to asphalt as well but, according to KompareIt.com, at a significantly lower price of about $8 per square foot.
Asphalt tends to perform better in the northern states while concrete is a better fit for southern states
Another pair or pros and cons to consider is the climate of the driveway’s intended location.
Warm temperatures in the South aren’t too friendly to asphalt driveways. Summertime can turn the oily substance into a sticky goo and cause the material to pull apart, leaving behind cracks and uneven surfaces once the weather cools and the asphalt dries.
Although repairs are inexpensive, the damage that asphalt can cause to a vehicle’s paint job and potential damage to indoor surfaces of your home if tracked in on shoes is a big deterrent in warmer climates.
In the North, freezing temperatures, snow and ice can cause cracks and upheavals in concrete driveways. However, with proper care in both preparing the foundation and pouring the concrete, these neutralize these natural enemies.
Still, using salt on the driveway during icy weather to aid in vehicle traction can cause surface deterioration. So longevity, one of concrete’s main selling points as driveway material, isn’t quite as big a selling point in climates with frequent snow and ice.
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