The Great Debate: Should You Get an Asphalt or Concrete Driveway?
So you have an ugly old, cracked driveway. After being pestered to get it fixed, it’s time to replace the whole thing. You love the look of concrete, but you’ve heard it’s too expensive, and not the right choice for your location.
What do you do? What provides the best look and durability for the money? Asphalt or concrete?
If you’re thinking about selling your home, you might be thinking of ways to improve its curb appeal. Houses with more curb appeal tend to command higher prices on the market. Homes that are appealing from the street also tend to deter crime.
One thing that tends to get glossed over when it comes to sprucing up the exterior of your home is the driveway. Whether you’re upgrading from gravel or you’re looking to replace a paved driveway, you might wonder what material is best. Should you go with an asphalt vs concrete driveway?
This guide will compare these two common driveway materials. With it, making a choice between an asphalt vs concrete driveway will be much easier.
Let’s Start with Durability
The downside of asphalt. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you could be in for a problem. Asphalt surfaces often develop sinks holes every winter. Some asphalt driveways have to be slurried about every summer if you experience a mild winter perhaps you can get away with two seasons.
What is slurried you ask? Good question. It when a seal made of a mixture of water, asphalt emulsion, aggregate (very small crushed rock), and additives are smoothed on top of an existing asphalt pavement surface.
The idea is to help preserve and protect the underlying pavement structure and provide a new driving surface. You’ll often see this happening on your streets where road crews are covering a surface that has developed significant cracking and potholes.
What about concrete? The big problem with concrete driveways is cracks. The reason why concrete becomes uneven and broken is not the concrete itself. In most cases, it is the shoddy preparation work done before the concrete was ever installed.
These are sometimes called frost heaves. The “ground” below the concrete expands when it freezes. This process lifts the driveway and the concrete gets smaller or bigger cracks. When it’s getting warmer, the “ice” underneath the concrete melt’s and the concrete reverts to its “normal” position. But the problem is that the concrete has now cracked where the water seeps inside.
Asphalt vs Concrete: Key Differences
Before you compare asphalt and concrete, it helps to understand what each is.
Surprisingly, asphalt and concrete are like each other. Both are made up of aggregate, like sand and gravel. The major difference is the binding agent, which glues together all the particles.
Asphalt uses bitumen as its binding agent. That’s what gives it its characteristic color. Concrete uses cement to hold everything together.
This might seem like a minor difference in the grand scheme of things. It creates many differences between the two, including how they stand up to the weather.
Climate Considerations for Asphalt vs Concrete Driveways
One of the most important things you need to think about is where your house is located. The weather plays an important role in how any driveway material will hold up.
You’ll want to look at the average temperature in your part of the world. Areas with freezing temperatures and harsh winters aren’t good for concrete driveways. If you live in an area with scorching hot temperatures, an asphalt driveway may not be the best bet.
Asphalt driveways are the best choice if you live in a colder climate. Asphalt is somewhat softer than concrete, which makes it more flexible. The bitumen binder allows it to expand and contract with more ease. That means when the mercury dips, your driveway is less likely to crack and heave. Continuous exposure to high temperatures makes the asphalt soft. That’s when cracks and grooves may appear on the driveway, and as we saw above, it is much easier and less costly to fix cracks in asphalt than in concrete.
Concrete is much more likely to crack under the same conditions.
Those same qualities hurt asphalt’s performance in hot weather, though. Bitumen can actually liquefy, which may make your driveway too soft in the summer. Asphalt is easier to damage in these conditions.
Concrete is likely to stay cool as a cucumber, even when the temperature soars. Therefore; concrete driveways are a great choice for hotter climates. So if you live in a cold climate but still prefer concrete, the base of the driveway must be filled with compact gravel. It is essential to building the ‘concrete-bed” properly so that the frost can’t freeze the ground below the concrete and lift the driveway up.
You may also want to think about the landscape of your individual property. If there’s no shade anywhere near the driveway, then the temperature will be at least a few degrees hotter in the summer.
Either way, a concrete driveway is still the best choice for the warmer climate areas in the US.
How Soon Can You Use it?
One consideration that may crop up is how soon you can use the driveway. This is a very important consideration for some people:
- If you have no available street parking and must access your driveway
- If you run a place of business and the driveway must be accessible to patrons
Asphalt is ready to use much sooner than a concrete driveway. With asphalt, you may be able to drive on the surface the same day.
Concrete usually takes several days to set. It’s a good idea to book some time away if you plan to have a concrete driveway installed. Otherwise, see if you can make alternate parking arrangements for the next few days.
The next consideration for homeowners thinking about replacing their driveway is maintenance.
You’ve heard about driveway sealing. This is a step those with asphalt driveways should take regularly. An asphalt driveway should be sealed one year after it’s installed.
After that, you’ll need to reseal the driveway once every three to five years. This helps maintain the driveway’s longevity. It can help prevent unsightly cracks and potholes from forming.
The good news is that sealing is easy to perform. You don’t need special tools. It’s a good idea to let the professionals handle it, to protect your driveway the right way.
Concrete is a bit lower maintenance. You don’t need to do much to a concrete driveway, except clean it every once in a while. Oil stains and other marks can be more difficult to get out of concrete.
Repairing Asphalt and Concrete
Asphalt needs more maintenance, but it’s also easier to perform that maintenance. It’s also easier to repair than concrete. Cracks and holes can be filled and sealed.
Resurfacing is another option.
Concrete is more difficult to repair. Cracks can be sealed and patches can be applied, but many people don’t like the look of these repairs. Some professionals may even suggest it’s easier to just replace the entire driveway.
How Long Does Each Type of Driveway Last?
Another key consideration for homeowners is how long the driveway will last. After all, repaving your driveway isn’t something you want to be doing every year.
Both asphalt and concrete have relatively long lifespans. For asphalt, you can expect your driveway to last anywhere from 20 to 30 years. If you take care of it, you’ll be able to maximize its lifespan.
The same is true of concrete. Although there’s less maintenance, caring for your concrete driveway will help it stay in good condition longer.
So, how long can you expect a concrete driveway to last? The usual estimate is somewhere around 30 to 40 years.
If you want to complete the driveway once, then a concrete driveway might be the right way to go.
When considering which material to use for their driveway, most homeowners and business people suggest price is a key factor. Gravel is usually the lowest-priced material you can get, but it tends to be difficult to maintain. It also lowers the curb appeal of a home.
That’s why you may be thinking of asphalt or concrete instead. Either material is a step up from a gravel driveway. Both are usually less expensive than custom brick paved driveways.
The fact of the matter is asphalt is lower cost than concrete. With asphalt, prices start around $3 per square foot. The maximum is usually around $6 per square foot. So, if you are considering asphalt, you are looking at about $4 to $6 per square foot. For a standard-size driveway, you are somewhere in the range of $700 to $1,800.
If you want to go for something more eye-pleasing, a stamped asphalt pattern will run you about $3 to $9 per square foot.
Concrete, on the other hand, runs about $3 to $10 per square foot for a plain driveway. Where a customized driveway will run the costs from $15 to $25 per square foot.
A concrete driveway tends to be much more of an investment. Prices for concrete are higher, usually running around $7 per square foot. For some customized types of concrete, you may be looking at $10 or more per square foot.
If you have an 800-square foot driveway, asphalt will cost anywhere from around $2,500 to $5,000. A concrete driveway for the same space may run you $8,000 or more.
If you have a very large area to cover, then asphalt is the more affordable choice.
Even if you have only a short laneway, you might prefer asphalt because of its lower price. It’s more common than concrete for that reason. If you’re on a budget, then asphalt is often the right choice.
Thinking about Value
Many people look at their budget and the costs of either asphalt vs concrete. If the dollar amounts don’t match, they’ll look for a different option.
These people forget to factor in value. A concrete driveway may be more expensive than an asphalt one upfront. It may also provide more value in the long run.
How is that? Remember that concrete usually lasts longer and requires less maintenance. It might cost you less to pave the driveway with asphalt today. You may actually end up spending more over the course of your property ownership.
In that sense, a concrete driveway may provide you with a higher value. It may be the right choice, even though the price tag is a little higher.
Another thing to consider is how other people see different kinds of driveway materials. Generally speaking, people prefer the look of a concrete driveway over asphalt.
Individual preferences do exist. Some people like the way asphalt makes a driveway look like an extension of the road. If you prefer one or the other for your home, you should follow your preference.
After all, you may end up looking at the driveway for a long time to come.
If you plan to sell the property soon, then investing in a concrete driveway may increase curb appeal. Investing in an asphalt driveway to replace a damaged driveway or a gravel path is still a good way to increase curb appeal.
Check for Restrictions
Before you make your final decision on asphalt vs concrete for your driveway, make sure you check in about any regulations. If you live in a housing development, there may be some restrictions.
Neighborhood groups may have guidelines to preserve the character of the neighborhood. This can extend to driveways.
In some cases, there may even be bylaws in your local area. An example is a front yard parking pad, which are sometimes installed in older neighborhoods. Some areas only allow permeable materials, such as porous asphalt.
The concern may be stormwater run-off. If non-porous materials are used, the rain has to run off into the street. This might overwhelm storm drains and contribute to issues with groundwater supply.
Check your local rules and regulations before you begin your driveway project.
There’s one more thing you may want to consider before you make your decision on asphalt vs concrete. That’s customization.
Generally speaking, concrete is much more customizable than asphalt. Concrete can be stained with certain coloring agents. You may be able to select concrete in a wide variety of hues, which may complement your home.
Concrete can also be embossed. It’s possible to create custom patterns for concrete. In-driveway staining can result in custom colors and patterns being applied to a driveway.
For years, asphalt came in one color: black. There weren’t any customization options.
That’s changing a bit. Today, you can choose a sealant that offers a different tint. For the most part, though, asphalt driveways will be some shade of black or gray.
Which is Best?
As you can see, choosing between asphalt and concrete depends largely on your circumstances.
In most cases, concrete outperforms asphalt. It requires less maintenance, and it will last longer. It also performs better in hot climates.
If you live in a cold climate or expect your driveway to be damaged on a regular basis, asphalt may be the right choice. Asphalt is more flexible, performs better in the cold, and it’s easier to repair.
Asphalt is the more affordable of the two, so if budget is your limiting factor, it may be the right fit for you. If money’s no problem, then concrete may help you increase the curb appeal of your home.
A Driveway is Only as Good as Its Foundation
Whether you choose an asphalt or concrete driveway for your home, you should ensure you have a good base under it.
Preparing the driveway for paving is key. If the foundation isn’t properly prepared, then your driveway may not last as long as you want it to. You may see the driveway crack and heave within the first few years, even if you’re taking proper care of it.
That’s why you should always call in a professional team you can trust. Whether you’re installing concrete or replacing an old asphalt driveway, they’ll help you prepare the foundation. With the right attention to leveling, grading, compacting, and more, you can be sure your driveway will be in great condition for years to come.
Get a Driveway Built to Last
We can accommodate any asphalt and/or concrete repair needs or new jobs you may have. Whether you have a parking lot, driveway, roadway, sidewalk or anything else, we want it to properly reflect the pride and hard work you put into your business every day. When it comes to an asphalt vs concrete driveway, either can be a good choice. If you’re interested in getting a driveway built to last, then get in touch with the driveway experts here at MD Paving Pros. We’ll help you create a driveway you can enjoy today and tomorrow.