Asphalt vs Concrete

Trying to decide on asphalt -vs- concrete for your new driveway? Let’s go over some general information about the two and some obvious differences that will help you decide on which is best for your application. While they both are solid ways to create a hard surface to drive on, there are some things to consider, like installation time, cost, climate, landscape as well as regulatory codes etc…

Asphalt and concrete are made up of a lot of the same materials. Sand, stone and other aggregates are used in both applications. The main difference is in how they adhere these aggregates together. In concrete, they use portland cement and water to bind the aggregates. In asphalt, they use bitumen to bind the aggregates together. Being that bitumen is flexible in nature, it allows asphalt to flex really easy during the freeze and thaw of the seasons. On the other hand, concrete has a lower tensile strength and is susceptible to cracking.

Maintaining your driveway should be considered when making your decision. Asphalt has to be sealed every few years to keep it lasting, cracks must be filled and the asphalt kept clean. Concrete can also be sealed and cracks need to be filled. The main difference between the two comes later when there is cracking. Concrete cracks are not as easy to repair and once they start, it’s not long before more damage is caused. Concrete has to be cut out, adhesive painted on to the old, then new concrete must be poured. Where asphalt, the cracks can simply be filled or patched. Asphalt is even easy to patch yourself and supplies can be bought from almost any home improvement store (see how to patch your driveway).

Like to use deicers? Asphalt is the winner here, deicers can be used with asphalt. Concrete does not hold up to well with deicers, mainly for the sake of the concrete retaining moisture during a freeze, concrete will crack and damage due to the access moisture for prolonged periods of time. It’s not recommended to use deicer with your concrete driveways. Ever see the neighbor’s sidewalk looking like the grand canyon? That is most likely due to using deicers during winter months.

Cost – asphalt is a clear winner here as the price is as low as one-tenth the cost over concrete. Some will say concrete has a lower maintenance cost over time but we strongly disagree. Repairing concrete is more labor intensive and takes more time. Asphalt can be patched and recoated easier than concrete and asphalt can be coated right on the concrete. Our judgment might be a little biased but for good reason!

Upstate New York gets extreme heaving effects from the freezing and thawing of the seasons. Asphalt is our recommended choice for our area as it allows us to offer an affordable driveway, that is low cost to maintain and easy to repair. Asphalt will flex with the freeze and thaw, while concrete has a low tensile strength and can be more likely to crack.

Pro's Con's
Concrete Driveways
Installed correctly it could potentially last for over twenty years Susceptible to cracking, bringing its usable lifespan down in the north country.
Less maintenance needed over time. When repairs are needed, they will often cost more and take more time. Concrete still requires a sealer every few years.
Better suited for bad subgrade conditions and heavier weight limits. Most residential driveways have decent subgrades and don't have a need to park a tractor-trailer truck for extended periods of time.
The use of deicers will erode concrete and could cause spalling and cracking.
Higher cost for installation and repairs.
Aesthetics - can be colored using stains. Darker colors will evaporate moisture faster making your driveway last longer. Concrete is light colored in its most common form.
Asphalt Driveways
Installed by true professionals, asphalt will last up to 20+ years! Does not have the lifespan of concrete but that is subjective as it tends to do better in colder climates.
Asphalt is easy to maintain, easy to patch. You can even buy cold patch right from your local home improvement stores. Requires seal coating every few years as needed.
Low cost of installation and repairs. Asphalt can always be recoated with a fresh top coat to give even more years of usable life. Also can be patched easily using hot or cold mix patch formulas.
Asphalt is flexible and is less likely to crack during a freeze or thaw!
Aesthetics - Asphalt is dark colored but can be painted or coated with different colors for things like tennis courts, basketball courts and parking lots. Asphalt is black and black will go with any color. You won't have to worry if it will look good against your house or yard.
Asphalt gives you a better experience and less to worry about in the winter months. You can use deicers, makes it easier to remove snow and maintains more traction for safely walking on in the winter months.
The Winner is Asphalt! Asphalt is low cost, easy to maintain/repair and looks great year around!