We are frequently asked, “What is the difference between concrete and asphalt?”
It is an important distinction to make, especially when trying to determine which one will be better for your project.
Additional common questions include:
- Which is better, concrete or asphalt?
- Is asphalt cheaper than concrete?
- Is concrete or asphalt easier to maintain?
- Which lasts longer, concrete or asphalt?
Keep reading to find out. If you have any additional questions that we haven’t addressed here, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss the best solution for your project.
What is the difference between concrete and asphalt?
They both have a gravel base and are made with sand and stone. The main difference between the two is the adhesive materials that bind the aggregate together. Asphalt is petroleum-based. Concrete is made of cement.
Asphalt is also called blacktop or pavement. It is usually very hot when installed. Professionals pour it over a level, gravel base as a single, continuous slab. Then it is pressed and smoothed with a steamroller. Typically, you can walk or drive on asphalt within 24 hours of installation.
The words concrete and cement are often interchangeable but there is a difference. Concrete is a composite material held together with cement. It is a mixture of crushed stone, sand, and cement.
Note: Cement is a mixture of water, powdered rock, and clay.
Concrete is a cold mixture that is poured onto a prepared, leveled, gravel surface. It can take a few days to completely cure and be ready to support vehicles and foot traffic.
Both are used for similar projects, but there are a few things to consider before choosing one over the other: cost, appearance, maintenance, durability, and climate.
Both asphalt and concrete should be installed by professionals because the average homeowner does not have the equipment or experience to do it properly.
Cost: Which costs more, concrete or asphalt?
If doing a simple comparison of square foot prices for material and installation, asphalt is generally less expensive. However, material costs fluctuate with crude oil prices because of the petroleum base. In the end, asphalt costs more because it requires more maintenance and doesn’t last as long as concrete.
Appearance: Which looks better, concrete or asphalt?
Driveways and parking lots don’t necessarily need to be decorative, but other areas such as patios, sidewalks, and pool decks can really add to the aesthetics of a home or business.
Concrete provides many more options than asphalt. Decorative concrete is quite attractive and can include textures, stains, tints, stamping, and etching to get the desired look. You can also choose different finishes in a variety of colors besides the natural grayish color of concrete.
Asphalt does not provide that many options. It is rolled and compressed during installation which doesn’t allow for decorative techniques. Some asphalt additives contain a limited variety of tints or coloring, but options are generally limited to black.
Maintenance: Is concrete or asphalt easier to maintain?
Both require maintenance and should be sealed regularly. New asphalt should be sealed 6-12 months after installation and then again every 3-5 years. New concrete can be sealed as soon as it is set and cured. It only needs to be reapplied every 5-10 years.
Stamped and decorative concrete should be sealed every 2-3 years. Professionally applied sealer is inexpensive and will greatly improve the look and longevity of the concrete. Read Sealing Stamped Concrete for more information.
Cracks occur in both asphalt and concrete and should be repaired to maintain the lifespan of the entire area. Sealing will help minimize cracks and prevent damage due to salt, traffic, and other substances. Cracks in asphalt can be easier to repair than concrete and tend to look better. However, concrete with cracks is still more durable than asphalt with cracks.
Related: The Benefits of Concrete Sealing
Durability: Which lasts longer, concrete or asphalt?
The bottom line is that asphalt is less durable than concrete. Concrete can last up to 50 years with proper maintenance and care. Whereas asphalt is a softer material and tends to deteriorate faster and only lasts up to 30 years. Asphalt also requires more frequent sealing and maintenance.
Climate: How does the weather affect concrete and asphalt?
Since Michigan has both hot and cold weather, the real determining factor will be how well you maintain the one you choose.
Cold weather and freeze-thaw cycles can be hard on concrete, but proper sealing prevents this problem. Hot weather can cause asphalt to soften and become sticky. It really depends on which issue you’d prefer to deal with.
Ready to Make a Decision?
Concrete is more of an upfront investment but lasts longer and offers more decorative options. Asphalt is less expensive to install and provides a clean, smooth look. Both require regular maintenance.
If you are having trouble deciding or have more questions, please contact Precision Concrete today. We can provide a free, professional quote for your concrete project.