Which is Better: Asphalt or Concrete?

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Oct 28, 2013 | Anna Hill

Photo: Gregory Garnich/Flickr

When you’ve made the decision to put in a new driveway or replace an old one, there are many things to consider, including the amount of time installing the new driveway will take, its monetary cost, and its size. But did you know that selecting a material for the driveway -- asphalt or concrete -- is also an important consideration? Although the choice may seem obvious to some homeowners, there are quite a few aspects that distinguish both materials to take into serious consideration when deciding which material will fit your needs. Some of the key differences between asphalt and concrete include:

Cost

Raw material(s) cost tends to be of particular importance, since asphalt and concrete are made of different materials. Because asphalt features oil as one of its main components, higher oil prices tend to also equal higher asphalt prices. Long-term cost must be carefully considered as well; since concrete can crack, weather and weaken over time due to a number of factors, fixing sections of your concrete driveway can end up costing quite a bit more (especially if the concrete is improperly treated during installation). However, asphalt driveways need to be re-sealed every 4-5 years to prevent cracking and breakage, and its short lifespan as compared to concrete could be an issue for some homeowners.

Longevity

If cared for properly, concrete driveways can last up to 50 years before they need to be replaced; asphalt driveways can last for 20-30 years before needing replacement. Asphalt driveways also tend to be more maintenance-heavy than concrete driveways; the aforementioned sealing process needs to be done regularly, and the sealant will take anywhere from 2-3 days to completely dry.

Climate and weather issues

Whether concrete or asphalt is the “best” choice will also depend quite a bit on where your home is located. If you live in a place that tends to get very cold, snowy or rainy during certain seasons, an asphalt driveway will be more resistant to cold temperature extremes; in a place with hotter weather during some seasons, a concrete driveway will not be as affected by heat and direct sunlight. An asphalt driveway in a hot climate will heat up and may cause burns on bare feet (in addition to releasing lots of sticky oil onto the top of the driveway, due to the petroleum content); a concrete driveway in a cold climate, meanwhile, will be more susceptible to cracks, stress and related damage due to harsh weather such as rain and snow.

Other factors to consider include initial installation time; asphalt driveways usually take 2-3 days to install and are all set for use soon after, while concrete driveways can take 3-4 days to install, and cannot be driven on for 5-7 days after installation. How the driveway looks with your home -- its “curb appeal” -- is also worth thinking over, as concrete has various color or pattern options, but asphalt does not. However, when planning to have a new driveway installed, it is important to research the available options, think about them carefully, and take time to consider what is best for your home and its needs. Taking the time to weigh the many options when it comes to installing a new driveway is the best way to ensure that it -- regardless of the material you choose -- won’t be a costly mistake.

Anna Hill writes for Networx.com.

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