Asphalt vs. concrete: the great driveway debate. Which material type is the best to use for your driveway? —-
What material to use for the driveway is a quandary many homeowners eventually face.
On the one hand, the driveway must get your car from the street to your garage every day, making durability the utmost priority. On the other hand, the driveway takes up a large amount of visual space, so you’ll want a style that contributes — or at least doesn’t detract from — your home’s curb appeal.
There are more than a dozen different materials you can use to pave a driveway, including cobblestone, gravel, and brick. However, most homeowners narrow their options down to a final face off: asphalt vs. concrete.
To help you choose, we’ll compare each aspect of asphalt and concrete. Read on to discover every detail you need to know about these two driveway materials.
While asphalt and concrete may both be equally popular choices for driveways, there are a few key differences to note:
Asphalt tends to have more give and flexibility than concrete, making it easier on the body should you use your driveway to exercise or play sports like basketball. It also offers better shoe grip than concrete.
Often used interchangeably with the term “cement,” concrete is primarily made up of three components: water, aggregates like rock, sand, and gravel, and a powdered binding agent called cement.
One big benefit of concrete for driveways is its pale gray color, so it reflects sunlight and stays cooler in summer. Concrete is considered an ideal surface for some ball sports because it provides a harder surface for more ball bounce, and its rigidity won’t warp in the heat the way asphalt can.
Cost to install: Asphalt is more affordable
Should your decision come down to cost, asphalt edges out concrete in the short term as it’s more affordable to purchase and install. However, when considering lifespan and maintenance costs, concrete may be the cheaper option in the long run. We’ll detail these maintenance requirements in a minute.
Asphalt costs between $7 to $13 per square foot, which includes both materials and labor. On average, homeowners spend between $2,934 and $6,565 installing a new asphalt driveway.
Concrete costs between $8 to $18 per square foot, with decorative elements such as color and stamping increasing the cost per square foot. Most homeowners spend between $1,800 and $6,000 to install a new concrete driveway.
Installation process: Concrete dries faster
Demolition and removal of your old driveway surface take up the bulk of the installation timeline. Once the space is ready, it takes around the same time for contractors to lay both materials — only drying/curing times differ.
It typically takes installers just one day to lay asphalt. However, installers usually need a prep day in advance of the installation to lay the sub-base, which provides stability and a frost barrier for your asphalt driveway. Asphalt installers typically lay the sub-base on the same day they demolish and remove your existing driveway.
Once the asphalt is down, the material takes 3 to 5 days to cure partially. After that time, it’s safe to drive on your asphalt driveway but not to park on it. It takes an additional 2 to 3 weeks to fully cure.
Concrete driveways typically take between 1 to 3 days to complete, depending on the driveway size. For homeowners who want to park on their driveway faster, concrete is the better option. Once the concrete driveway is poured, you typically only need to wait seven days before parking your vehicle on it. However, for heavier vehicles or equipment, you’ll need to wait as long as 30 days.
Lifespan: Concrete lasts longer
When it comes to longevity, concrete definitely has asphalt beat.
As a general rule, asphalt driveways have a relatively short lifespan of 15 to 20 years, although a well-maintained driveway can last up to 25 years.
A concrete driveway has an expected lifespan of between 30 to 40 years. This lifespan can be reduced if the driveway isn’t adequately sealed from time to time.
Maintenance: Concrete is lower-maintenance
Neither asphalt nor concrete are “pave it and forget it” driveway materials as both require maintenance over their lifetime. However, overall, concrete requires less maintenance than asphalt.
In between sealings, keep an eye out for cracks in your asphalt. You can fill minor cracks with an asphalt crack sealer for around $5 per tube. Fail to seal these cracks regularly, and you risk weakening the structural integrity of your asphalt driveway.
Just like asphalt, concrete driveways may crack over time, especially in four-season regions with harsh winters. You can fill concrete cracks between a quarter-inch and half-inch wide with concrete crack filler for around $10 per tube.
Aesthetic: Concrete is more versatile
Appearance plays a significant role in the asphalt vs. concrete debate for homeowners concerned with their home’s curb appeal. When you want decorative design options over function, concrete is the clear winner.
Traditional asphalt is black or gray. Recent innovations in asphalt allow for flexible design options, however, the color options available are only of the earth tone variety.
There are dozens of design options for concrete driveways because of the number of ways you can color and manipulate this flexible material. If you don’t want the traditional gray style, you can tint or stain your concrete driveway to match or complement the color of your house. You can also add complex designs and patterns to existing concrete if you want to change the style later.
Contractors can stamp patterns and designs into concrete to mimic brick, cobblestone, and complex medallion patterns.
Climate: The best choice depends on where you live
In some regions, the climate, not your personal preference, determines which material works best for your driveway.
Since asphalt is a deep black in color, it absorbs heat, and during the summer, can become sticky and oily. If the material melts enough, you can even track it into the house on your shoes. In areas where summer temperatures stay in the 100s, asphalt driveways are a no-go.
In cold, wet climates, asphalt’s flexibility becomes a liability as it can crack or become destabilized. However, asphalt is more porous than concrete, allowing water to run through it rather than get trapped and freeze, as sometimes happens to concrete.
Concrete is the go-to driveway material for steamy southern states, but it can work in colder climates, too, since the material is low maintenance and less prone to cracking than asphalt. However, there are some drawbacks to concrete driveways in colder climates.
Concrete driveways with their interior rebar and wire mesh reinforcements are essentially rigid. When moisture from rain and snow soften the soil underneath concrete, the concrete surface may heave upward. Concrete is also less porous than asphalt, so water can get trapped inside and freeze, causing the concrete to crack.
Resale value: It’s a tie!
A paved driveway can add $10,000 to $20,000 to your home’s value, especially if you live in areas with extreme weather. When your driveway material choice is between concrete and asphalt, the added value is essentially a draw. Both materials add more value than a gravel or unpaved driveway; however, neither adds more value than the other. Just how much value each material adds depends on the design and finish options you choose to boost curb appeal.
Concrete vs. asphalt: Which one is right for you?
There’s no clear frontrunner when you weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a concrete driveway versus an asphalt driveway.
Asphalt is a great choice for homeowners who care more about function than fashion, want savings in both time and money, and don’t mind regular maintenance. While concrete is the better choice for homeowners looking for a stylish driveway that requires less maintenance over time.
In the end, the right choice for you is the driveway material type that best meets your needs and is compatible with your region’s climate.
Header Image Source: (Artazum / Shutterstock)
–Shared with love by the Valmy Team– your Texas realtor team. We would love to earn your trust and partnership, www.TheValmyTeam.com. All content copyright by the original authors.