In the U.S. alone, asphalt manufacturing is a $26.5 billion industry. Every year, asphalt production facilities produce about 350 million tons of this material.

The US market for ready-mix concrete manufacturing, on the other hand, is worth $34.6 billion.

Now, just because concrete is a “bigger seller” doesn’t mean it’s always better than asphalt. It doesn’t automatically mean that concrete is always the best material for driveways.

So, then, what is the main difference between asphalt and concrete driveways? When should you go with asphalt and when should you choose concrete?

We’ll answer all these questions in this post, so be sure to read on

The Main Difference Between Asphalt and Concrete: Location and Function

The total length of paved roads and highways in the United States is a staggering 2.7 million miles. Of that, 94 percent feature asphalt surfaces.

That said, the primary function of asphalt is in the construction of roads. Experts estimate that 70 percent of all asphalt produced goes toward building roads.

Whereas concrete is the world’s single, most commonly used construction material. Driveways aside, concrete is also used in the construction of buildings themselves. From the roof to the walls, flooring to crawlspaces — you’ll find concrete in all of these structures.

Breaking Down Asphalt

Aside from road construction, asphalt is also used in manufacturing bituminous waterproofing products. These include sealants for flat roofs, as well as roofing felt.

What exactly is asphalt though?

You may know asphalt as “blacktop”, which is quite the fitting term for its “shade”. It’s the bitumen — a dark, almost black viscous material — that gives asphalt its color. Bitumen is a petroleum byproduct that holds the rest of the asphalt together.

The majority of the asphalt materials, as in 90% to 95% of it, consist of aggregates. These are a mixture of hard materials like sand, crushed stone, and gravel.

What About Concrete?

Both asphalt and concrete use aggregates as their main load-supporting material. Concrete, however, uses cement (and water) as its binding material. So, if you ever hear someone refer to concrete as “cement”, they’re just pointing out one of its “ingredients”.

Aside from driveways, roads, and buildings, what else is concrete used for?

Dams, breakwaters, and seawalls are just a few of the many other uses of concrete. It’s also used to build sewers, fences, and yes, even bridges.

Which One’s Better For Your Driveway?

Which then should you invest in for your home: asphalt vs concrete driveway?

This depends on a lot of factors, with the key ones being climate, maintenance, longevity, and looks. Cost, of course, is also a consideration, but this also depends on the overall quality of your driveway.

Hot vs Cold Weather

When exposed to extreme heat, asphalt softens and becomes sticky. It’s the bitumen that causes this, seeing as it’s “viscoelastic”, which means it reacts to heat.

This viscoelasticity also opens up the “pores” of asphalt. This, in turn, makes it prone to water seepage. If it tends to be sunny and rainy in your area, it could spell trouble for your driveway.

Conversely, bare concrete exposed to extreme cold can crack or buckle. Using road salt to melt ice build-up on a concrete driveway can also cause staining or blotching.

That said, be sure to factor in your location’s most severe climate when choosing between the two. If your area experiences more bad summers than winter, concrete may be a better choice. If you get more snow than super hot days, consider going with asphalt.

Maintenance

Due to asphalt’s softer consistency, it tends to degrade more quickly than concrete. That’s why it also requires more maintenance, such as sealing, every three to five years. Otherwise, water will seep into the asphalt’s porous material.

The longer this happens, the “softer” your driveway will become. Add to that the constant sun exposure it receives, and you’re looking at major cracks and potholes.

Concrete isn’t impervious to cracks, but it doesn’t need frequent resealing. It’s best, though, to seal it three to four weeks after pouring concrete (and the driveway has cured). Silane and siloxane are some of the most durable sealants, lasting for at least eight years.

Longevity

Since asphalt is more prone to deterioration, it also has a shorter life span than concrete. On average, it lasts about 15 to 20 years, so long as you reseal it as recommended.

Concrete driveways can last almost twice as that. Once it does sustain damage, such as sinking, you can get it fixed through concrete lifting. This will stabilize the concrete and extend your driveway’s service life.

Looks Matter Too

A lot of homeowners often focus on color as they choose between concrete vs asphalt driveway. Concrete is pale gray, which is why it’s easier to stain or tint to the color you desire.

However, it’s also this paleness that concrete is prone to ugly engine oil or gas stains. Sealing your concrete driveway can help reduce its risk for staining.

Asphalt, with its dark gray to nearly-black color, easily hides these unwanted marks. This does mean that you won’t be able to change its color to match your home though.

Cost

Asphalt driveways, considering their ingredients alone, usually cost less than concrete driveways.

However, current estimates put the average cost range of asphalt driveways at $2,900 to $6,400. That now makes it a bit pricier than concrete, which only averages $1,800 to $6,000!

This may have to do with the increasing demand for concrete, which is due to its durability and longevity.

Choose the Best Material for Your Driveway With These Factors in Mind

There you have it, the key difference between asphalt and concrete driveways. Now that you’re aware of their pros and cons, you can make the right choice for your own home. Just remember: asphalt may be better for cold places, while concrete is best for hot climates.

Ready for more nuggets of wisdom about home improvement? Then be sure to head over to our Real Estate section!

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