In cities and towns all across the country, the vast majority of home driveways are made from one of two materials — asphalt or concrete. Both materials have their own pros and cons to think about, but if you are considering building a new driveway or replacing your old one, here's an outline of some differences between the two materials to help you make an informed decision.
Cost is always high on the list when making a big purchasing decision. Asphalt driveways are primarily made from petroleum-based products, so their cost will rise and fall depending on the worldwide price of petroleum. However, even with the fluctuating price of oil, asphalt driveways typically are 20 to 30 percent less expensive than concrete driveways are.
Both materials require a solid base under them if they are going to last. A solid base means excavating down at least a foot, then packing in a layer of crushed rock followed by a layer of packed sand. On top of the base, asphalt is laid down, leveled, and compacted. Concrete requires forms to be built on top of the base and reinforcing steel installed before the concrete itself can be poured and leveled, a more time-consuming process than installing an asphalt driveway.
Asphalt driveways require significantly more maintenance than concrete driveways. Approximately three months after installation, an asphalt driveway will need to be sealed in order to protect the surface. Then it needs to be sealed again every two to three years in order to keep its surface clean and intact. While this is a relatively inexpensive job (approximately $100), it does take time, and the sealer will need two to three days to dry thoroughly.
Once a new concrete driveway has been sealed, it typically doesn't require any more maintenance than simply cleaning any oil drips or spills to prevent staining over time.
Suitability for Climate
Asphalt driveways hold up well in cold climates, and if an asphalt surface develops a crack, repairing a crack in asphalt is much easier and much less expensive than in concrete. However, in warmer climates, asphalt surfaces will tend to soften in the heat and extrude oil that can be tracked into the house, making a major mess.
Soft asphalt can also develop hollows or dips when vehicles are parked on it. Since concrete won't heat up in the sun as much as asphalt, there are no worries about oil coming out or burning bare feet.
Just like the old Model T Ford, asphalt used to come in any color you wanted... as long as you wanted black. However, in recent years, that has changed. Now, similar to concrete, asphalt can be tinted a number of different colors to better match your home's exterior color scheme. Of course, concrete has another advantage; in addition to being susceptible to tinting in various colors, it can also be "stamped" so that it has appearance options not available with asphalt.
A well-maintained asphalt driveway will last 25 to 30 years. A well-built concrete drive should last at least that long, though many will last substantially longer. Now that you're armed with information, you can decide what's best for your property.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer whose work has appeared on numerous web sites, as well as in newspapers and books in both the US and Canada. He has been quoted as an expert on home-related topics in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal.