In the debate over which is better, asphalt vs. concrete driveways, there are enough trade-offs for the decision to come down to personal preference. As with all construction considerations, weather plays a huge role as does cost and maintenance. In weighing the options, what follows are comparisons to help you better decide what works for you specifically.
Hot and Cold
Extremes of weather is possibly one of the most significant factors in deciding your driveway surface as it has an impact on the integrity of the materials used. While both substrates provide a hard, durable surface, each is susceptible in its own way.
Asphalt is a petroleum product that gets spread in compact layers using a heavy roller to produce the familiar smooth, black surface. This is the characteristic that makes it the preferred choice in cold climates as the dark color absorbs heat from the sun, which aids in melting snow and ice. In addition, it is unaffected by the use of salt for the same purpose. A drawback to this black color is how it gets tracked into the house just from walking on it.
Concrete, on the other hand, is damaged by salt. Its lighter color stays cool even in direct sunlight and is more easily visualized at night. This advantage to using concrete in hotter climates is why it is possible to walk on it with your bare feet in the middle of summer where asphalt gets extremely hot and can soften causing it to sustain damage as a result. Conversely, concrete is susceptible to cracking from extreme cold as it expands and contracts.
Installation and Repair
The foundation for both concrete and asphalt relies on a well-compacted gravel base and both are comprised of sand and stone. Concrete uses cement to set up and takes longer to cure than asphalt. The tar in the asphalt is what degrades over time, which makes it less durable than concrete in comparison. Both substrates last longer with proper maintenance and care.
Both surfaces can be sealed to preserve and protect them. While asphalt can develop the same pot holes and cracks you see in roadways, these can be filled and resealed in more controlled areas. Concrete repair is a much more expensive proposition to replace the slab, not to mention removing the damaged material.
Right off the bat, concrete is about 45 percent higher in cost than asphalt. The asphalt runs between $2.50 and $4.00 per square foot while concrete runs as low as $4.00 and upwards of $6.00 per square foot. Comparing a driveway the area of about 800 square feet, the difference can go from $2,800 to $12,000.
Concrete is a material that allows for more flexibility of design and effects such as engraving, etching and architectural features. Asphalt is most often considered an extension of the road leading up to the house.
Finally, it may come down to local restrictions as to what the building codes will allow. Your best approach is to consider the details mentioned here and then consult with a qualified contractor for both advise and a realistic quote based upon your specifications. In this way, you will be much closer to gaining an understanding of what the best choice is for you.