When tossing up between asphalt and concrete for your new driveway, you must consider two key things. Firstly, the overall durability of the medium you choose and, secondly, the overall cost of the installation.
Above all, a driveway needs to be functional – easy to navigate with simple access to and from the garage and an effortless flow between the driveway, house, and garden. But other considerations may include drainage, edging systems, retaining walls or fences, adjacent trees that can cause soil movements, and the effect any proposed planting will have. Your chosen contractor will need to address all of these factors when you are making your decision. But, first thing is first.
Asphalt vs. Concrete: What’s the difference?
Asphalt is not too different from concrete with respect to how it’s made. Both are made with stones and sand, however, the binder that locks them together is completely different. Concrete uses Portland cement, while asphalt or blacktop uses asphalt cement.
Asphalt is a unique compound because at normal temperature ranges it can be flexible. This can be an advantage if you are considering paving, however, over the life of your driveway, asphalt can move with the effects of the weather.
Concrete, however, resists weathering action, is resilient against the effects of chemical damage such as that from leaking oil, which can break down the compounds in asphalt. With little to no organic content, concrete is resistant to deterioration caused by rot or humidity. The ultraviolet portion of solar radiation does not harm concrete and using colored pigments in concrete retains the color long after paints have faded.
As far as costs are concerned, asphalt and concrete are quite similar.
The highest cost will be in the excavation of the area (including the removal of spoil from your current driveway), the base course and any curbing or edging detail involved in your design.
Both options will also come with extra costs. An average asphalt driveway includes the costs of excavation, preparation and the asphalt itself whereas concrete requires site work, sub-base, reinforcing mesh, ready-mixed concrete to be delivered and the type of finish you choose.
Residential concrete driveways remain a very cost effective option compared to alternatives, more so when their long-life is considered. But, concrete finishes vary from plain with a subtle textured to stained and polished. While this guarantees a style for any taste, different styles come at different prices.
Asphalt has also made leaps and bounds in this area, experimenting with new appearances.
Important note on asphalt: Asphalt drives can contribute to staining the floors in your home if you’re not strict about shoes being left at the door. The oils from the asphalt can be tracked inside (not to mention the driveway sealer) adding additional costs in the maintenance of your interior floors.
Consider a cost-effective alternative such as Chip seal: Chipseals are constructed by evenly distributing a thin base of hot bitumen or asphalt onto an existing pavement and then embedding finely graded aggregate into it. The aggregate is evenly distributed over the seal spray, then rolled into a smooth pavement surface.
A chip-seal-surfaced pavement can optionally be sealed with a top layer. It’s a hybrid driveway where liquid asphalt cement is squirted onto gravel and small colored stone chips are broadcast into the hot tar. Once it cools, you have a magnificent surface that wears like iron.
Both asphalt and concrete are built to last and both offer different finishes to suit any taste. Additional costs exist for the installation of either option and the costs are very similar. Ultimately the decision will come down to which factor matters more to you in the long run and your personal preference.