Many factors go into the choice between concrete and asphalt for your driveway or parking lot project. Concrete, when correctly installed and maintained, is a long-term solution that can increase the overall value of your property. While it may be more costly upfront, it can last over twice as long as an asphalt surface with significantly less maintenance and deterioration.
A Stable, Well-Drained Base
No matter which product you choose, every parking lot, patio or driveway requires a smooth, compacted base with careful sloping to allow good drainage. Water is the enemy, particularly with Michigan's brutal temperature swings each season. When water gets into cracks, the freeze-thaw cycle breaks up both concrete and asphalt. That means more costly repairs and significantly impacts its longevity.
Comparing the Cost of Concrete vs. Asphalt
True cost analysis includes the cost of the product, installation labor, ongoing maintenance averaged over the expected life expectancy of the product. In the final analysis, a typical 600-square-foot driveway breakdown* appears below:
Despite actual asphalt preventative maintenance practices, asphalt must be resealed six months after installation and every three to five years afterward. The sealer ranges from $20 to $50 for 4.75 gallons required for the sample driveway.
*All cost estimates provided by Home Advisor. Prices may vary widely based on a number of other factors.
Concrete allows many more options for decorative colors and patterns. Because of asphalt’s dark binding materials, it’s much harder to use decorative colors or finishes. Some designs can be stamped into the finish, but because asphalt is more flexible, the longevity of custom designs isn’t strong.
Concrete can be open to traffic following 7 days of curing. It also may be opened sooner (even as early as 2-3 days), when testing confirms that a compressive strength of 2500psi is reached. This minor delay can push owners to go for asphalt to decrease disruptions. Your contractor may be able to complete the project in stages to accommodate traffic. There are concrete mix options that can allow the concrete to gain strength quickly and be opened sooner to traffic. Concrete can also be placed virtually year-round, so depending on your timelines, this may be very beneficial.
Maintenance and Cracking
Concrete is hard and durable, it does not flex with temperature shifts. To accommodate for slab movement, your contractor will cut, groove, or score large sections of concrete to provide a relief for the cracks as concrete ages. Concrete Cracks. This is normal and is the best practice.
In the first year, concrete contractors recommend limited use of or avoiding de-icing products altogether. Check out our article on “Concrete Safe Salt” for additional details on the best de-icing products to use on your concrete. Sealing concrete isn’t required but using a quality surface sealant every five years can prolong the life of your concrete by keeping water out of the pavement protecting it from surface damage.
Nothing beats concrete’s longevity! A concrete driveway or parking lot installed on a solid base with good drainage will last 30-40 years or more, nearly double the average lifespan of an asphalt product. While the initial installation cost may be higher, over the lifetime of the product, it's actually less expensive and less labor-intensive.
When easier maintenance, decorative options, and increased property value are factored in, concrete becomes the most attractive choice for your driveway or parking area. If you're not quite convinced, dig even deeper into the benefits of concrete over asphalt and find out why concrete comes out on top.