concrete vs asphalt

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 up front, it can last twice as long as an asphalt surface with significantly less maintenance and deterioration.

A Stable, Well-Drained Base 

No matter which product you chose, 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 Cost of Concrete vs. Asphalt

A 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:

Deliverable Asphalt Concrete
Product $2 - $4 per square foot $3 - $6 per square foot
Materials $300 $850
Labor $1,000 $2,000
Installation Totals $2,500 $3,285
Life Expectancy 20 years 30-40 years
Cost per year $125/year $93.86/year (using 35 years)

Asphalt must be resealed six months after installation and every three to five years afterwords. 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.

Decorative Finishes

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 pliable, the longevity of custom designs isn’t strong.

Installation Time

Concrete often requires up to seven days to completely cure before traffic can be allowed on it. This minor delay can push businesses to go for asphalt to decrease business disruptions. Instead, your contractor may be able to complete the project in stages to accommodate traffic. Concrete can also be placed virtually year round, so depending on your timelines, this may be very beneficial for your business.

Maintenance and Cracking

In the first year, concrete contractors recommend limited use of or avoiding de-icing products. Sealing concrete isn’t required but using a quality surface sealant every five years can prolong the life of your concrete and protect it from excessive cracking and flaking.

Because concrete is hard and durable, it won’t “flex” with extremely high temperatures. However, your contractor will cut, groove or score large sections of concrete to channel water off the surface and to provide a relief crack as concrete ages. This is normal and a best practice.

Concrete Wins!

Nothing beats concrete’s longevity! A concrete driveway or parking lot installed on a solid base with good drainage will last 30-40 years, nearly double the average life span of an asphalt product. While the initial installation cost may be higher, over the lifetime of the product, it's actually cheaper. When easier maintenance, decorative options and increased property value are factored in, concrete becomes a more attractive choice for your driveway or parking areas.