Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
It can be challenging to decide which of the two materials to use for your project when considering asphalt or concrete. You’ve seen and heard of both, and you’ve seen neighbors using different materials. Whether you need it for a street project, playground, or your driveway, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
So, what are some of these advantages and disadvantages to asphalt? One of the biggest advantages is the cost compared to concrete. Another is its performance on uneven support. Some disadvantages are that asphalt has low resistance to large loads and high temperatures. It also doesn’t maintain as well as concrete so it will need to be repaired more often.
This article will go into detail on the pros and cons of using asphalt. As well as list other alternatives available if you still cannot decide on a material for your next project. Any kind of project using asphalt or concrete can be an expensive one, so you want to be sure you make the right decision upfront.
Asphalt has flexural strength. Asphalt can handle various bends and contortions before it starts to crack or break. This is one of the reasons why it is a sought after material for projects that need material like it. Concrete does not have this same strength, which puts asphalt in the lead when comparing these two materials.
Asphalt has good performance on uneven foundations. This fact is what makes asphalt one of the leading driveway materials. Most driveways are uneven and can be easily laid down to make it. Concrete would need a lot more leveling and material to recreate the same effect. Thus, also costing more labor and more money.
It does not cost as much as other materials like concrete. Asphalt is generally cheaper, which translates well when you want to save money on a project. It also saves money on bigger projects like roads in rural areas where concrete isn’t as necessary to handle large traffic jams. It is also cheaper for the provider when they need to complete massive jobs and pay for the materials.
Asphalt is easy to repair when needed. Given its flexible application, it can be easy to repair when it starts to crack. It can be quickly fixed with more asphalt or other material depending on the situation. A driveway may need a touchup every few years, while roads may need yearly touchups due to excessive use and exposure to the elements.
Asphalt cannot take on concentrated or sustained loads. This is why concrete is chosen over Asphalt when it comes to highways and busy roads. Asphalt just wouldn’t sustain the massive amount of weight like concrete can. However, Asphalt can be used on more rural roads where there isn’t as much traffic or weight traveling over it. It can also do well for smaller spaces like driveways.
Asphalt does not stand up to high temperatures well. Asphalt has a tendency to absorb heat quickly. It retains hot temperatures and struggles to release it afterward. This can cause damage, resulting in costly repairs. This is also why asphalt isn’t great for highways that may heat up from running tires as well as temperature spikes.
The strength of the asphalt diminishes in low temperatures. Similar to how asphalt does not do well in the heat, it also does not do well in cold temperatures either. It can cause something called rutting which is when the surfaces depress and may become deformed. This will lead to cracks and tears that need to be replaced.
Asphalt requires a lot of maintenance and repair. As mentioned previously, asphalt is not very durable. It requires regular maintenance and repair. This can increase the original cost, which may have been lower than other materials like concrete. Comparing the cost of maintaining and repairing asphalt to concrete may actually show that the materials break even.
You can use another material like concrete for sturdier jobs. Asphalt does not need to be the end-all-be-all material for your job. If you find that concrete just makes more sense for what you want to achieve, then use it! You don’t want to find that you paid less for asphalt upfront, but then regret the ongoing maintenance that comes with it.
You can use different materials for different jobs. If you are torn between the two and can see the positives and negatives of both, then you don’t have to choose! You can use both materials in separate applications. Using roads as an example, save the concrete for busier highways and use asphalt for less busy roads that don’t get as much use. You can save money on the project while still reaping the benefits of both materials.
You can mix materials if need be depending on the situation. You can also mix asphalt and concrete to make new mixtures that may hold the benefits of both. Organizations like the Virginia Asphalt Association are conducting studies on such mergers to assess whether they are better alternatives to simply going with one material over the other.
You can use a process called white topping for special situations (i.e. tunnels, crack repairs). White topping is a process where a thin layer of concrete is used to fix cracks in concrete or asphalt without needing a lot of material. It can also be used as an alternative to asphalt or concrete in areas such as tunnels to help reduce cost without reducing the strength of the concrete. It can also be a great repair alternative for concrete driveways.
Can you Patch up Concrete with Asphalt?
Using Asphalt instead of concrete to patch up concrete can be a cheaper solution. This solution would work well for patching up cracks or holes in concrete. Such as filling potholes on concrete streets or cracks in driveways. This is a good solution for patching up small projects and performing “quick fixes” on time-sensitive projects.
The look may not be as aesthetically pleasing. Asphalt and concrete are two very different materials. Using asphalt to patch up concrete may not look the best if you are doing it on a driveway or landscaping venture. If the look of your project is important, you may not want to follow this method of mixing the two materials up to complete your patch-up job.
You may find yourself repairing the asphalt more than the concrete over time. As mentioned earlier in this article, asphalt is not as durable as concrete. If you use asphalt to patch up concrete, you may be repairing those patch-up jobs more often than you are the entire concrete. In that case, you should probably go with the concrete repairs to save yourself the time and money of repairing the asphalt.
You can use asphalt for those harder to patch jobs when working with concrete. One of the asphalt’s pros comes in handy in this situation. Since asphalt works so well in uneven areas, it can be the solution for repairing concrete that normal concrete wouldn’t do as well. This can be in tunnels, more rural roads, or even potholes and uneven cracks.
We’ve discussed the pros and cons of using asphalt over concrete. We’ve gone over how asphalt can be the cheaper and more malleable solution to your patch up jobs. We’ve talked about how it isn’t as durable as concrete and doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures.
We also touched on alternatives such as white topping or combining materials depending on the job. All in all, these factors along with your specific needs for your job that will decide whether asphalt is the right material for you.
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