Concrete VS Asphalt Driveways: Which is Better for Your Home?

Are you thinking about a new driveway and are wondering what the best options are for your home? Let’s take a look at the two most common driveway materials used today and compare concrete vs asphalt driveways. We’ll discover what exactly each material is and the pros and cons for each.

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We’ll compare them side-by-side to see which is better in certain categories, and we’ll even throw in some driveway inspiration examples to help you visualize what your new driveway could look like.

What Is a Concrete Driveway?

What Is a Concrete Driveway?View in gallery

To understand what a concrete driveway is, we first need to understand what concrete itself is. Concrete is a mixture of stone aggregate, water, and a cement binder. Because concrete is comprised of materials with very different properties, it is considered a composite material.

Materials

The stone aggregate used in concrete can range from extra fine to extra coarse and the type used depends on the application it is being used for. Concrete driveways typically consist of a mix of aggregate ranging from sand to gravel-sized particles.

The Mix

The ideal concrete for driveways should have a compressive strength of at least 4000 psi (pounds per square inch) and a water-cement ratio less than 0.50 to increase strength and durability. The air content should range from 5 to 7% regardless of climate. The air content is an important consideration because it affects the long-term durability and immediate workability of the concrete.

Slump

Another important consideration is a slump. Slump is the measure of freshly mixed concrete’s workability and flow. Simply put, concrete with a high slump value is wetter than that with a lower slump. Typically, concrete driveways have a slump of four inches and anything over five inches should be avoided completely.

Pouring

Once mixed, concrete becomes a pourable slurry that can go in any horizontal direction and take any form. As the poured concrete cures, it hardens, and this process can take several months to be fully complete. However, most concrete driveways have been cured enough for use within about a week.

Reinforcements

To make concrete driveways even stronger, metal reinforcement wire or rebar can be inserted within the slab or mixing agents can be added to the slurry.

Versatility

Concrete driveways lend themselves well to a variety of design options. You can go with the traditional plain gray, flat slab if that is the aesthetic you are looking for, or you can choose a more decorative design. Concrete can be colored, stamped with a pattern, made to have the appearance of brick, or brushed to add texture to the surface. Some homeowners like the look of concrete that has some of the aggregate exposed and this design option continues to gain popularity. Even the saw-cut control joints in concrete can be used to add unique patterns to the finished driveway.

Don’t Try if You’re Inexperienced

Although a concrete driveway pour is a project that homeowners and DIYers can take on, it is highly recommended that contractors who specialize in the craft be hired for the actual pour. Since concrete dries quite quickly once it’s mixed, it must be poured, leveled, and floated in a timely manner, and there is very little room for error. A small driveway or parking pad might be a good weekend DIY project, but a larger driveway should be left to the pros.

Maintenance

Concrete driveways require very little maintenance over their lifetime, and, although they cost more initially, their strength and longevity make them an affordable option in the long run. It is recommended that concrete driveways be sealed at least once at the start of their lifetime. This seal will help protect the concrete from fading, absorbing moisture, cracking, and damaging freeze-thaw cycles. Some sources indicate that you should seal your concrete driveway every couple of years, but this seems to be a suggestion rather than a rule.

To keep your concrete driveway looking beautiful a good scrub with a hose or pressure washer and a stiff bristle brush is all it takes. It’s recommended that concrete driveways be thoroughly washed once a year and spot washed throughout as spills and stains occur.

What Is an Asphalt Driveaway?

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As with concrete driveways, let’s start with what asphalt is. Asphalt is comprised of aggregate stone and sand combined with a tar-like petroleum material called asphalt. It is similar to what road crews use on streets and highways.

Three types of asphalt can be used in driveway construction – Hot Mix, Porous, and Recycled.

Hot Mix

Hot Mix asphalt cools to a rich, matte black finish and is the one most commonly used in residential applications. The combined and heated mixture is poured on-site and compacted quickly to its final shape and depth.

Porous Asphalt

As the name suggests, Porous asphalt is full of pores that allow water to seep through to the rock bed below. From there, the water can permeate the soil and refill water tables. Porous asphalt is most commonly used in parking lots where standing water can be an issue, but it is becoming a more popular option for homeowners as a way of reducing water run-off.

Recycled

Many people don’t know, but asphalt is 100% recyclable, and the recycling process keeps approximately 75 million tons of asphalt out of landfills yearly. Recycled asphalt is slightly lighter in color than its fresh counterpart but offers a unique appearance when cured. It is equally as durable and long-lasting as new asphalt but is a fraction of the cost.

Equipment Required

Asphalt requires very specialized equipment and techniques to be mixed and installed and is therefore not a project that most homeowners can take on by themselves. You always want to hire a reputable contractor who specializes in this line of work.

Finishing Asphalt

After the proper base foundation has been laid and it’s time to install your asphalt driveway, a crew will combine the aggregate and asphalt and heat the mixture to over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This will create a liquid substance. Once liquified it must be poured and worked with quickly before it solidifies again. The crew must fill and smooth the driveway surface and compact the asphalt to hold its shape, and they sometimes only have minutes to get this done.

Tips for Asphalt Installation

Asphalt installation is dependent on warm temperatures and, depending on the climate you live in, is ideally suited for the spring and summer months.

The depth of the asphalt is another important consideration when determining how long you have to work with the mixture. For thin surfaces of around 1½”, you generally want the temperature to be around seventy degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow the installation crew approximately half an hour to work with the asphalt before it hardens. Typical asphalt driveways are two to three inches thick.

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You can usually drive on your driveway within a couple of days of the installation, but it can take up to thirty days for the asphalt to fully cure. During this time, you want to be sure to avoid parking heavy vehicles or performing activities that can stain or chip away at the asphalt surface.

Sealing

It is important to seal your new asphalt driveway as soon as the contractor recommends it be done. Some sources say this should be as soon as it is hard enough to drive on, while others say it should be fully cured. Regardless, sealing is a vital step that provides a water-resistant barrier and protects the asphalt from weather damage and day-to-day wear and tear.

Maintenance

Maintaining an asphalt driveway is a little more involved than a concrete driveway is, but it isn’t hard. Asphalt driveways should be cleaned a minimum of twice a year with a hose and a stiff-bristled broom or brush. They also need to be resealed every two to five years to ensure they are protected and to increase their longevity.

Great for DIYers

Asphalt is a petroleum product and is, therefore, more flexible and less prone to cracking than concrete, but that doesn’t mean it can’t crack. The good news is that homeowners and DIYers can generally make repairs to asphalt driveways themselves. Holes, cracks, and damage must be repaired as soon as possible as the longer they are left, the worse they will get. There are a variety of asphalt repair kits available, some of which are similar to hot mix but don’t require heat. Be sure to do your research when choosing the repair material that best suits your requirements.

Pros And Cons to Concrete Driveways

Pros

  • Concrete is versatile in appearance. It can be tinted to just about any color, stamped with various patterns, made to look like real brick, or brushed to create a textured finish. The control joints can even be cut to give the surface a unique pattern.
  • Concrete driveways are typically very durable and lasts for up to 50 years with proper care.
  • Except for occasional sealing and regular cleaning, concrete driveways are relatively maintenance-free.
  • Concrete driveways are very strong and if installed correctly, can stand up to the weight of extremely heavy vehicles.
  • Concrete driveways have an initially higher cost but are very affordable when you consider their longevity and low maintenance requirements.

Cons

  • Concrete can heave, buckle, and crack in extremely cold temperatures.
  • Concrete does not hold up well against the road salt used to melt ice.
  • Concrete stains easily and requires frequent cleaning from the oil and grime left by vehicles.
  • Concrete driveways can be difficult to repair and areas that have been patched are typically quite evident.
  • New concrete driveways can take up to a week to cure enough for vehicles to be driven or parked on them.

Pros And Cons to Asphalt Driveways

Pros

  • Asphalt hides stains very well.
  • Asphalt driveways are relatively easy to repair.
  • Its deep, matte black color gives asphalt driveways a streamlined appearance.
  • Repaired or replaced areas of asphalt typically blend in nicely with the original surface.
  • Sealing is relatively easy.
  • You can typically drive on asphalt driveways within days of them being installed.
  • Asphalt is 100% recyclable.

Cons

  • Asphalt driveways can become soft and sticky in high heat conditions.
  • A cycle of high-heat softening, then cooler-temperature re-hardening, can cause asphalt driveways to sag or crack over time.
  • Asphalt driveways require sealing every two to five years.
  • Asphalt needs to be repaired more frequently than concrete.
  • Asphalt generally cannot be colored or patterned in any way unless you choose to paint on the surface. (It is important to note, however, that new developments are now making it possible for asphalt to be mixed with color or sealed with a colored sealer).

What Is the Average Driveway Width?

The average driveway width for a residential home ranges from nine- to twenty-four feet depending on if you want vehicles parked side-by-side and if you want those vehicles to be able to pass in the driveway.

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Single Car

For a single-car driveway, the typical range is nine- to twelve feet. Nine feet is as small as you would really want to go for a driveway width. Anything narrower than this would not be able to accommodate larger vehicles like delivery vans or even large SUVs. Nine feet also doesn’t allow a lot of room to walk around vehicles without stepping onto the grass or into shrubs that line the driveway. 

Double Car

Double car driveways typically range between twenty and twenty-four feet in width. In this case, twenty-four feet is an ideal driveway width as that gives enough room for two cars to pass or for two to be parked side-by-side and still able to open their doors.

Get it Right

A driveway width that falls between twelve feet and twenty feet is, strictly speaking, a waste of space unless it is somehow required for the aesthetics of the landscaping. A driveway with a width between these measurements is too wide for just one car, but not wide enough for two to park side-by-side.

There are a couple of things you should consider when planning the width of your driveway. First, you want to think about what will run the length of the drive? If you plan to have walls or fences running on either or both sides, be sure to allow for some extra width in the driveway so that you aren’t banging card doors and damaging paint every time you use the car.

Brush Up on Codes

You’ll also want to learn your cities codes and by-laws related to driveways. A lot of cities limit how wide a driveway can be at its opening, so you’ll need to incorporate that into your plan. If you want your driveway to be wider than the city allows, consider starting it off at the cities’ regulated width and then widening it as you approach your garage.

The length of a driveway is dictated by the length of your property and where you want your driveway to end. This measurement depends on the location of buildings on your property, if you plan to have your drive wind around trees or other landscaping, or if you plan to have parking stalls or turnarounds in the drive. Aside from these factors, the length really is what it is.

Concrete VS Asphalt Driveways: Compare and Contrast

Concrete VS Asphalt Driveways: Compare and ContrastView in gallery

Concrete and asphalt driveways have many similarities, but they also have many key differences. Now we’ll compare concrete vs asphalt driveways and see which excels in each category.

Cost

A new asphalt driveway ranges from $3.00 to $4.00 per square foot installed; whereas, a basic concrete driveway (plain gray slab) ranges from $5.00 to $7.00 per square foot. If you want to add color or decorative finishes to your concrete driveway, it will range from $8.00 to $18.00 per square foot.

Durability

Asphalt is more flexible than concrete, making it less likely to crack and if it does crack, it’s less likely to result in an edge-to-edge fault line. It is, on the other hand, a softer material and more susceptible to deterioration and damage from tree and plant roots.

Concrete is considerably stronger than asphalt and better able to withstand heavy loads and daily wear and tear.

Longevity

A well fabricated and installed asphalt driveway will last from fifteen to twenty years with proper care and maintenance. In contrast, a well fabricated and installed concrete driveway will last for thirty to forty years (sometimes as long as fifty) with proper care and maintenance.

Ease of installation

Both asphalt and concrete driveways take a considerable amount of work to install, and it is recommended that professionals be hired for both. Technically speaking, concrete driveways can be installed by an ambitious DIYer, but fast drying times and the need to float the concrete before it sets can become daunting and there is little room for error.

Asphalt driveways are typically installed by professionals as they require specialized equipment and techniques.

Maintenance

Concrete is extremely easy to maintain and only needs a thorough cleaning with soap and a firm bristled brush roughly once a year. You may also want to clean it after any major spills so that the liquid doesn’t have time to absorb. Whether or not concrete needs to be sealed and how often it should be is heavily debated, but the general consensus is to seal it at least once, shortly after it has been cured. This initial sealing helps protect the concrete from damage caused by spills as well as freeze-thaw cycles. Some sources recommend that you seal your concrete every couple of years, but this comes down to personal preference more than necessity.

Asphalt driveways on the other hand need to be sealed shortly after installation and then again, every two to five years to protect them from damage and extend their lives.

Damaged asphalt can be repaired, resurfaced, and resealed relatively quickly and by the average homeowner or DIYer. Concrete on the other hand is much harder to repair and, except for sealing cracks, typically requires a professional.

Concrete And Asphalt Driveaway Ideas

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Image from Greenhaven Landscapes Inc.

Nestled in the shade of many tall trees and winding through the landscaping, this smooth asphalt driveway with its beautiful, rich, black finish adds a degree of elegance to this charming home’s front entrance.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Image from Divine Custom Homes

The landscape caresses this beautiful driveway as it widens near the garage, providing ample parking for residents and guests. And the matte black finish of the asphalt surface adds to the rustic charm of this home’s exterior.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Image from LaurelRock

The gentle curve and smooth surface of this asphalt driveway give it the appearance of a quaint country lane adding a touch of charm to this lovely home.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Project from Artisan Home and Design

This beautiful asphalt driveway curves and widens near the house to accommodate garage access, ample parking, and room to turn around. The smooth, matte black finish reflects the elegance of the landscape while the stone detail edges add character and tie the driveway aesthetically to the home.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Imgage from Mohler + Ghillino Architects

The classic gray of this concrete slab driveway lends itself beautifully to the modern design of the home. And the saw-cut control joints strategically placed to match the façade make the driveway an integral part of the home’s design.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery

This concrete slab driveway fits perfectly into its simple landscape and gives a cooling effect to this desert home. And the peach tint of the surface reflects the terra-cotta clay roof tiles and adds to the overall Tuscan feel.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Image from Homer Oatman, AIA

This concrete driveway’s spacious design gives ample room to drive, park, and turn around, and its color and paver-stone pattern compliment the colonial style of this stunning home.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Image from Naturescapes Landscaping, Inc.

This simple, concrete driveway is a continuation of the walls on either side and is understated in design. It is crisp and beautiful, but also subtle – not distracting from the natural beauty of its surroundings.

Modern Exterior in Los AngelesView in gallery
Image from HartmanBaldwin Design/Build

This home’s concrete driveway is a continuation of its exterior design. The shape of the large square slabs mimics the concrete façade on the house, while the color of the slabs matches the wood features beautifully. The dark border around the driveway continues up the front stairs and ties the entire design together seamlessly.

The Nitty on Concrete and Asphalt Driveways

With an array of pros and cons for each type of driveway, the choice really comes down to three key things – the climate you live in, your budget for the project and its up-keep, and the aesthetic you want to achieve.

Once those three elements are determined, choosing which driveway material is best for your project should be a piece of cake. Let us know if you found this article helpful or if you have any questions.

We’d love to hear from you!