Concrete vs. Asphalt: The Best Material for Parking Lots and Roads

Driving surfaces, whether parking lots or roads, are often made of one of two types of material: concrete or asphalt. Concrete and asphalt have their respective advantages, but is one material better to use than the other? Read on for our neutral comparison, and gain deeper insight to help decision-making on your own project. 

Need professional help for your road, parking lot, or driveway project? Contact the experts at the Asphalt Doctors right away. 

Concrete vs Asphalt

Concrete is made from a mixture of sand, cement, and gravel. This mixture is then poured and left to cure for approximately one week, creating a strong, durable, and long-lasting concrete surface. It is often gray in color. 

Asphalt, on the other hand, is made from a mixture of sand, stone, and petroleum products to create a durable adhesive that is rolled out and cooled. It is often black in color. 

Choosing Concrete 

Pros of Concrete

  • Long lifespan – lasting for 20-40 years on average but with up to 50+ years of longevity in the best instances. 
  • Environmentally friendly – concrete is a more eco-friendly solution due to the fact that it can be recycled into gravel, is made from greener material (such as widely available limestone), creates less environmental pollution, and creates better fuel efficiency for vehicles. 
  • Temperature resistant – concrete is not immune but can handle fluctuations of freeze and thawing and is generally more cooler in the sunlight due to its gray color. 

Cons of Concrete

  • Hard to repair – entire concrete slabs need to be replaced, and they cannot be simply patched up where needed. 
  • Higher cost – more expensive material option than alternatives
  • Lack of grip – for the same reason it encourages fuel efficiency, the relatively lower amount of friction causes this material to have a worse grip for vehicles and, thus, more slippage in wet conditions. 
  • Not a smooth ride – to create more grip, roadways made of concrete are often textured. With the natural rising, settling, and cracking of concrete slabs, this type of material can sometimes make for a bumpy and noisy roadway. 

Choosing Asphalt

Pros of Asphalt

  • Low price – more affordable option than concrete. 
  • Easily maintained and repaired – damaged asphalt can be recycled and easily repaired with an asphalt patch. Instead of a massive disruption to traffic, repair work can be completed in under an hour. 
  • Smooth ride – Asphalt is quieter than concrete and makes for a smoother ride. At the same time, it is much less slippery, with superior traction and skid resistance. 
  • Natural heating – due to its material and color, asphalt can absorb quite a lot of heat from the sun. This is an advantage in that it can speed up the melting of snow and ice after a storm. 

Cons of Asphalt 

  • Less environmentally friendly – creates some greenhouse gasses during the melting phase of asphalt. However, it can be recycled just like concrete. 
  • Shorter lifespan – Asphalt has a shorter lifespan of approximately 20 years, maxing out at 30 years, and requires repair work and maintenance just as concrete does. 

Head to Head: Which is Best? 

Overall, many factors contribute to whether concrete or asphalt is the best option for parking lots and roads. Ultimately, it comes down to your project’s particular situation and needs, but for most situations, our team of experts recommends asphalt parking lots and roads. 

If you have a project that needs a short-term solution, asphalt is great because it has a lower average cost ($2-4 per square foot vs. concrete’s $4-6 per square foot). Repairs are also easy, quick, and inexpensive compared to the alternative. 

Additionally, in climates like Colorado, it’s smart to choose a product that can withstand the frequent fluctuations in temperature. Concrete can easily erode and crack with constant freezing, thawing, and the application of antifreeze chemicals. Asphalt, on the other hand, does well against highly variable temperatures and can, again, be easily repaired in case of damage. 

Some projects, like major highways, must withstand up to 40+ years of wear and tear, making concrete a more economically viable solution. Similarly, if a project requires as little greenhouse gas emissions as possible, concrete could be the right choice for you. 

Contact the Experts

If you are considering a new road, parking lot, or driveway, it’s important to work with the experts in Colorado. Contact the professionals at the Asphalt Doctors today to get started!