Concrete vs. Asphalt: What Are the Differences?

Most people probably don’t give much thought to the pavement beneath their feet. But if you’re in the business of building or maintaining roads, then you know that there are different types of pavement, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at two of the most common types of pavement: concrete and asphalt.

What is concrete?

Concrete is a composite material made up of cement, aggregate (e.g. sand, gravel, or crushed stone), and water. As the concrete hardens, the individual ingredients bind together to form a strong, solid mass.

What is asphalt?

Asphalt is also a composite material, but it differs from concrete in two important ways. First, instead of cement, asphalt uses a bituminous binder to bind together the aggregate. Second, asphalt contains a much higher proportion of fine particles than concrete does.

Now that we know a little bit about the two materials, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between them.

What are the key differences between concrete and asphalt?

  1. Cost: Asphalt is typically cheaper to install than concrete, although the exact cost difference will vary depending on a number of factors (e.g. local labor and materials costs, the size and complexity of the project, etc.).
  1. Strength: Concrete is generally stronger than asphalt, making it a better choice for projects that will experience heavy loads or traffic (e.g. highways, bridges, parking lots).
  1. Maintenance: Asphalt requires more frequent maintenance than concrete does (e.g. sealcoating every few years to prevent weather damage). However, asphalt repairs are typically less expensive than concrete repairs.
  1. Durability: Both concrete and asphalt are very durable materials, but concrete is slightly more so. Concrete can last for decades with proper maintenance, while asphalt will usually only last for 20-30 years.
  1. Appearance: This is a matter of personal preference, but some people find that concrete has a more “finished” look than asphalt does.

Bonus: Environmental impact

One final difference between concrete and asphalt that’s worth mentioning is their environmental impact. Asphalt production uses a lot of energy and emits harmful greenhouse gasses, while concrete production requires less energy and has a lower carbon footprint.

What happens if concrete and asphalt are not used correctly?

If concrete is used in a project that doesn’t require its high levels of strength (e.g. a residential driveway), then it may crack or crumble over time. If asphalt is used in a project that requires more strength than it can provide (e.g. a highway), then it may develop potholes or cracks.

Now that you know the key differences between concrete and asphalt, you can make an informed decision about which material is right for your next project. Just remember to factor in all the relevant variables (e.g. cost, durability, appearance, etc.) to ensure that you choose the best option for your needs.