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What’s the Difference? Concrete vs. Asphalt Driveways “Bob Vila”

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Learn the pros and cons of both popular, durable materials to choose the one that will best fit your style, climate, and budget.

Concrete vs Asphalt: Which Makes a Better Driveway

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve had enough of the ruts, cracks, and stains of your current driveway and are considering installing a new one, you’re probably debating between the two most common solid materials: concrete and asphalt. While both are laid over a substrate of gravel, and both are basically a mixture of sand and stone, different adhesives are used to hold those components together: tar for asphalt and cement for concrete. The characteristics of those adhesives amount to the differences—both pro and con—between the two popular driveway surfaces.

Both asphalt and concrete create durable, attractive driveways, but there’s more to choosing between them than simply going with the cheaper option. That’s why we’ve faced them off head-to-head—concrete vs. asphalt—with comparisons in seven major categories. So read on to discover whether asphalt or concrete is the winner for your home.

Concrete offers more visual options.

In their most basic forms, asphalt is dark gray to black—hence its common name of “blacktop”—and concrete is pale gray. Unlike asphalt, though, concrete takes well to staining or tinting to just about any color you fancy. You can also stamp patterns into concrete or brush it for a textured finish. Go with concrete if you wish to match your home’s color scheme, recreate the look of brick or another pattern, or prefer a bit of interest in your home’s major entryway. Asphalt is a good choice if you want a streamlined appearance that matches the street.

Concrete driveways normally last longer than asphalt.

In general, if installed properly in a suitable climate and maintained regularly, your concrete driveway should last 30 to 40 years, while an asphalt driveway is generally good for 20 to 30 years. Neglect to install without an even, stable substrate of gravel—or be careless about proper maintenance—and either type of driveway can fail within a few years.

Asphalt requires sealing every few years, but concrete stains more easily.

A few months after installation to allow for full curing, your asphalt driveway will need to be sealed to protect the surface and lengthen its lifespan. You’ll then need to reseal it every three to five years thereafter. (The task is well within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers: Pour the asphalt sealer onto your clean, dry driveway, and then use a driveway squeegee to spread it evenly over the entire surface.) While it’s not a must-do for concrete driveways, sealing concrete helps cut down on fading—an important protective measure for a tinted driveway.

When it comes to engine oil, gas drips, rust, and the rugged use driveways typically endure, the dark surface and matte finish of asphalt hides most stains and wear very well. Concrete, however, tends to show every mark and spill, so you’ll need to do more aggressive cleaning and degreasing to maintain its good looks.

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