Concrete Paving vs. Asphalt

Streets have been paved with concrete since Court Avenue in Bellefontaine, Ohio, was famously covered with that substance in 1891. Conversely, asphalt paving predates that method as its first use in the United States occurred in front of City Hall in Newark, N.J., in 1870. Since then almost every Houston paving contractor has used both substances to pave places such as parking lots, driveways and city streets.

Lately, it has to be said that concrete has the edge over asphalt for a number of reasons. Not long ago, the options were relatively similar and using a Houston concrete contractor may have cost more, but the surface lasts much longer than asphalt. However, the cost of the materials used to make asphalt pavement have shot up so much the last few years that the initial costs of these methods of paving have become much more competitive, causing concrete pavement to become the clear choice.

One of the major reasons for the cost of asphalt paving increasing so much as of late is due to the use of liquid asphalt as the binder. This is a residue from crude oil, and its price has increased about 250 percent over the last several years. Also, refining techniques have improved so much that 12 percent of oil is now used for this purpose. That percentage used to be 40 percent, and asphalt shortages have resulted from this change. Also, most of the remaining asphalt is being used to pave highways, leaving a relatively small amount for places such as parking lots.

Of course, longevity is concrete’s biggest selling point. In fact, the road in Ohio that was built in 1891 is still in use about 125 years later. Most concrete paving projects will easily last decades, and very little maintenance will be required to keep them in tip-top shape. Conversely, driveways and parking lots topped with asphalt need to be resurfaced about once a decade and coated every few years. In fact, many asphalt surfaces end up costing twice as much or more than concrete over the first 20 years of their existences.

The rigidity and high strength of concrete also helps the substance to carry heavier loads than asphalt without being damaged. For example, 5 inches of concrete placed on soil, which is an appropriate amount for a surface that receives regular vehicular traffic, is roughly equal to an asphalt pavement that consists of 4 inches of aggregate subbase, 4 inches of asphalt base and 2-3 inches of surface asphalt.

Also, as every Houston foundation contractor and resident of Houston is aware of, summers here get very hot. Fortunately, those driving and walking on concrete parking lots enjoy cooler temperatures as the heat-island effect is lessened on this substance. In fact, it is estimated that it can feel 10 degrees cooler while standing on a concrete surface as opposed to asphalt.

Concrete’s lighter color also helps many businesses save on lighting costs as about 30 percent of a parking lot’s lighting fixtures can be removed when a concrete parking lot uses concrete instead of asphalt.

Many businesses with concrete parking lots and driveways enjoy receiving LEED credits due to how green these surfaces are when compared to asphalt. This is due to how much cooler the ambient air temperatures are, the need for fewer light fixtures above it, how little toxicity is in any water runoff from it and because recycled materials can be easily incorporated into the laying process.

One added benefit of using concrete paving that some businesses and home owners take advantage of is the ability to color and texture the pavement for aesthetic purposes.