What’s the Difference Between Asphalt and Concrete?

by | Jul 18, 2017

The terms tend to get mixed up a bit by those who aren’t in the industry, but there is a significant difference between asphalt and concrete. If you’re one of the many people who aren’t sure exactly which is which, let’s try to clear up the issue for you.

To start, pavements have historically been divided into two general categories – flexible and rigid. Now, these traditional definitions tend to be a bit of an oversimplification, but they do provide a description of how asphalt and concrete each react to force loads and the environment.

Between the two, asphalt pavement is the flexible variety. Essentially, asphalt consists of a fairly thin wearing surface built over base and subbase courses. These courses are usually stone or gravel, and they rest upon compacted subgrade (which is compacted soil). Conversely, rigid pavements are constructed with Portland cement concrete. Depending on the specific project, there may or may not be a base course between concrete pavement and the subgrade.

Asphalt vs. ConcreteIn the past, concrete was the preferred choice for paving roads, lots, and other such projects. This has changed and now asphalt is the go-to choice. To understand why this switch occurred, we should take a look at how both types of pavement are made.

Asphalt is made by using aggregate (like sand or crushed rock) bound together by bitumen. This binder is a dark, sticky substance that is derived from crude oil. When lots, driveways, and roads are built using asphalt, hot bitumen mixed with fine aggregate is poured onto a bed of heavier aggregate. Then, the asphalt is pressed with a steamroller, which compacts it all and ensures proper binding. At this point, the asphalt needs to cool down to the surrounding air temperature, at which point it is strong enough to handle traffic. This process ensures hardness and durability, while also offering enough flexibility to accommodate any imperfections in the underlying surface.

Much like with asphalt, concrete is made using an aggregate. In this instance, the binder holding the aggregate together is the cement. As the mixture dries, it becomes a stiff, unforgiving solid (which is why it’s considered to be the “rigid” type of pavement). Concrete has its uses, but it’s important to know that it can be prone to breaking and cracking, particularly when the surface underneath isn’t perfectly smooth.

In addition to the inherent flexibility, there are other advantages to using asphalt paving over concrete or cement. One example is that removing and replacing damaged asphalt is a relatively simple and easy process compared to having to do so with concrete. Another is the fact that asphalt is a 100% recyclable product.

Yet another advantage asphalt holds over concrete is the time and money it saves. Asphalt projects can be ready to go more quickly and with a lot less cost than concrete ones. (Actually, this applies to maintenance and repair of asphalt pavement as well.)

Those are some of the key distinctions between asphalt and concrete pavements. Perhaps the most recognizable difference, though, simply comes down to color – asphalt is black and concrete is gray.

As West Michigan’s leader in the paving industry, we can help you understand matters like this. Even better, we provide comprehensive paving services. When you hire Stripe A Lot to handle your project, you are hiring just Stripe A Lot—no subcontractors!—and our decades of industry experience. To find out what we can do for you, simply give us a call today at 1-800-BLACKTOP (or 616-772-2559). While you’re on the line, make sure you request your FREE ESTIMATE!

Asphalt that looks great and lasts longer.

Faded and cracked asphalt creates a bad impression. And knowing the best way to fix it can be confusing.

Stripe A Lot knows how to get your asphalt to look great and last longer.

Asphalt that looks great and lasts longer.

Faded and cracked asphalt creates a bad impression. And knowing the best way to fix it can be confusing. Stripe A Lot knows how to get your asphalt to look great and last longer.

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Faded and cracked asphalt creates a bad impression. And knowing the best way to fix it can be confusing. Stripe A Lot knows how to get your asphalt to look great and last longer.

Stripe A Lot Asphalt Maintenance LLC
10728 Paw Paw Dr, Holland, MI 49424
(616) 772-2559

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