Concrete and asphalt are common parking lot surface materials. Choosing between them requires an understanding of the value and challenges of each material. While asphalt is undeniably a less expensive initial investment, the costs can equalize over time depending on environmental factors and intended use.
How Are Asphalt and Concrete Installed?
Asphalt, otherwise known as blacktop or pavement, is made by mixing aggregate, sand and crushed rock, and bitumen, a sticky black tar-like substance. Actual tar has not been used in decades, as it is a known carcinogen.
There are two primary blacktop installation methods:
- Macadam, otherwise known as tar & chip, involves laying down a hot mixture of bitumen. Into this heated, sticky layer, a steamroller presses scattered rocks. The process creates a highly textured surface.
- Tarmac involves a pre-blended mix that results in a smooth and solid slab, most often used for driveways, parking lots, and roads.
Asphalt is poured on quite hot to allow the bitumen to be more fluid; then, it is pressed and smoothed with a heavy roller, typically a steamroller. It usually takes 24 hours to cure before cars may safely park atop the surface. Asphalt’s thickness is determined both by the underlying soil and what manner of vehicles will be on top of it. Typically, the thickness of asphalt ranges from four to six inches. It’s harder to determine the load-bearing capacity of asphalt, so if that’s a key consideration, concrete may be a better choice.
Concrete is made by mixing aggregate substances with a binder of cement, which is then allowed to harden into a rock-like substance. Cement is a mix of powdered rock, clay, and water. It takes several days to cure, longer if weather conditions are unfavorable. Concrete requires a minimum thickness of at least four inches. Each additional inch increases the maximum load-carrying capacity by 50%, but it also increases the cost of installation. Load capacity is easier to determine with concrete.
What is the Cost Difference Between Installed Concrete and Asphalt Parking Lots?
Asphalt is cheaper than concrete to install, typically ranging from $2-5 per square foot, while concrete runs $3-10 per square foot. More complex designs, like stamping and staining, can drive up the cost of concrete.
How Long Will Asphalt and Concrete Parking Lots Last?
Asphalt can last anywhere from 20-25 years before reinstallation. Concrete lasts thirty to forty years.
The duration of both surfaces depends on several factors. Maintenance, climate factors, and usage can impact the wear and tear on parking lot surfaces.
How Often Will Asphalt and Concrete Parking Lots Need Maintenance?
Asphalt requires resealing after six months and every three to five years for its lifespan. Gas leaks can damage the asphalt surface, so upkeep on sealing is vital to ensure a long lifespan. It is possible to repair asphalt for a relatively reasonable price.
Concrete does not require sealing, but doing so once every five years will help preserve it. Concrete repairs may be costly.
For best results, regularly schedule maintenance for both concrete and asphalt. Though it is not necessary, consider a sealant to ensure long-term durability for concrete. Not only will this help prevent stains, but it will also protect the surface from the damaging effects of salt and de-icing chemicals.
Concrete may also require regular pressure washing to keep it looking clean and prevent the accumulation of mold, mildew, chemical stains from vehicle leaks, and other debris. Squeegee Squad has experienced professionals that can help you maintain the look of your parking lot. With extensive training and the use of low-pressure nozzles, Squeegee Squad’s professional cleaners can remove these unsightly stains, without damaging delicate surfaces like stucco and painted facades. Learn more about our services here!
Can Asphalt or Concrete Create Attractive Parking Lots?
Asphalt can conceal oil stains, but it will have unavoidably rough edges. It can be stamped while hot but will lose definition in hot weather. Some paint sealers can create a bright surface color, and asphalt adding colored rocks, iron, and recycled glass in the aggregate can tint the surface.
Concrete has a wide array of options for different colors and textures. Stamping and scoring create textures that mimic the look of stone pavers or brick or cobblestone. Tints, colored sealers, and colorful aggregate material create an impressive range of appearances. Concrete can offer stunning surfaces. Overall, concrete is the best choice for those who want to create a beautiful parking lot surface.
Is Concrete or Asphalt Better for Hot Environments?
Hot climates can negatively impact asphalt, causing it to attract off-gas oil particles, expand, and crumble. Asphalt becomes softer and tackier in high heat, resulting in tires leaving dips on its’ surface and shoes becoming stained with bitumen. Concrete weathers heat remarkably well, though it may still occasionally crack.
Is Asphalt or Concrete Better for Cold Environments?
Asphalt is superior to concrete in colder climates as a parking lot surface. Concrete can become brittle and potentially crack during cold snaps. Salt and de-icing chemicals can damage concrete, particularly if it’s unsealed, and the process of snow plowing can exacerbate damage to its surface. Asphalt is also a better choice for areas with wide temperature fluctuations, as it can expand and contract with some give in the material.
Is Concrete or Asphalt Better for the Environment?
While asphalt and concrete are recyclable, concrete is the better option for an environmentally-friendly parking lot surface. Asphalt is a petroleum-based product, and it uses petrol products both in the installation and in the sealing. When it’s hot outside, and during installation, it can release harmful oil particles to be airborne. Plus, it doesn’t last as long as concrete, so you’ll need to reinstall it more often.