Categories: Paving Questions

Commercial Paver

Asphalt paving process

When you’re considering a new driveway, road, or patio, understanding what is the difference between paving and asphalt is essential. Essentially, asphalt refers to a specific material—a durable composite made up of minerals and bitumen—commonly used for high-traffic areas. In contrast, paving is an overarching term that describes the action of covering an area with a variety of materials, including asphalt, to create a robust surface. This article will guide you through the distinct characteristics and common applications of each, helping you make an informed decision for your next construction project.

Key Takeaways

  • Asphalt refers to a specific paving material made from mineral aggregate and bitumen, mainly used for high-traffic areas, while paving is a broader term for covering surfaces with various materials such as concrete, stones, or asphalt.

  • Different paving materials involve distinct processes, materials, and maintenance considerations, with asphalt being favored for high-traffic areas due to its durability and concrete pavers offering design versatility for aesthetic appeal.

  • The choice between asphalt and other paving options often depends on factors like climate, traffic, maintenance, lifespan, and budget, with high initial costs potentially offset by lower long-term expenditures for materials like brick pavers.

Asphalt vs. Paving: Definitions and Applications

Comparison between asphalt and paving

Often, we use the terms “asphalt” and “paving” interchangeably. However, they refer to two distinct processes in road and surface construction. Asphalt pavement is a composite material used primarily for high-traffic areas like roads, parking lots, and airports. It consists of mineral aggregate bound together with asphalt, laid in layers, and compacted to create durable, smooth surfaces, known as asphalt pavements.

Contrarily, paving is a more encompassing term that involves covering or laying a walkway or road with solid materials such as concrete, stones, bricks, tiles, or even asphalt, to create a firm and durable surface. Paving finds applications in the construction of roads, driveways, parking lots, and also in laying pavers for aesthetic and functional walkways and patios.

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt is a sticky, black, and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum, which can either be found naturally or as a refined product. The primary materials for making asphalt are rocks crushed in quarries, which are mixed with hot bitumen. This hot bitumen mixture forms the base of hot mix asphalt construction, providing strength and durability to the final surface.

An asphalt surface consists of two key layers. The binder layer, created from a mix of large aggregate and oil, provides the strength and durability of the asphalt surface. On top of this is a thin layer made up of small aggregate, sand, and oil, which offers a smooth finish and aesthetic appeal.

What is Paving?

Paving refers to the process of laying materials such as asphalt, concrete, or stone to create a stable and durable surface. Paving is used for creating infrastructure like roads, walkways, and patios. One common type of paving involves concrete pavers, also known as paving stones. These pavers are produced in predefined shapes, sizes, and colors to be laid over a prepared base of soil and sand.

The design of concrete pavers is highly customizable, offering an array of patterns, colors, and styles that can be tailored to complement the environment or match architectural elements. Achieving a cohesive aesthetic in paving necessitates consideration of design aspects such as incorporating curves to reflect architectural details and choosing colors and textures that blend well with existing structures during the installation of pavers.

Comparing Asphalt and Paving Processes

Asphalt paving process

While asphalt and paving both serve to create durable surfaces, they involve different materials and installation techniques. For instance, asphalt paving requires compaction equipment to ensure a flat and dense surface, which is crucial for durability and longevity. Conversely, various paving methods, such as concrete paving, use different materials, affecting the setting time and method of installation.

Despite these differences, paving processes can be both similar and distinct from one another, depending on the specific method and material used. For instance, while paving with bricks or stones involves individual placement and potentially sand-filling between units, asphalt paving involves a continuous spread of material.

Asphalt Paving Process

The asphalt paving process includes the following steps:

  1. Demolition and removal of the existing surface (asphalt, concrete, or pavers)

  2. Grading and sloping of the surface for proper water drainage

  3. Proof roll using a quad-axle dump truck to verify sub base strength

  4. Repairing any soft areas identified, such as undercutting or using materials like geo-grid

These steps ensure a smooth and durable asphalt surface, using an effective asphalt sealer with a dark gray finish, also known as a seal coat.

Following the grading and sloping, smooth transitions are created for water run-off, leading up to the final step of compacting and smoothing the surface with a roller truck. This compaction ensures that the asphalt surface is flat and dense, contributing to its longevity and durability.

Other Paving Methods

The process of paving with materials other than asphalt begins with a thorough site assessment. This ensures that conditions such as solid, level, and well-drained soil are met before paving. Before pouring the concrete, forms are constructed in the shape of the desired concrete surface, which dictates the final contour of the paved area.

Levelling the concrete, known as screeding, is done using a flat board and tools to smoothen and even out the surface immediately after pouring the concrete. A cure agent is applied to freshly laid concrete to retard water loss, promoting a prolonged curing period which enhances the concrete’s strength and longevity.

Lifespan, Maintenance, and Cost

Comparison of lifespan, maintenance, and cost of asphalt and other paved surfaces

Evaluating the lifespan, maintenance requirements, and costs of asphalt and other paving materials is a crucial step when considering them for your project. their lifespan, maintenance requirements, and costs. Interestingly, asphalt surfaces typically offer a lower initial installation cost compared to some other paving materials, like concrete.

However, considering the full lifespan, the total cost of ownership for asphalt surfaces may be less due to lower maintenance costs over time. Other paved surfaces like concrete, on the other hand, can last more than 40 years with proper installation and maintenance.

Lifespan of Asphalt vs. Other Paved Surfaces

So, how long can you expect these surfaces to last? Asphalt surfaces typically have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, which can extend to approximately 25 years if properly maintained. Concrete driveways can last between 20 to 50 years, averaging about 30 years. Their longevity is affected by elements such as weather, construction quality, and use frequency.

Brick pavers, on the other hand, can have a lifespan exceeding 25 years. With diligent care, some types may last from 50 to 100 years. The use of concrete pavers is increasing due to their flexibility and reusability in construction projects.

Maintenance Requirements

Regular maintenance can significantly extend the lifespan of both asphalt and other paving materials. For example, asphalt driveways require asphalt sealcoating within the first year of installation and then every three to five years to protect against UV rays and prolong the surface life. Asphalt cracks are easier and more aesthetically pleasing to repair compared to other materials, contributing to asphalt’s maintenance advantages.

Conversely, concrete driveways necessitate less frequent maintenance compared to asphalt, needing fewer repairs and sealant applications recommended every five to ten years. Maintenance of paver surfaces usually includes:

  • Regular sweeping

  • Occasional rinsing

  • Pressure washing for heavy stains

  • Replenishing sand in the joints every few years.

Cost Comparison

When it comes to costs, the choice of material can significantly influence the overall budget of your project. The cost of an asphalt driveway is roughly $2.00 to $4.00 per square foot, influenced by the price of bitumen, one of its costliest components.

A concrete driveway incurs costs between $4.00 and $6.00 per square foot, which can escalate up to $15.00 per square foot for specialized finishes and details.

Brick pavers, while initially more expensive, can be more cost-effective in the long run due to their longevity and infrequent need for replacement.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Asphalt and Paving

Advantages and disadvantages of asphalt and paving

Each paving material comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, which can influence your final decision. For instance, asphalt is valued for its durability and longevity, which can be evident in its widespread use for high-traffic areas such as roadways. On the downside, asphalt surfaces may deteriorate more quickly in extreme weather conditions, requiring more frequent repair and maintenance.

Alternatively, other paving materials like concrete are chosen for their aesthetic variety and their ability to complement urban and suburban landscapes. However, non-asphalt paving materials can be more costly and challenging to install, which may extend the duration and cost of construction projects.

Benefits of Asphalt

Asphalt comes with a set of benefits that make it a popular choice for many projects. One of its main advantages is its durability. Asphalt is designed to withstand repeated stress, making it ideal for high-traffic areas like industrial complexes and major thoroughfares.

Asphalt has several advantages, but understanding asphalt differences can help you make the best choice for your project:

  • High skid resistance enhances vehicle safety by reducing accidents

  • Less roadway noise, making it a quieter option for urban areas

  • Flexibility makes it adaptable to different terrains

  • Favored for runways due to excellent tire-surface contact

Drawbacks of Asphalt

Despite its benefits, asphalt does have its drawbacks. A significant concern is its vulnerability to extreme temperatures. High temperatures can cause the bitumen in asphalt to soften, while cold temperatures can make it brittle, both of which alter the pavement’s ability to bear loads.

In addition to this, there are also environmental concerns associated with asphalt production and use. The asphalt heating process emits greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

Benefits of Other Paving Materials

Paving materials other than asphalt also offer several benefits. Concrete pavers offer design flexibility, enabling custom shapes, patterns, and color combinations to enhance property aesthetics.

Materials such as natural stone, stamped concrete, and brick are favored for their durability in cold climates and high-traffic areas, offering features like slip resistance, stability during freeze-thaw cycles, and maintenance of structural integrity. Additionally, alternative paving materials like pavers and permeable pavement provide environmental benefits by allowing water to pass through, reducing runoff, and potentially eliminating the need for expensive drainage systems.

Drawbacks of Other Paving Materials

Despite their advantages, other paving materials also have their drawbacks. One of the main disadvantages is the higher installation costs. Concrete paving slabs and brick pavers are more difficult to install than asphalt, often requiring professional services.

In terms of design, brick pavers provide fewer customization options since they offer limited color and design variations. Furthermore, materials like limestone and slate can be limited in availability and susceptible to damage in certain climates.

Choosing the Right Surface for Your Project

Factors to consider when choosing a paving material

When it comes to choosing the right surface for your project, several factors come into play. These include climate, usage and traffic requirements, and budget constraints. Understanding how each of these factors interacts with different paving materials, such as a flexible surface, can help you make an informed decision.

Climate Considerations

Climate plays a significant role in selecting the ideal paving material for your project. Concrete pavers, for instance, are resistant to climates with freezing and thawing cycles, and are not adversely affected by the application of deicing salts. On the other hand, asphalt surfaces can reach extremely high temperatures during heat waves, with surface temperatures as high as 82 Celsius (180 Fahrenheit) in direct sunlight.

Urban heat islands created by impermeable structures such as buildings and roads contribute to significantly higher temperatures in cities compared to nearby rural areas, affecting the performance and longevity of asphalt surfaces. Therefore, the local climate should be a critical factor in your decision-making process.

Usage and Traffic Requirements

The intended usage and traffic requirements of your surface are another key consideration. High-traffic areas with heavy load demands, like industrial complexes and major thoroughfares, typically require asphalt paving for its ability to withstand repeated stress.

On the other hand, stop-and-go traffic patterns seen in residential or urban areas can cause certain paving materials to deteriorate more quickly, requiring a decision between asphalt and alternatives like concrete based on durability. The presence of larger, heavier vehicles, such as trucks and buses, necessitates a robust pavement structure, often leading to the choice of asphalt due to its high-tensile strength.

Budget Constraints

Finally, budget constraints can profoundly influence the choice of paving material. While options like sandstone, gravel, and crushed stone are more economical, premium materials like granite can be more expensive. Even within a specific type of material, costs can vary. For instance, poured concrete is a flexible and durable paving option that can vary in cost due to the labor-intensive installation process.

Yet, it’s crucial not to overlook the long-term maintenance and replacement costs, not just the initial costs., but also the long-term maintenance and replacement costs. Despite the higher initial cost, materials like brick pavers can end up being more cost-effective in the long run due to their longevity and infrequent need for replacement.


Understanding the differences and similarities between asphalt and other paving materials is key to choosing the right surface for your project. From durability and maintenance requirements to cost and aesthetic appeal, each material has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, the choice between asphalt and other paving materials will depend on your specific project needs, including climate, usage and traffic requirements, and budget constraints. By taking these factors into account, you can ensure that your project is both successful and sustainable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is asphalt cheaper than paving?

Yes, asphalt is typically cheaper to install than pavement due to its lower material and labor costs, making it a more cost-effective option for many projects.

Do pavers last longer than asphalt?

Yes, pavers generally have a longer lifespan and lower maintenance compared to asphalt. This makes them a durable and cost-effective choice for driveways.

Are blacktop and asphalt the same thing?

Yes, blacktop and asphalt are not the same thing because they have different compositions, temperature fluctuations, and mixture ratios. Blacktop contains natural stones, giving it a sparkly finish.

Is sealcoating the same as paving?

Sealcoating is not the same as paving. Paving is used to create and repair asphalt surfaces, while sealcoating helps maintain and protect existing asphalt surfaces.

What is the lifespan of an asphalt surface?

The lifespan of an asphalt surface is typically 15 to 20 years, but with proper maintenance, it can extend to approximately 25 years.