Commercial Construction & Contracting Resources

Should I Install an Asphalt Parking Lot or a Concrete Parking Lot?

Posted by Tom Owings on May 11, 2018

asphalt parking lot

If you’re ready to update your existing commercial parking lot or install a new one, you’re most likely deciding between asphalt and concrete. Each can be the better choice in certain situations. You’ll have to consider the following variables, among others:

  • Heavy-duty traffic vs. average traffic
  • Regional weather patterns
  • Ongoing maintenance

Here’s an easy breakdown of the benefits of both.

The Benefits of an Asphalt Parking Lot

1. More Visually Appealing & Safe

An asphalt parking lot naturally has a very smooth, appealing black color - especially if it’s fresh asphalt or newly sealcoated.

Now, here’s something few people actually consider. Asphalt’s dark appearance contrasts perfectly with lighter yellow or white traffic/parking stripes to be much safer as a visual cue that reduces the risk of an accident.

By virtue of being darker, it also absorbs more heat and sunlight. It’ll melt slippery snow and ice more quickly.

2. More Expandable for Freezing/Thawing

Although it may appear solid, asphalt is porous and relatively flexible even after it hardens. While this may be asphalt’s downfall in certain conditions, it stands up to Central Ohio’s damaging freeze-thaw cycle better compared to concrete, which is more solid and will heave and crack permanently.

This is because ideal asphalt compaction leaves a small percentage of air voids that allow the material to expand and contract.

3. The Durable (& Cost-Effective) Choice

Because it’s more pliable, asphalt will also absorb repeated abuse from regular traffic quite well. A well-maintained asphalt parking lot could last up to 20 years. Asphalt also holds up better to rock salt and brine used for snow/ice removal when compared to concrete.

To ensure a long, useful life for your asphalt, remember these quality control installation factors and some common-sense preventive maintenance tips.

When concrete begins to deteriorate, you usually must rip it up and start from scratch. Asphalt, however, can be milled down and overlaid with a fresh surface several times before having to start anew.

4. Friendlier to the Environment

Asphalt is one of the most recycled materials on the planet. Each ton recycled can be given new life as reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) - as either a construction aggregate used as the top dressing for another parking lot or remixed in hot-mix asphalt (HMA).

While concrete can be crushed and recycled, as well, asphalt is the heaviest byproduct of the crude oil refining process. RAP reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.

5. Speedy Installation

An asphalt parking lot can be laid in just a few hours or days. In that time, it should have sufficiently cooled and compacted enough to do its job. Concrete could take a week or more to fully cure and harden.

The Benefits of a Concrete Parking Lot

1. Supports More Heavy Duty Traffic

A parking lot that holds heavy tractor trailer traffic every day needs a little more support from a thick slab of concrete. A 9-ton big rig will do 400 times more damage in one trip on a driving surface than an average car.  

2. Better in Extreme Heat

While asphalt is dark and absorbs heat and sunlight, concrete is lighter and reflects it. Excessive heat can lead to tire blowouts, which aren’t as much an issue on concrete.

3. More Difficult to Cut Corners

Concrete is laid in thick slabs. It’s easier to determine visually if they don’t measure up to predetermined thickness requirements.

With asphalt, however, dishonest contractors may try to get away with laying less asphalt than necessary for ideal thickness after compaction. So, in those instances, you end up paying for asphalt that wasn’t actually used - and they walk away with more profit.

4. Less Routine Upkeep

Concrete may only require periodic joint sealing and semi-regular cleaning. Admittedly, asphalt needs a little more cleaning, crack sealing, sealcoating, and sometimes overlays to prevent potholes and other serious damage.

The Choice: Asphalt vs. Concrete For Your Commercial Parking Lot

You may need an asphalt parking lot to handle traffic from everyday shoppers, or perhaps a concrete lot for frequent big rig stops. Asphalt more easily expands and contracts to better withstand the freeze-thaw cycle, while concrete may need less upkeep over time. Asphalt can be installed more quickly and for less upfront expense, and it’s also more environmentally friendly.

Your choice will impact your business or organization for years to come. If you need help walking through the decision, give us a call at (740) 223-7275.


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Topics: Parking Lot, Asphalt Paving, Ohio construction

Written by Tom Owings