Commercial Construction & Contracting Resources

Concrete vs. Asphalt Parking Lots: Which Should You Install?

Posted by Tom Owings on May 11, 2018
Tom Owings

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If you’re ready to update your existing commercial parking lot or install a new one, you may be comparing the pros and cons of concrete and asphalt parking lots.

The best choice depends on: 

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

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

Asphalt Parking Lot Advantages

1. Safer & Easier to Navigate

The color of asphalt contrasts well with yellow or white traffic stripes and pavement markings, which can make your parking lot safer and reduce the risk of an accident.

2. More Reliable in Ohio's Freezing/Thawing Cycle

Although it may appear solid, asphalt is porous and relatively flexible even after it hardens. While this may be an issue in certain areas where water flows through the lot, it stands up to Central Ohio’s damaging freeze-thaw cycle better than concrete.

By virtue of being darker, it also absorbs more heat and sunlight. Asphalt melts slippery snow and ice more quickly than concrete.

Concrete is more solid, and will heave and crack permanently in the same conditions.

3. Durable & Cost-Effective

Because it’s more pliable, asphalt will also absorb repeated abuse from regular traffic. A well-maintained asphalt parking lot can last up to 20 years.

Asphalt also holds up better to rock salt and brine used for snow/ice removal when compared to concrete.

When concrete begins to deteriorate, you usually rip it up and start over. Asphalt, however, can be milled down and overlaid several times.

4. Friendlier to the Environment

Asphalt is one of the most frequently recycled materials on the planet. Recycled asphalt can be repurposed as reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP). RAP can be used as the top dressing for another parking lot or remixed in hot-mix asphalt.

While concrete can also be crushed and recycled, asphalt is the heaviest byproduct of the crude oil refining process. Using recycled asphalt has a larger net impact on the environment.

5. Speedy Installation

An asphalt parking lot can be laid in just a few hours or days. Concrete could take a week or more to fully cure and harden.

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Concrete Parking Lot Advantages

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 can 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 happen much less frequently on concrete.

If you're in a hot area, concrete comes out on top here.

3. More Difficult to Cut Corners

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

With asphalt, some contractors may try to get away with laying less asphalt than necessary. So, in those instances, you end up paying for asphalt that wasn’t actually used.

4. Less Routine Upkeep

Concrete may only require periodic joint sealing and semi-regular cleaning.

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

Choose asphalt if:

  1. You need your parking lot to handle Ohio's damaging freeze-thaw cycles (along with the salt and brine in winter)
  2. You want your parking lot to be very easy to navigate
  3. You want a base that will last for years without major repairs
  4. You're interested in recycled materials
  5. You need your lot laid quickly

On the other hand, concrete may be best if:

  1. You experience frequent traffic from heavy vehicles and large trucks
  2. You're located in a hot environment
  3. You're worried about contractor reliability
  4. You don't want to worry about ANY maintenance, but don't mind replacing your lot every few years

If you need assistance with parking lot construction, feel free to contact us.

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Topics: Parking Lot, Asphalt Paving, Ohio construction