Back to top

Concrete vs. Asphalt In Cold Climates

There is nothing worse than being caught off guard by snow or a cold front and left having to deal with shoveling snow off your driveway. Before the cold climate makes its appearance, ensure that you have the adequate essentials and a suitable driveway surface. Concrete vs. Asphalt In Cold Climates, which would be a better option?

Asphalt is better suited to colder climates, while concrete performs better in hotter climates. Removing snow from asphalt is also a lot easier. During cold temperatures, the frost can cause the concrete to crack. De-icing products used on driveways can also damage the concrete finish.

Asphalt and concrete are both used in the manufacture of driveways, yet one product seems to be more suited to the harsh elements of winter. Let’s delve deeper to find out in contrast which products, asphalt or concrete, are more suited to the colder climates and the pros and cons of both. I am sure this will help you choose the most appropriate to suit the inclement weather conditions.

What Is Asphalt?

Asphalt is a mixture of stone, sand, asphalt made from petroleum. The asphalt mixtures vary.

Why Is Asphalt Suitable For Cold Climates?

Asphalt properties change with temperature. Lower temperature prevents the particles from moving, achieving the required density.

What Is Concrete?

Concrete is a composite with a coarse aggregate of sand, natural gravel, and crushed stone bonded with water and cement to form a cement paste that hardens and cures over time.

Why Is Concrete Not Suitable For Cold Climates?

According to Abrams law, “A lower water to cement ratio yields a stronger durable concrete, whereas more water would give concrete a higher slump. Over time, too much exposure to moisture, frost, and snow can adversely affect and cause a premature collapse of the concrete surface.

Intense cold weather can also lead to frost heave, which is a process that causes upward swelling of the soil, which can, over time, result in the formation of cracks on the driveway, eventually leading to more extensive damage.

Icy surfaces can often be hazardous; often de-icing salts are applied to driveways to prevent falls. The challenge of using these salts on concrete driveways is that the chloride irons can penetrate the concrete surface, causing osmotic pressure, leading to corrosion damage and visible surface cracking.

Asphalt tends to soften during intense heat, leading to cracks on the surface, causing the asphalt residue to stick to shoes. However, the worse is having the wrong driveway surface, becoming a safety hazard.

Pros of Concrete In Cold Climates

Although concrete compared to asphalt is not the preferred driveway choice for cold climates, there are some benefits of having concrete in cold temperatures;

Low Maintenance

Concrete is low maintenance even in cold weather. Although snow and frost are not suitable for concrete, it does not require seal coating like asphalt.

Concrete Is Long Lasting

If properly maintained, concrete can last up to 50 years. It dominates asphalt in this department, as it generally only lasts 10 to 30 years.

Concrete Is Versatile

Although concrete may seem dull and gray, you have the flexibility of staining it or stamping patterns to suit the color and ambiance of your home.

Concrete Offers Neater Edges

Concrete is more aesthetically pleasing. Your driveway does not have to look like an extension of the road.

Cons Of Concrete In Cold Climate

Concrete Can Develop Frost Heave

During colder weather, snow, frost, and even heavy rains can penetrate below the surface of the concrete and cause the heave to move upwards. Although you can repair this, it is quite a substantial financial outlay to attend to the repairs.

Concrete Can Crack

Even concrete with its longevity and popularity will crack under pressure. The extreme temperature swings that mother nature dictates in areas prone to cold weather will cause cracking.

Concrete Is Expensive

Concrete is more expensive than asphalt. If exposed to a cold climate considering the effects of this weather on the product, it will be costly to repair.

De-Icing Salts Can Cause Damage And Stain

Concrete has a reputation for getting stained by de-icing salts. It may be common to use de-icing salts on driveways to prevent slipping. However, in the case of concrete, these salts have an adverse effect, leading to the weakening of the concrete.

Concrete Cannot Be Re-Surfaced

Over time, the increments of cold climate will take their toll on concrete, leading to extensive cracking. Unfortunately, it is not possible to resurface concrete.

Pros Of Asphalt In Cold Climate

Asphalt Is Affordable

Although asphalt may not have a reputation for having a longer lifespan than concrete, it is more affordable.

Asphalt Is Highly Durable

The components make it durable, and the lower temperature prevents the particles from moving, but asphalt is one rigid surface during winter. If the area you live in is predominately cold, you won’t go wrong with asphalt.

Cracks Can Be Repaired

Unlike concrete that you cannot resurface, you can fill the cracks on asphalt. These repairs will also be more affordable than concrete. 

Ability To Melt Ice Faster

Asphalt can melt snow much faster than concrete; perhaps it has to do with the dark color of asphalt.

Ice Can Be Easily Removed

The ice removal process is simplified when shoveling on asphalt instead of concrete. There is no stress about the shovel hitting the surface and causing damage to the driveway.

Provides Great Traction

Walking on snow can be tricky; having an asphalt driveway offers much more traction during snowfall, frost, and rain. The surface of asphalt will allow you to find a firm footing.

 Reduces The Risk Of Flooding

With the porous texture of asphalt, the water will run off the surface; there is minimum risk of flooding if your driveway is with asphalt. 

De-Salting Products Do Not Have Adverse Effects

Asphalt driveways can be de-salted at ease without worrying about damaging the surface. You can seal asphalt driveways to prevent slipping.

Cons Of Asphalt In Winter

Warmer Weather Is Required For Proper Patching

Although you can use cold asphalt to patch any urgent surfaces, you can only do proper installation and patching in warmer weather.

Maintenance Is Required

Unlike concrete being low in maintenance, asphalt needs a seal coat annually to withstand the harsh winter climate.

Asphalt Is Not Versatile

Asphalt does not fare well in the area of looks. Use it to surface your driveway, and it will just be an extension of the road. Because it is dark in color, you cannot paint over. Which means you would be stuck looking at the same gloomy colored surface for many years to come. 

The Edges Are Not Straight

The uneven edges that asphalt offers can be quite an eyesore.

Can Soften In Hot Weather

The resistance of the asphalt to hot weather is not conducive. Be very cautious of melting the ice with hot water; you might end up softening this driveway surface and turning it into a sticky mess.

Which Is the Best Asphalt For Winter?

Cold Mix Asphalt is ideal for cold mix solutions. You can use bitumen and water as the perfect binder.

Conclusion

Concrete vs. asphalt in colder climates, the choice is yours. Both are industry leaders. The noticeable differences can draw a significant distinction between them. Asphalt tends to fare well in colder climates, while concrete fares well in warmer weather. The next time you pick up your shovel, consider the surface underneath.

References

Jordan Harris

From the earliest age I can remember, I was planning and building things, and there was no question that Architecture was the right career fit for me. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, I am absolutely thrilled and privileged to share my knowledge and experience with everyone through this blog.

Recent Posts