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Paving Puzzle: Concrete vs. Asphalt Paving

22 Apr

Question: Which is more expensive to pave with?

Concrete
1 yard weighs 2 tons
Costs $130

Asphalt
2 tons
Costs $130

You need twice as much concrete than you would need asphalt.  In the example here, we’re assuming a depth of 6″.

To pave this section with concrete, you would need 2″ of base rock and 4″ of concrete.  To pave the same area with asphalt, you would need 4″ of base rock and 2″ of asphalt.  So even though the cost for each pavement is $130 for 2 tons, you can spread that asphalt over twice as much area.

The reason that the amount of each pavement that you would need differs is because concrete is a rigid pavement and asphalt is a flexible pavement.  Have you ever walked on an asphalt pavement surface on an extremely hot day?  You can almost feel the pavement flexing underneath your feet.

Now, based on that math, you would think that paving with asphalt would cost half as much as concrete, but there is more to it than that.  Paving with asphalt requires more equipment, so that increases the up front costs, but asphalt is still the cheaper up front cost option.

Another factor, however, is the ongoing cost of ownership.  With concrete, you can set it and forget it.  The concrete will continue to harden and should last 30 years.  Asphalt requires maintenance, and with a routine sealcoating plan every 5 years, you should be able to have your asphalt last 30 years as well. Every sealcoat adds on to the total cost of ownership, and at some point, those costs will overtake the initial up from cost of concrete.

Asphalt gets the rock and sand heated up to about 400 degrees.  Then the asphalt cement is heated up to about 350 degrees.

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