Concrete Vs Asphalt: What is The Difference

Though they are both building and paving materials, concrete and asphalt are quite different. Asphalt is a type of petrochemical, while concrete is made of Portland cement, water and aggregate. A material called asphalt concrete is asphalt mixed with an aggregate such as gravel.

Benefits of Asphalt
Though it is also used in roofing materials such as shingles and roofing felt, asphalt is famous for being used to pave roads. Unlike concrete, freshly laid asphalt is extremely smooth when it is laid over a highway. Some drivers describe it as “velvety.” Because of this smoothness, vehicles suffer less wear and tear and enjoy more fuel efficiency. Passengers enjoy a quieter ride. Asphalt roads also last longer than roads made of concrete or macadam.

Asphalt is also less expensive than other materials used for paving and can be laid down quickly. It is flexible while concrete is far more vulnerable to the freeze-thaw cycle. The darkness of asphalt, when compared to the light color of concrete, lets snow and ice melt faster and allows drivers to better see highway lane markings. Another advantage of asphalt is that it is recyclable and sustainable. Indeed, in a list of all recyclable products made in America, asphalt ranks first. Every year, 80 million tons of asphalt are recycled.

Benefits of Concrete
Unlike asphalt, concrete is a type of artificial stone. As such it is very strong and durable. It also has a low carbon footprint and doesn’t burn or rust or give off toxic fumes. Like asphalt, it is excellent at sound insulation. It is does not cost much to maintain and is 100 percent recyclable when it is broken up into aggregate. The materials to make concrete are easy to find in most places on earth. Most asphalt has to be refined from petroleum though some is found naturally in oil and tar sands and seeps.

Another benefit that concrete has over asphalt is that it is extremely versatile. Concrete is not just used for pavement but for the construction of entire buildings and other needful structures. Its thermal mass allows it to keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, especially when it is combined with radiant heat or geothermal heat pumps. Since it is cured in forms, concrete can be made into a variety of shapes and can be dyed, stained and polished. This makes it an excellent flooring material as well as a good material for sinks and countertops.

Both concrete and asphalt have their benefits, and they both excel at doing the jobs that are required of them. Nothing tops asphalt when it comes to pavements. But concrete has an edge when it comes to the sheer amount of uses it can be put to.

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