Driveways can be constructed from a variety of materials, including gravel, concrete, brick, tar and chip, and asphalt. Like every other material on the list, asphalt driveways have their pros and cons. They are often less expensive, more flexible, and more resistant to cold than other options. On the flip side, the need to seal these driveways can be a major disadvantage to some, and asphalt driveways are not as strong as some other materials, nor are they ideal for hotter climates.
Price is generally a major consideration for almost any home improvement or home construction project. It is typically much less expensive to install an asphalt driveway, often referred to as a blacktop driveway, than some of the other options available, especially for longer or larger driveways. Creating a large driveway from concrete or brick can be expensive.
For some, however, the money saved in installing a residential asphalt driveway may not make up for the money and time spent on maintaining it. Ultraviolet rays from the sun and even oxygen can cause untreated asphalt driveways to become weak and possibly brittle. This can lead to cracks on the surface, which will allow water to seep in. In cold winter months, this water will freeze, which can make cracks larger. Most experts recommend that people seal an asphalt driveway every few years to prevent this type of damage.
Asphalt driveways are considered to be flexible pavements, which means that they move and bend when certain heavy loads are applied. Because these driveways can bend, usually if the soil shifts or settles below them, they can simply move with it instead of cracking like concrete. This flexibility also make asphalt the better choice for driveways built on a slope.
The flexibility of asphalt driveways can be also be a disadvantage, though. Because of this characteristic, it is not considered to be as strong as some other material, such as brick or concrete. Asphalt can be damaged by heavy equipment or machinery. The weight of these vehicles could possibly cause indentations in the asphalt, causing the surface to become uneven or irregular.
Climate can be a major factor in deciding whether asphalt is a good material for a driveway. In colder climates with snowy, freezing winter months, asphalt is considered to be the way to go. Asphalt driveways can be plowed much easier than gravel, and adding salt to melt the ice will not typically harm them as it can with concrete. Also, because asphalt is more flexible and can contract and expand, it is less likely to crack than concrete.
Homeowners in hotter climates, however, may want to avoid laying an asphalt driveway. The asphalt itself, used to bind together the small stones, can actually begin to melt. This can leave the surface of the driveway soft, making it more prone to indentations.