Is Asphalt or Concrete Better in Cold Climates?

Pavement in the U.S. is dominated by two major players – asphalt and concrete. When it comes time to pave your Colorado sidewalk, driveway, or private roadway, you’re probably going to choose asphalt or concrete, but which one is best?

It’s difficult to say that asphalt or concrete is better than the other since your individual project and budget will help determine which to choose but one big factor that can influence your decision is something Colorado is popularly known for – a cold climate.

Is Asphalt or Concrete Better in Cold Climates?

Extreme temperatures including freezing cold can affect concrete and asphalt differently, so you better know which is best when deciding on your new driveway or patio. Let’s learn is asphalt or concrete better in cold climates including how Denver and Colorado’s unique weather can influence your decision.

Installing Concrete in Cold Climates

Concrete, along with steel, is arguably the most important basic building material in the world, but how does it fare in the frigid temperatures of a Colorado winter?

Benefits of Concrete in Cold Climates

  • Low Maintenance – Concrete needs little maintenance throughout its life, even in cold climates. Cold climate issues like ice can affect concrete, but it doesn’t come with maintenance requirements like sealcoating that asphalt requires.
  • Longevity – Concrete is a popular for one big reason – its strength and longevity. Asphalt can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years while a properly formulated and poured concrete installation can last up to 50. If you never want to pave again concrete is a solid choice.

Cons of Concrete in Cold Climates

  • Heaving – Water and ice can penetrate pockets underneath your concrete and cause it to heave upward. Heaving can be fixed but it’ll come at a cost.
  • Prone to Stains – Concrete is more likely to be damaged or stained by common winter materials – like salt. Snow-melt salt can eat into and weaken concrete, slowly reducing its useful life. Other melting compounds like blue chemical salt can also stain concrete.
  • Prone to Cracking – The temperature swings of Colorado’s winters can be too much to handle for concrete and could result in cracking.
  • Expensive Fixes – Concrete is can be more expensive to repair than asphalt.

Asphalt in Cold Climates

Asphalt might not be used to build skyscrapers, but it’s one of the most abundant pavement surfaces in the country. Let’s find out why you’re more likely to find asphalt installed in areas with cold climates like Denver compared to concrete.

Pros of Asphalt in Cold Climates

  • Affordable – No matter what climate you’re installing in, asphalt is an affordable option. Depending on your needs, asphalt can be half the price of concrete. Asphalt is not known to last as long as concrete but a 15 to 30-year lifespan and affordable replacement cost keep asphalt among the most popular paving materials in all climates.
  • Bend but Not Break – Asphalt expands and contracts with the wild temperature swings of Colorado winters, but it’s not likely to break. The ability to handle extreme temperatures without breaking is a great reason to install asphalt over concrete for your Denver project.
  • Easy Fixes – it’s easy to fix cracks and pockmarks in asphalt, though permanent fixes require warm outside temperatures. Asphalt repairs are much more affordable than concrete repairs.
  • Melts Ice Faster – Due to its dark color, asphalt tends to melt snow faster than concrete.

Cons of Asphalt in Cold Climates

  • Can Only Patch in Winter – Asphalt requires warm temperatures for proper patching or installation. You can use cold mix asphalt to take care of small asphalt fixes during the winter, but any major repairs or projects require the warmer temperatures of spring and summer.
  • Requires Maintenance – Other than fixing cracks or divots, concrete does not generally require much maintenance. Asphalt requires a new sealcoat annually thanks to the harsh wind and ice of Colorado winters.

Using a Pavement Professional to Decide on Asphalt or Concrete

Both concrete and asphalt have their unique benefits in colder climates though asphalt does have a slight edge in Colorado’s varying climate. If you’re stuck deciding, take the guesswork out and call a local paving professional for their input. A professional paving company can look over your individual pavement needs, talk budget, and recommend asphalt or concrete based on your needs. Once you’ve talked budget and needs you can make an informed decision on asphalt vs. concrete.

Choosing Asphalt or Concrete for Colorado’s Cold

Both asphalt and concrete are great paving materials but ultimately our nod goes to asphalt for Colorado paving installations thanks to its affordability and bend but not break endurance. If you’re ready to start your own concrete or asphalt project reach out to Colorado Pavement Solutions and let us determine the best choice for your situation – no matter how cold it gets.