We’re all familiar with asphalt, but what exactly is asphalt? Asphalt is a mixture of aggregates, binder and filler, used for constructing and maintaining roads, parking areas, railway tracks, ports, airport runways, bicycle lanes, sidewalks, hiking trails, as well as play and sports areas.

Aggregates used for asphalt mixtures can be crushed rock, sand, gravel or slag. Certain waste and by products, such as construction and demolition debris are being used as aggregates, which increase the long term sustainability of asphalt.

The view of road surfacing in Phoenix and Tucson, AZ

The parking stalls in a parking lot, marked with yellow lines.

Over 90% of America’s roads are paved with asphalt. Given this staggering statistic, there must be myriad reasons why asphalt is superior to other road surfacing techniques. From driveways to parking lots, from highways to walking trails, asphalt is the number one choice and here are 7 reasons why.

Asphalt paving is safer to drive on than other materials

Road constructing techniques and materials have evolved over the decades to where we are today. When designing a road, and selecting the paving material, safety is a big concern.

The two most common types of roads that you will likely come across are asphalt and concrete. However, you’ll probably drive on asphalt roads much more frequently as asphalt is more popular than concrete.

A major factor in accidents is the road surface. Vehicles often skid or slide when they lose traction, and potholes or cracks also contribute to accidents. Asphalt is considered a safer driving surface because of the porous and absorbent nature of asphalt. This allows water, oil, and other fluids to seep into the material rather than sit on the surface. Concrete roads don’t allow for liquids to pass through freely, which results in them staying on the surface for a longer period of time. The liquids on the surface can cause vehicles to lost traction.

Asphalt roads are smooth and uniform. This allows drivers to seamlessly coast along without having to worry about bumps and holes, providing drivers with a safer and smoother driving experience. In addition, the surface of asphalt provides better grip than concrete.

Finally, asphalt roads provide more contrast in color between road markings and the road itself as compared to concrete. Asphalt is black, while road markings are usually yellow, white, or blue. This provides a clear contrast which results in more visible road markings regardless of the light and weather conditions.

Asphalt paving is 100% recyclable

Asphalt pavement is America’s most recycled material. Each year roughly 100 million tons of asphalt pavement material is reclaimed. Of that 100 million tons, about 95-percent of that is reused in roads and highways, saving taxpayers money by reducing the cost of roads. There are many benefits of recycling asphalt:

  • Recycling old asphalt reduces the amount of new oil needed in the construction process and may reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Recycling helps protect the environment since the recycled material is not sent to a landfill.
  • Recycling the mineral particles that are produced during the process of asphalt pavement helps conserve natural resources.
  • Taxpayers save money with asphalt recycling.
  • Contractors save by reducing energy, materials, and transportation costs.
  • Asphalt can be recycled multiple times, ensuring its value
  • The quality of asphalt pavement is improved when recycled pavement is used. There is a stronger cracking resistance because of the added mineral fillers and organic fibers used in the recycled materials.

Other benefits include:

  • Reduced demand for new asphalt pavement
  • Reduced demand on aggregate
  • Improved HMA mixes
  • Improved asphalt stiffness
  • Decreased susceptibility to rutting
  • Decreased need for “virgin” asphalt

Asphalt is Long Lasting

Asphalt that’s installed by a professional contractor should last anywhere from 15 to 25 years. Its durability is thanks to its flexibility and because of this, it can withstand heavy machinery and vehicles. Most grades of asphalt can easily survive a harsh winter season and boiling summer heat. In the winter, asphalt can expand and contract with the changing temperatures, making it less susceptible to cracking or flaking. In cold weather climates, because of its dark color, asphalt can absorb the suns heat better than other paving materials, allowing snow and ice to melt away faster.

Asphalt is cost efficient and quick to install

Asphalt is generally much cheaper to install than any other paving material, especially concrete. This is one of the main reasons for asphalts popularity. There are a few factors as to why asphalt is so much more affordable than concrete.

  • The cost of the raw materials used to manufacture asphalt is significantly cheaper than concrete. Although the price of each can vary due to market conditions, the raw material for concrete can be as much as twice as expensive as that of asphalt.
  • Quick efficient installation is another reason why asphalt is significantly cheaper than concrete. Quick installation reduces delays caused by roadwork and means less money paid for labor. Concrete takes much longer to install and requires rebar to be placed in the concrete, while the lower labor costs associated with asphalt paving makes it the better choice.
  • Paving with concrete can result in drawn out roadwork, disrupting traffic for much longer periods of time than would be needed for asphalt. The more extended period required for concrete thus results in higher labor costs.
  • As mentioned above, concrete roads often require rebar to reinforce the structure. Rebar is made using iron or steel, which can quickly become very expensive. In addition, concrete often requires the application of a finish to protect it from the elements, again adding to the cost. Asphalt doesn’t need any type of protective coating, as it holds up to weather conditions much more effectively.
  • Asphalt doesn’t require structural support to remain in place. It’s applied evenly to a surface while its hot. It then cools down and sets quickly, producing a smooth and durable surface. Concrete takes much longer to dry, while the process of installing asphalt takes only a few hours to complete, even with a large section of road.

All of these factors taken in consideration, it’s obvious that paving a road with concrete can cost significantly more than using asphalt. In some instances a concrete paving job can cost anywhere from two to three times as much as the same road paved with asphalt.

Asphalt paving provides great water drainage

As mentioned in regard to safer driving, asphalt has better drainage properties than does concrete, but better drainage gives it other advantages. Asphalts water drainage capabilities help redirect water to grassy areas, or other suitable places where the water can be managed. This helps stop a build up of water underneath the asphalt, which could cause heave to occur, creating a problem that would require a work crew to repair.

Asphalt lessens noise pollution

The noise of heavy traffic can really contribute to noise pollution. Traffic noise can be caused by the sheer volume of traffic, the speed the drivers are going, as well as the noise from heavy trucks. Asphalt paving is a great choice for reducing the level of traffic noise, as it’s great for absorbing sound. Rubberized asphalt is even more effective at reducing noise levels. This type of asphalt is made by mixing in recycled tires, and it can help reduce the noise levels of busy roads even further.  Each year millions of old tires wind up in landfills, so recycling them into a mix with asphalt is a great idea.

Asphalts smoothness makes for a great ride.

Last but not least, asphalt paving provides you with a smooth surface that’s a pleasure to drive or walk on. Asphalts smoothness also makes it a greener option. Studies have shown that the smoothness of paving can actually help reduce fuel consumption. Vehicles that travel on a smoother surface use less fuel. When cars and trucks use less fuel, they emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. With asphalt, ones it’s been paved smooth, it will continue to be smooth as long as it’s maintained properly.

Taking in all of this information points to asphalt being the best choice for paving roads, parking lots, driveways bike or hiking trails, or any other surface. If you have a paving project in your future you should give strong consideration to using asphalt as the paving material of choice.

Cactus Asphalt is a Phoenix, AZ-based asphalt paving company well-known for its ability to quickly and efficiently perform both residential and commercial services. For over 39 years, we have provided paving for new construction, seal coating, crack sealing, and more, making us Arizona’s number one name in asphalt paving. We have the experience and resources to ensure that you will make an impression on all who visit your property. We promise to keep our customers happy, which is one reason they keep coming back for additional services. For additional information about our company or the services we offer, visit our website, or contact us at 923-207-8391.