Why Are Roads Made of Asphalt and Not Concrete?

Why Are Roads Made of Asphalt

Roads are a necessity, and they have been since trade first began in ancient cultures. Traveling along an established route made for a simpler and easier trade experience, and roads have been an important part of our infrastructure ever since. At approximately 625 B.C., asphalt was used to build roads for the first time in Babylon, and it set a tradition in motion.

The first modern asphalt road was created in 1824 when large chunks of natural asphalt rock were used to pave a huge boulevard in Paris, France. Nearly a century later, asphalt made from refined petroleum outpaced natural asphalt in production and usage. In the early 20th century, as automobiles became more popular, the demand for high-quality roads led to various innovations in asphalt paving.

Today, 94% of roads in the United States are made using asphalt, and nearly 900,000 miles of American roads were paved with asphalt in 2016, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Asphalt is also one of the most recycled materials, with more than 70 million metric tons recycled annually.

Asphalt vs. Concrete Roads

When choosing a paving material, your two biggest options are concrete and asphalt. They each pose advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider these when selecting your paving material. From costs to durability, there are a variety of factors at play.

The Benefits of Asphalt Roads

When it comes to concrete vs. asphalt roads, the first main difference is the durability of asphalt as a material. Although concrete often has a longer lifespan than asphalt, concrete does not fare well against a multitude of environmental conditions. In a city with harsh seasonal weather, such as spring freeze/thaw cycles, concrete is more likely to crack, due to the way concrete is composed. Concrete is also more likely than asphalt to become slippery during rain or snow. In contrast, asphalt absorbs heat from the sun to naturally help clear the roads after storms, including melting snow.

Repairing concrete can also be much more difficult. Holes, cracks, and other structural issues cannot just be patched over; the entire section of pavement must be taken out and replaced. In comparison, a minor asphalt repair can be completed easily by the average person, and a major repair is cheaper and easier than with concrete. Concrete also has a long curing period after installation and repairs, while asphalt roads can be driven on much sooner after installation.

Another major difference is in the texture of each surface. Asphalt generally produces a smoother and often quieter driving experience, especially when relatively new. When installing concrete, the texture is brushed into the surface to create enough grip for cars. This texture can make for a bumpier and noisier driving experience. Asphalt can also have more grip than concrete, and naturally offers better skid resistance and traction.

Contact Us Today

At A. Macchione Brothers, we provide first-class commercial asphalt paving services with professionalism and experience. We are a family-owned company and one of the most highly recommended names in the industry. If you are looking for a team that understands your needs and can help you achieve your goals, we encourage you to contact us to request an estimate.