Gravel vs. Asphalt Driveway

Gravel vs. asphalt driveway: A guide to choosing the best option for your next project

Driveway installation offers many options when it comes to the material needed to get the job done effectively, leaving lots of property owners in a dilemma when deciding which option is best suitable for them. 

If you are building a new home or simply renewing portions of your existing property, using the correct driveway material is vital. You will be needing a dependable and long-lasting material that will resist even harsh weather conditions irrespective of whether you are installing a new driveway or resurfacing an existing one.

There are many options available when it comes to the materials needed for a new driveway installation. It includes asphalt and gravel, which are the most commonly used choices for different pavement projects. 

The type of material you choose for your driveway can have a significant impact on not only how it appears, but also how it functions and lasts. Both asphalt and gravel are made out of a mix of stone and other materials that give them different levels of durability and attractiveness. While gravel is commonly used for sidewalks and patios, pavers utilize asphalt to build driveways and parking lots. Regardless of their variances, both materials make great driveways.

Asphalt is a very attractive and long-lasting material, but it requires more upkeep and is more expensive, whereas gravel is less expensive but does not look as beautiful as asphalt and will wash out with time. Nonetheless, it is difficult to state whether gravel is better than asphalt or vice versa since the best product is determined by your needs, property, budget, and other factors.

Both asphalt and gravel driveways are good choices for your home. However, to help you narrow down your choices, we’ll pit gravel vs. asphalt driveway against each other to discover which is better in different conditions and which offers more advantages or disadvantages than the other.

So, what are the differences between asphalt and gravel driveway?

The below highlights are the main differences between asphalt and gravel driveway which will guide you in deciding which material to choose for your next project:

  • A gravel driveway is more cost-effective to install than an asphalt driveway.
  • When it comes to appearance, an asphalt driveway offers more aesthetic appeal than a gravel driveway.
  • Asphalt driveways can melt hazardous ice and snow faster than gravel driveways; hence, it is more suitable for snow/ice.
  • The beautiful appearance of an asphalt driveway can add value to your property compared to a gravel driveway.
  • Gravel will inevitably wash out if it is used in areas that are susceptible to flooding, while asphalt will not.
  • A gravel driveway can be displaced by weight from heavy equipment and gravels, while asphalt can withstand heavy weights without displacement.
  • The roughness of gravel makes it more difficult on vehicles compared to asphalt.
A youngster playing on asphalt driveway

What do Asphalt Driveways do well?

  • Asphalt driveway offers a smooth and comfortable surface
  • An asphalt driveway is aesthetically pleasing.
  • An asphalt driveway is flexible
  • An asphalt driveway is durable
  • An asphalt driveway is very suitable for snow/ice
  • It is cost-effective to install

Asphalt is the most widely used paving material for residential driveways, as well as roadways and highways. It has several advantages that make it ideal for constructing driveways and offering a surface for other projects. Hence, asphalt is used to cover 94 percent of America’s roads, and it’s easy to see why. To better analyze the difference between gravel vs. asphalt driveway, let’s look at the following main pros of asphalt driveway:

Asphalt driveway offers a smooth and comfortable surface

Asphalt driveway offers uniform, even surface that can not be matched by other pavements like gravel and concrete. Rough driveway surfaces are less safe compared to smooth driveways since uneven surfaces enhance driver fatigue and decrease control. 

In addition, a smooth asphalt driveway also decreases rolling resistance (the friction between a vehicle tire and the driveway’s surface), which equates to improved fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. Smooth roads offer better tire contact, making for a safer (and more fun) ride. This feature is also very beneficial to airport users. Because asphalt taxiways and runways are smoother and easier to maintain, they allow for safer landings and takeoffs.

An asphalt driveway is aesthetically pleasing.

For many individuals, asphalt is the preferred paving material for aesthetics, even over concrete. The smooth black surface of the asphalt driveway creates curb appeal and is hard to be compared to gravel or poorly laid, dirt brick pavers. In addition, a driveway paved with asphalt creates lines that add a sense of style, elegance, and grace, complementing practically any home or business. 

So, whether you’re contemplating various driveway arrangements for a new home or resurfacing an old driveway, the style you choose can add a lot of curb appeal and resale value to your business or home.

An asphalt driveway is flexible.

When it comes to weighing between gravel vs. asphalt driveway flexibility, asphalt takes the lead. Asphalt can be engineered to provide appropriate solutions for various types and sizes of driveways, roadways, lanes, cycling paths, and lots more.

Because all asphalt pavements have a bridging effect and are flexible, they can be custom-formulated and built to support the traffic load and climatic conditions of a particular driveway. There are unique asphalt mix solutions for highways, suburban, urban, and rural roads, and their flexibility is especially effective in dealing with the pressures of heavy traffic loads on bridges.

In addition, due to the flexibility of bitumen, asphalt surfaces can be engineered to withstand high-temperature cycles in places where roadways are subjected to repeated freezing and thawing. They can be made to fit any traffic, soil, or material requirements.

An asphalt driveway is durable.

An asphalt driveway can span for 12 to 35 years if properly maintained. Although the length of time your asphalt driveway lasts is dependent on your local climate, installation, use, and other factors. However, you should expect a service life of 10 to 20 years. In addition, it is worthy of note that the better you care for it, like most other aspects of your home, the longer it will last.

An asphalt driveway is very suitable for snow/ice.

The blacktops of the asphalt driveway surface absorb the sun’s heat, making them an excellent choice for chilly climates. Asphalt driveways are capable of melting hazardous snow and ice faster than gravel driveways.

It is cost-effective to install

In terms of installation cost comparison between gravel vs. asphalt driveway, gravel is less expensive than asphalt; nonetheless, asphalt is still a viable paving option. With just a few dollars you can install a sleek, aesthetic appeal asphalt driveway for your home or business area.

This image shows the gravel getting with the shovel by the worker.

What do gravel driveways do well? 

  • Quick to install
  • Very inexpensive to install
  • It can easily be maintained
  • A gravel driveway is tough and rugged

The following are some of the main advantages of installing a gravel driveway for your residential or commercial properties:

Quick to install

For many homeowners who reside in places where there is a limited window of opportunity for home improvement, owing to weather concerns, having a speedier installation time makes a significant difference. Gravel is one of the simplest driveway materials to install; it takes less than one week to install a gravel driveway and allow it to settle. Consequently, It would be ready for use as soon as it’s installed.

Very inexpensive to install.

The greatest asset that gravel has is its affordability. It is one of the most cost-effective surface material solutions, particularly for homes with long driveways. Therefore, gravel is a wonderful option to consider if you have a large-scale rural property or roadway and need to conserve money.

It can easily be maintained

Many people believe that a gravel driveway is just as easy to maintain as an asphalt driveway. Gravel doesn’t require much maintenance work. Besides, it can not chip, crack, and most importantly, gravel driveway does not develop potholes. Hence, it is a common choice if you are considering creating a driveway or back road that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep. 

Also, in weighing the environmental benefits between gravel vs. asphalt driveway, gravel is a more environmentally favorable product than asphalt, since it is permeable, allowing groundwater to be replenished.

A gravel driveway is tough and rugged

Gravel is simply crushed stone, and we all know how tough stone can be. As a result, a gravel driveway can withstand daily traffic as well as farm equipment and heavy loads. 

In addition, due to its toughness, it is of less concern regarding whether it will break or not. Consequently, the more the traffic, the more it simply becomes gravel. Gravel durable features make it a popular choice to consider when heavyweight vehicles or industrial equipment is involved.

View of sea from macadam asphalt driveway with a modern house.

What are some problems with asphalt driveways?

The below are some of the main drawbacks associated with asphalt driveway installation:

  • It can be damaged during intense heat
  • It requires regular maintenance.
  • Limited customizing style
  • Susceptible to damage under heavy Loads

It can be damaged during intense heat

Temperature fluctuations, especially during intense heat, can damage asphalt driveways. Therefore, when asphalt heats up, it softens and becomes malleable, causing warping and indentations. 

As the temperature rises in the summer, your asphalt driveway may become more pliable and vulnerable to damage. Due to these concerns, homes in warm locations may be vulnerable to driveway damage induced by temperature fluctuations, particularly intense heat.

It requires regular maintenance.

As a homeowner, it is ideal that you get your asphalt driveway cleaned using a power washer and a broom at least twice a year to get rid of debris and dirt. It is also recommended by experts that you seal coat your pavement every two to five years, and repair cracks and holes immediately they are identified. The maintenance cost for gravel vs. asphalt driveway differs. Although asphalt is inexpensive when it comes to maintenance, it can chip, divot, and needs to be sealed regularly to stay strong.

Limited customizing style

If you have much interest in style and color when it comes to beautifying your landscape, an asphalt-paved driveway will offer certain limitations. Even though asphalt complements the tone and color of most homes, black is the only available option for asphalt installations.

Susceptible to damage under heavy Loads 

While the flexibility of asphalt enables it to handle most large loads, such as a garbage truck, it can still be vulnerable to damage from heavy loads, especially during periods of extreme cold or heat.

This image shows the sand with tools and rocks on top.

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What are some problems with gravel driveways? 

The following points highlight some of the main drawbacks of gravel driveways: 

It can develop ruts and sinkholes

Gravel driveways with a lot of traffic are more likely to create ruts. Ruts are voids or holes in the surface that must be filled immediately you notice it, to keep the portion smooth and attractive again.

It can be rendered ineffective during extreme weather.

If you’ve ever tried to clear snow or ice from a gravel driveway, you know how difficult it is. Not only is it difficult, but it also takes an inordinate amount of time. Gravel does not hold up in the face of harsh weather. As a result, ice can readily become lodged between each piece of gravel, making the surface uneven and slick. In terms of performance comparison between gravel vs. asphalt driveway, asphalt is much more prone to damage during intense weather.

It can become dirty.

It is an obvious fact that dirt and dust are displaced each time you pull into your gravel driveway. However, this not only leaves an ugly grey film on your automobile, but it also discharges dust particles into the air rendering your home’s exterior unclean, requiring constant cleaning.

Weeds thrive in gravel.

If you want a weed-free driveway, a gravel driveway isn’t going to cut it. It’s no surprise that weeds thrive in this type of driveway. Even if you eliminate it manually or with cans of weed-killing chemicals, regrowth is almost unavoidable, and it can seriously detract the appearance of your driveway.

It can wash out

Gravel isn’t as well-fixed as asphalt, therefore it will eventually wash away. For that reason, a gravel driveway is not a perfect option in areas that are susceptible to flooding if you don’t want to lose your driveway after a few strong downpours.

What Is the Life Expectancy of a Gravel Driveway?

Your gravel driveway can span up to 100 years if you take proper care of it. Gravel has the advantage of being able to be repaired and renewed regularly. On the other hand, if asphalt and concrete driveways experienced wear and damage, it can be difficult to fix, and replacement is somewhat cheaper than costly repairs.

In addition, gravel is also less susceptible to frost heave, or yearly freeze-thaw cycles, which can cause considerable cracking and settle in solid road materials. The life expectancy of gravel vs. asphalt driveway has a big gap; without a doubt, gravel driveway lasts longer.

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Gravel driveways are a low-cost option, whereas asphalt driveways offer a strong, flat surface that is easy to shovel in the winter and comfortable to park on all year. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each surface option before deciding on a material to use for your next paving project. Evaluate your choices and seek the advice of a skilled professional to help you make the best decision for your property.