Parking Lot Surface Options

If you feel like you don’t know much about the options available for a new parking lot, you’re not alone. There’s a lot of information online about the various types of surface choices you have and all that information can be confusing. 

Thankfully, we’re breaking down the best parking lot surface options for you right here so you don’t have to look any further. 

The five main parking lot surface options are:

  1. Asphalt
  2. Concrete
  3. Gravel
  4. Tar and chip
  5. Pavers

Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of each of these surface options so you can make the decision that’s best for your business’s needs. 

The Five Best Parking Lot Surface Options

While each surface material has its merits, there are some details that might make one better for your needs than another. We’ve included a breakdown of each material below to make comparing them easier for you. 

A newly installed asphalt over the concrete driveway

Surface Option #1: Asphalt Parking Lots

Asphalt is:

Asphalt Parking Lot Pros And Cons

Pro: Durability

Asphalt surfaces last a long time. An asphalt parking lot can last 25-30 yearsif it is maintained well. This means your initial investment in the parking surface will extend far into the future. 

Pro: Immediate Usability

Unlike some other parking lot options, asphalt parking lots can be driven on near immediately after installation. This is a big plus for many business owners, who want to ensure that customers can park at their buildings as soon as possible. 

Neutral: Cost

In general, paving or repaving a parking lot can be an expensive project. However, when you choose asphalt for the surface of your lot, you can save a considerable amount of money compared to other parking lot surface options like concrete. 

In 2020, Home Advisor estimated the cost to pave an asphalt lot to be between $2.50 to $4.50 per square foot. 

Asphalt parking lots are in the average price range for what it costs to install a parking lot: asphalt surfaces aren’t overly expensive but they aren’t remarkably inexpensive either. 

Think of asphalt as that trusty, reliable solution you can count on. It won’t be super cheap, but it won’t completely empty your wallet, either. 

Con: Regular Maintenance

To keep your asphalt parking lot in top shape and looking good for customers, it’s recommended that the surface of the lot be thoroughly cleaned at least twice a year. The asphalt should also be seal-coated every 2-5 years

While this may not seem like too heavy a maintenance schedule to some, other business owners may find the need for upkeep to be a deterrent. 

Con: One Look

Unlike some other surface options, asphalt generally always looks the same: black and semi-smooth. While looks won’t affect the functionality of your parking lot, and many people like the look of asphalt, you may want to consider other options if you have a specific aesthetic in mind. 

Different cars parked on concrete parking lot with numbers guide.

Surface Option #2: Concrete Parking Lots

Concrete is:

  • More expensive than most other parking lot surface options.
  • Time-consuming to install. 
  • Extremely long-lasting. 
  • Very easy to maintain. 
  • Diverse and customizable to fit your aesthetic goals.

Concrete Parking Lot Pros And Cons

Pro: Durability

Concrete parking surfaces are extremely durable and can last up to 30 years after installation. Unlike other surface options which may last half that amount of time or less, concrete lots pay for their price of their initial investment in the long term. 

Pro: Little Maintenance

One characteristic of concrete lots that many business owners like is that they require little-to-no maintenance. 

Generally, it’s recommended that concrete parking surfaces be power-washed once a year, and that any chips or cracks be filled in. Otherwise, there’s little ongoing work that needs to be done on them.

Pro: More finish options

Unlike asphalt and gravel parking lots, concrete parking surfaces can be customized to have different finishes. Thus, they can take on unique appearances that could help your business stand out and make a positive impression on customers. 

Con: Cost

On the higher end of parking surface prices, concrete lots cost between $4.00 and $7.00 per square foot of paving. This means that concrete lots can easily cost more than double the price of an asphalt lot of the same size, and much more than some cheaper surfacing options like gravel or tar and chip lots. 

Con: Delayed Usability

Unlike asphalt surfaces, which can be used almost as soon as they’re poured, concrete parking lots must be undisturbed for approximately one week. 

While you can be sure your concrete parking lot will look great when it’s done, you will have to close your lot off to customers while the cement sets. 

This is one of the proposed options for a parking lot surface

Surface Option #3: Gravel Parking Lots

Generally, gravel lots are:

  • Much less expensive than other parking surface options.
  • Immediately usable after construction.
  • Not very durable.
  • Very maintenance-heavy.
  • Not the best-looking surfacing option.

Gravel Parking Lot Pros And Cons

Pro: Cost 

Gravel is one of the least expensive surface options available for parking lots. At only $1.25 to $2.00 per square foot of gravel, this option can be as little as half the cost of asphalt surfacing, and just a quarter of the cost of concrete surface options. 

The affordability of gravel lots are perhaps their strongest selling point, thought there can be other benefits as well. 

Pro: Immediately Usable

Gravel lots can also be used immediately after being created. Unlike concrete which requires time to set and dry, gravel can be driven across as soon as it’s put down. 

This means that if you need a parking surface fast or by a specific deadline, gravel could be a good option for you. All that is needed is to spread out the gravel stones to fit the shape of your lot and your parking area is ready for customers. 

However, while you may be thinking that a gravel lot is the best option for your business, there are a few less-than-appealing points you should know about, too. 

Con: Durability

While the individual stones that make up a gravel lot are, technically, quite durable, your lot as a whole may not be. 

Though some sources claim that gravel lots can last up to 100 years, this is possible only with heavy and regular maintenance, which we’ll discuss next. Without regular and extensive maintenance, it’s highly likely that your gravel parking surface will last less than 7 years, if that

Gravel has a tendency to shift over time as vehicles and customers move over it. The gravel can shift so much that it can be wiped away completely from sections of your lot, leaving the bare ground exposed beneath the gravel. 

While the inconvenience of this shifting may concern individual business owners differently, it’s clear that the durability of gravel lots as a whole is quite minimal. This brings us to the next con regarding gravel parking lots. 

Con: Frequent Maintenance

Because gravel lots are not very durable, the maintenance required to keep them in good condition is quite extensive. In order to keep up with the shifting of gravel and the bald spots that can develop, your lot will need to be raked out very often, possibly once a week. 

Additionally, though the initial cost of gravel is very low, it’s likely you’ll find yourself ordering in more gravel to maintain the lot, as gravel is gradually carried away by vehicle tires and customers’ shoes over time. 

Depending how often you have to order in maintenance gravel, this could lead to another significant expense for your business. 

Con: Poor Aesthetics

Last, though certainly not least in the eyes of your customers, gravel lots tend not to look the best. While business owners may like that they are cheap to install, it’s worth considering that they look quite cheap, too. 

Additionally, gravel lots often kick up dirt and dust when traffic moves over them, which can stick to customers’ automobiles and irritate your patrons. 

A white parking lot line guide over Tar and Chip.

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Surface Option #4: Tar And Chip Parking Surfaces

Tar and chip parking lots:

  • Are less expensive than most other parking lot surface options.
  • Don’t last as long as other parking lots. 
  • Can be customized to different colors to fit your vision. 
  • Don’t require much maintenance, though they do require careful considerations.
  • Can be used almost instantly. 

Tar And Chip Parking Lot Pros And Cons

Pro: Cost

Much like gravel lots, tar and chip is one of the least expensive kinds of parking lot surface options out there. In 2020, estimates of installing a brand new tar and chip parking lot range between only $1.00 and $3.00 per each square foot. 

This means that, while tar and chip surfaces aren’t quite as inexpensive as gravel parking lots, they are significantly less expensive than both asphalt and concrete surface options. For this reason, many business owners will consider a tar and chip lot. 

Neutral: Easy Maintenance, But Care is Required

Tar and chip parking lot surfaces require little-to-no maintenance after they are constructed. The individual durability of the stone and gravel of the lot is held in place by the tar, preventing the annoying maintenance required of a gravel-only lot. 

However, because the top layer of stone spread on the tar is exposed to the elements, it’s important not to treat your parking surface too roughly. 

For example, if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, ensuring that snow removal workers don’t scrape up that top layer of stone when plowing will help extend the life of your parking lot

Additionally, if you’ll have landscapers cutting grass near the edges of your lot, be sure to warn them not to drive over your parking surface with lawnmowers, as this could also remove the top layer of gravel. 

Neutral: Short Wait Time Required

Unlike asphalt and gravel parking lot surface options, tar and chip lots do require a setting period before customers can begin driving on and using your parking lot. The general rule of thumb is to wait a full 24 hours before opening up your parking lot after the surface is laid. 

While this means your lot won’t be immediately usable, most business owners don’t set their parking lot up the same day that they plan on opening to customers. Therefore, this wait time isn’t likely to have a significant impact on your business, but it’s worth noting just the same. 

Neutral: Aesthetics

For being the second-cheapest parking lot surface option out there, you’d be surprised by the versatility offered for tar and chip appearances. While many people think of tar and chip parking lots as merely black surfaces, the truth is that this kind of parking lot offers many customization options. 

To adjust the aesthetics of your tar and chip parking surface, you just need to select the color and type of stone you want laid into the tar. Do be aware though, that more aesthetically pleasing stone generally costs more than basic gravel, so this could increase the cost of your parking lot overall.

Con: Durability

Because tar and chip lots use tar to hold what is essentially a gravel lot in place, tar and chip lots tend to be more durable than only gravel lots. 

However, tar and chip surfaces still don’t last as long as asphalt, concrete or paver lots. The average tar and chip parking lot will last 7-10 years, unlike asphalt and concrete surfaces which, you’ll recall, can last up 30 years. 

A lonely black car parked on wet asphalt parking lot

Surface Option #5: Parking Lot Pavers

Paver parking lots:

  • Allow you to choose from many combinations of options to fit your business’s needs. 
  • Are generally very durable, but some options are more durable than others. 
  • Are more expensive than other kinds of parking lot surface options.
  • Require essentially zero maintenance. 
  • Can be used immediately after installation.
  • Require heavy research before construction.

Paver Parking Lot Pros And Cons

Pro: Different Types of Pavers to Choose From

Pavers are one of the most highly customizable parking lot surface options you can use. 

Not only do parking pavers come in a variety of aesthetics, but there are three main kinds of pavers that you can choose from:

  • Permeable pavers are grids of lightweight, polymer materials that can be laid down over an intended parking surface and filled in with stone or gravel. 
  • Porous pavers are similar to permeable pavers, but the grid structure is made of concrete and they are generally filled in with grass, sand or topsoil, creating a more natural surface. 
  • Plastic pavers are also similar to the previous two options but, obviously, are made of plastic. The big difference with this option is that the plastic pavers are typically filled with soil and grass turf — materials the plastic can support.

Pro: Durability

Because these paver options involve using some kind of grid structure to hold other surface materials in place (stone, grass, sand, etc.), paver parking lots tend to be very durable. The paver grids prevent the parking surfaces from shifting and moving over time, and provide a network of support beneath the entirety of the parking lot. 

Among the three paver options mentioned above, permeable and porous pavers are the most durable options, with plastic pavers being more suited for lots with less-regular traffic.

Pro: Maintenance

Another benefit of using pavers to construct your parking lot is that they require little-to-no maintenance. Because the pavers support and can even shift with the traffic moving over your parking surface, your parking lot won’t fall victim to bare spots, shifting gravel or debris runoff. The walls of the paver grids keep everything in place, requiring no extra work from you. 

Also, because these paver options use porous materials like grass, sand and gravel, any water that runs into the pavers is naturally filtered down into the ground below your parking lot. 

Additionally, because most paver options use natural fill elements, your paver parking surface won’t be subjected to cracks or potholes like concrete and asphalt surfaces. 

Pro: Immediately Usable

Because there are no liquid or chemical setting agents used to construct a paver parking lot, paver surfaces can be used immediately after being constructed. Once the fill material has been added to the paver grid, your lot is ready to go. 

Neutral: Cost

Though the cost of a paver parking lot surface will obviously depend on which kind of pavers you want, paver lots generally cost about the same as asphalt parking lots: roughly between $2.50 and $4.50 per square foot. 

This is because, while paver grids and installation processes are relatively inexpensive and you’ll save on the cost of labor time, the cost to prep the ground beneath the paver grid can be significant. Which brings us to the one, big con of choosing paver surfacing options. 

Con: In-Depth Research is Necessary

While most paver parking lot surfaces are durable enough to withstand traffic from customers all day, every day, not all are. 

Plastic pavers and turf-built paver lots aren’t great options for year-round businesses because the turf and grass that make up the parking area are likely to be trampled by too-heavy traffic. For this option, a weekends-only or seasonal business would be a better fit. 

Similarly, though paver parking lots reportedly cost about the same as asphalt parking lots, the cost could vary greatly depending on what preparations need to be made to the ground below where the pavers will be placed, as well as what kind of material with which you choose to fill in the paver grid. 

In short, there are a lot of variables that could impact the price and effectiveness of paver parking lots, so you’ll need to do extensive research before deciding if this is the best fit for your business or not. 

The comparison of asphalt and concrete parking lot

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Which is The Best Parking Lot Surface Option For You?

So, which is best for you? Will it be the expensive but durable nature of concrete lots? The low cost but not-very-aesthetic gravel lot? Or maybe the reliable standby that is asphalt? 

Be sure to compare each option, then contact us to discuss your unique needs.