Commercial Asphalt is a big job, and you need contractors who have the experience to get the job done.
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first: What Is Asphalt?
Asphalt is a mixture of tiny stones with petroleum that can be easily spread over surfaces.
How is Asphalt Different from Concrete?
That’s a big question but it basically comes down to the difference in bonding agents.
Both concrete and asphalt start out the same way. They are both crushed up stones. But that’s where the similarities end because the essential ingredients that bond the stones together are radically different. Cement is the bonding agent in concrete and petroleum pitch is the bonding agent in asphalt (that’s what gives asphalt its pitch black color and pronounced oily smell).
Cement is an inorganic bonding compound, petroleum (this might surprise you) is actually an organic compound. Cement is made from finely ground limestone (among other things).
Petroleum comes from decomposed plant and animal matter from millions of years ago. Petroleum is actually still decomposing and degrading even after you bond it to the stones (just very slowly).
Because of the difference in bonding material, you can already see why they differ in terms of their textures. Concrete, being basically stone all the way through, is firm and unyielding. Asphalt, especially when warm, seems to have a little bounce to it. That’s by design. You want your asphalt to have a little give to it (not too much).
One thing you’ll definitely notice on your quotes for asphalt versus concrete is the amount of excavation and base being used for each material.
Asphalt requires a lot more excavation, because it requires a lot more base (base is just a combination of gravel and sand).
Why does asphalt need more base? Because of the way it distributes the pressure load. Concrete spreads the load out across the horizontal plane. Where with asphalt the surface pressure is transferred straight down, vertically, through the asphalt to the base below.
Without sufficient base, that pressure goes straight down into the ground and can cause shifting and moving. Unlike concrete, asphalt will respond quickly to whatever the sub-base is doing. This is why you don’t build a bridge out of asphalt. An asphalt bridge would just collapse into the void. Which is what happens when you have shifts in your base under your asphalt, the asphalt collapses into the void underneath and boom, you’ve got a pothole.
That’s why you have to have a lot of base when you’re doing asphalt.
So you’ll probably see in your quote that you’re really not using a lot of the actual asphalt material itself. What you find instead is that you’re paying for a lot more excavation and base.
Concrete doesn’t require nearly as much base because of its density and durability (concrete also is poured thicker than asphalt). So you’ll see that you’re paying more for the material, but less for excavation and base.
This brings us to another question.
Is Asphalt or Concrete Better?
We used to be a lot more biased on this issue when all we did was concrete, but we’ve been using asphalt for 25 years, so we have a more even-handed perspective. Contractors who do more of one or the other can be biased, and that’s fine! Mostly they are going to tell you the same things about the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Our answer to that question to our commercial and industrial asphalt and concrete customers is usually “It depends on what you want to do.” Now, this only comes up in situations where you can have the option of concrete or asphalt. (Our Project Designers are not going to quote you what an asphalt foundation or asphalt loading dock would cost because… come on.) The comparison comes up only when we’re talking about parking lots.
In most cases, especially with industrial applications, we are going to go with concrete. Concrete offers you the most bang for your buck in terms of durability and distribution of pressure.
But with commercial applications and some limited industrial applications, asphalt actually might be the better option. Say you just have a simple parking lot outside of your retail store which only gets some car traffic but no big semi-truck deliveries. Or you have a driveway or parking lot to your apartment complex. Those are occasions where an asphalt parking lot might be the winner for you. But again, it all depends on your business objectives.
What are you trying to do?
Are you trying to just have a spot for your customers and tenants to park for a little while? Or do you need a yard where you can have trucks maneuvering and delivering large payloads 24/7?
Some Things to Consider when Thinking about Commercial Asphalt Contractors
If you’re a business owner, you want options. And you want a contractor who can give you a straight quote on everything, and quotes you can trust. Since we do both Concrete parking lots and Asphalt, we’re not going to lead you in one direction or the other for our own benefit. Our Project Designers are focused on your business objectives, and we will do our best to work out a vision with you for your project that actually meets those objectives.
Concrete is often, but not always, the right solution for a lot of commercial and industrial applications. But asphalt can be the right choice for others! And sometimes you’ll even need both materials for one job! That’s why you want someone who can do both. Goodmanson Construction can do both. We aren’t just a commercial concrete contractor! We do it all! And we’ve got the skills to apply these materials at scale.