Asphalt and concrete are two of the most versatile and useful materials on earth. Their applications are countless in the world of construction, engineering, and science. Asphalt in particular has proven to be one of the most important “inventions” of modern times, even though it’s use dates back a long time. But the systematic ability to cheaply and efficiently pave roads with asphalt has allowed the world to be more interconnected by land than ever before. The best part is, asphalt pavement lasts a long time. For the money, it really is one of the best values on earth. That goes for city planning commissions, business owners, and homeowners alike.

Concrete is another great option for driveways, roads, and countless other projects – but it’s more expensive than asphalt. If you’re a long term planner, concrete might actually seem like a better investment, since it can easily last up to ten years longer than asphalt. But considering the fact that a quality asphalt installation can last up to two decades or more, you might wonder just how “long term” you need to be planning!

Asphalt and concrete both require maintenance in order to maximize their potential, however. If you’re wondering about alternatives,

Tar and chip

Also known as “chipsealing,” this type of pavement is prevalent in rural areas in the United States. It involves several ingredients, but the main one is gravel. A hot liquid asphalt solution (also known as tar) is carefully mixed and pressed with gravel to achieve a fast, efficient and durable result. It also looks great, bringing added texture and depth to the surface of the pavement. It also provides great traction for walking, which can be especially useful for winter months. Concrete and asphalt can get quite slippery when snow and ice are involved, but that added texture of tar and chip pavement makes a big different underfoot, and even for your car in the driveway.

Permeable pavement

This is also called porous pavement; it’s a very hard surface that has several uses. For one thing, it allows falling rain or melting snow to fall through the surface of the pavement and down into a catchment area. From here, it either falls through to the soil or is channeled elsewhere.

So where and why is permeable pavement used? It’s particularly useful in urban areas where the natural water tables and cycles are greatly in need of being restored. One of the common problems with “non-permeable” surfaces like asphalt and concrete is that water runoff and drainage problems are created, and must be dealt with. That’s also why porous cracks or “joints” are often used with cobblestone pavement in old, narrow cities; the water management challenges were much lower.

Other types of pavement

Pavement is actually a very versatile trade with many different types, but many of those are very rare and not very practical. Asphalt, concrete, brick pavers, tar and chip – these are your main commercial and residential options, and there is probably a skilled and qualified contractor not far from you who can deliver a great result.