Beyond Black: 6 Awesome Alternatives to Asphalt Driveways


Driveways are an often overlooked part of the exterior of a home. Many driveways end up with cracks and pitting because homeowners do not perform the necessary maintenance to prevent them from occurring. Homeowners may not always be aware of the maintenance requirements of an asphalt driveway and why it matters.

Before installing a new asphalt driveway or redoing an existing one, read this article to understand why driveway appearances matter, the problem with asphalt, and some driveway alternatives to asphalt to consider.

Why Are Driveway Appearances Important?

More often than not, homeowners are unaware of the negative impact that a damaged, poorly maintained driveway can have on their home and overall image. Here are four reasons why your driveway's appearance matters and why you should ensure it is attractive and well-maintained.

1. First Impressions Matter

Because driveways are typically in front of a home, they play a significant role in first impressions. Even if the rest of your property is well-kept—or even beautiful—a damaged, unkempt driveway will send the wrong message that can take away from the overall curb appeal of your home.

2. Safety and Functionality

Driveways full of cracks and potholes create a safety hazard for everyone who walks on its surface. Someone can trip and injure themselves if they walk over a crack or pothole, especially in poor weather. Car safety is another consideration, as cracks and potholes can create added wear and tear for your car, like the tires and suspension system.

3. Boost Property Value

Taking the time to redo your driveway isn't just about safety and appearance; it also helps increase the value of your home. Homebuyers are willing to pay more for a home when there is a new, undamaged driveway. Even if you aren't planning to sell soon, a nice driveway will help give your home a boost in value that will be beneficial in the future.

4. Protect Your Foundation

Cracks in your driveway can seem minor, but they come with endless problems. Many don't consider one crucial issue: what these cracks can mean for your foundation. If water seeps into the damaged areas of the driveway and penetrates the sub-layers, the entire driveway can become destabilized and cause water pressure to form on the foundation. This can lead to cracks forming in your foundation and moisture penetrating your basement, which can create even more problems like mold growth and electrical fires.

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt comes in many forms, but they are all crude oil-based products. Driveways are made with asphalt created from asphalt cement and other aggregate materials. It is a durable product that offers flexibility to allow it to withstand the weight of vehicles.

The Downside of An Asphalt Driveway

Asphalt is the most common driveway material for many reasons: it is (1) relatively quick to install (2) more affordable than other options. While these are significant advantages, you must also consider the disadvantages of using asphalt as your driveway material. Here are a few:

It Requires More Maintenance

Asphalt requires more maintenance than other materials. It needs resealing every three to five years to prevent cracks or depressions from forming in the pavement. Once the sealant is applied, you cannot walk or park on the driveway for at least three days. While relatively straightforward and only required every few years, this process takes time and money.

It Cracks Easily

Cracks aren't just unattractive; they are a safety risk for humans and cars. Asphalt cracks can be a result of many possible factors. Weather, improper use or lack of maintenance, if it isn't laid properly, and inadequate mixing are some potential issues that can result in asphalt cracking.

It's Not Environmentally Friendly

Asphalt is not an environmentally friendly product. It is a petroleum crude oil-based product; its production creates hydrocarbons, one of the leading causes of pollution. Cutback asphalt, which creates the asphalt cement commonly used in driveways, produces higher amounts of these hydrocarbons, and leads to greater pollution.

Shorter Lifespan

Even with proper maintenance and care, asphalt has a shorter lifespan than other materials. On average, asphalt will last around 25 years before it needs to be replaced. While 25 years is considered the maximum, factors like climate and location can result in a shorter lifespan.

Heat Retention

Asphalt is a dark surface, which leads to heat retention. It can be up to 10 degrees hotter than alternatives to asphalt driveway materials, making walking on it in thin-soled shoes and for pets' sensitive paws uncomfortable. It can also be harmful to your car's tires.

Lack of Customization

With asphalt, customization is limited. While you can stamp, paint, stencil, and inlay thermoplastic on your asphalt, you cannot do much else.

Driveway Alternatives to Asphalt

If you're in the market for a new driveway and want to skip asphalt, consider one of these options as an alternative to asphalt driveway materials.

1. Concrete

Concrete, the second most common driveway material, can be poured as a slab or laid as concrete pavers. It is a durable but expensive option with limited customization options—you can stamp, stencil, and stain concrete, but not much else.

Although a durable option, slab concrete isn't flexible, and it can crack and break during extreme temperature changes, making repairs a difficult task to complete.

2. Brick

Brick has gained more popularity over the years as an asphalt alternative, particularly because it can be laid out to allow for water drainage, which helps prevent standing water. But It is also a great option that can add personality to your home.

The downsides of brick include the cost. The product itself and the labor involved in installation make for an expensive and time-consuming project. You must also maintain a brick driveway—from eliminating grass and weeds to sealing the bricks for better protection from the elements.

3. Gravel

Another cost-saving asphalt alternative is gravel, which costs significantly less for the product and installation. Hard, angular gravel is typically used for driveways in order to allow for some drainage. While cost-effective, it has downsides to consider.

Loose gravel will migrate over time due to use, so you must rake it back into place. It can also be a problematic material for driveways that have a slope greater than 7 percent.

4. Tar-and-Chip

Tar-and-chip looks like asphalt but has a different installation process. The process combines gravel, hot liquid bitumen asphalt, and more layers of loose stone on the driveway's surface. The layers are then compressed and allowed to set. It is fairly affordable and can be installed on top of an existing driveway that is in good condition. You can also customize a tar-and-chip driveway with different colored stones.

The downside of this option is its shorter lifespan, and experts in this kind of installation are difficult to find.

5. Cobblestone

Cobblestone is another alternative to asphalt driveway materials. Cobblestones are granite pavers and are one of the longest-lasting driveway options homeowners can choose. Their durability means they require minimal maintenance, and a wide variety of sizes and shapes make customization easier than many other driveway materials.

However, these benefits come at a cost: cobblestone is an expensive, labor-intensive option that is best left to professionals.

6. Interlocking Pavers from Aspire

Interlocking pavers are another option for driveway alternatives to asphalt. Some pavers utilize a grid to make installation quicker and easier than traditional pavers, especially with composite pavers.

Aspire Pavers makes composite interlocking pavers that use up to 95% post-consumer recycled materials in a variety of colors. They offer more durability than other materials, including asphalt and concrete, and are more resistant to cracking, staining, and scratching without any sealer required.

One of the best features of Aspire Pavers is that they are a low-maintenance option. Since they do not require a sealer, cleaning them using plain water and a gentle cleaner if desired is the only maintenance necessary.

Beyond Just Asphalt

Despite asphalt being the most common driveway material, it isn't the best. It requires more maintenance, is not environmentally friendly, lacks customization options, and more. If you're getting ready to install a new driveway, don't immediately go for asphalt; instead, consider one of the options above that provides an alternative to asphalt driveway installations, especially if you want to boost your home's value and appearance. While many of these options will cost more, they are more sustainable, durable, and longer lasting, which makes them well worth the investment.

Contact Aspire Pavers today to learn about their In-Ground Paver system for driveways and start designing your new driveway!