BUSTED: Common Asphalt and Concrete Mythconceptions Debunked

Is there any industry more villainized or less understood than the paving industry? Well, probably. But for the purposes of this month’s article, we’re going to say “no.” The truth of the matter is, there are several myths and misconceptions floating around out there about asphalt and concrete paving, and about the differences between the two. We’d like to clear a few of those up for you:

Myth #1: Asphalt (and concrete…but especially asphalt) production is harmful to the environment.

This is such a patently incorrect assumption, it probably warrants an article all of its own. Asphalt and its production have been blamed for everything from increased greenhouse gases and global warming, to contaminated soil and drinking supplies. While several decades ago, these claims may have been true, the fact of the matter is asphalt carries the smallest carbon footprint of all paving types. The paving industry has spent a hefty amount of money over the past generations developing and using new technologies in an effort to keep the environment as clean as possible. Today, they adhere to strict emissions standards that exceed even those set by the EPA.

In addition, asphalt is one of the most recycled products in the US. Much of what constitutes “new” pavement is actually reused asphalt, with only 5-6% of the total production made from crude oil or petroleum products. And the claim that asphalt releases toxic chemicals? Totally false. This material is so non-toxic, in fact, it’s frequently used in fish hatcheries as a barrier to keep out contaminants from hazardous landfills. Contrary to popular belief, asphalt does not dissolve in water, nor does it leach chemicals into the soil. Most of the contamination blamed on asphalt is actually the result of human carelessness—trash left in parking lots, gas and oil leaked from cars, and waste which is improperly disposed of, for example.

Myth #2: Asphalt pavement is expensive and doesn’t last long. Concrete pavement is expensive and doesn’t last long.

Are you Team Asphalt or Team Concrete? The two have been pitted against each other since the beginning of paving history…which is really rather unfair, as they both have different uses and benefits. Concrete does tend to be a more expensive route, but it also has the potential to last a lifetime. Asphalt, on the other hand, may need a few more repairs from time to time, but they tend to be cheaper, quicker fixes. And an asphalt road is still likely to last decades—the New Jersey Turnpike, for instance, has never had a pavement failure since its construction in 1951.

Both materials can be quite cost-effective and long-lasting when installed and maintained properly. The misconception that these pavements crack easily is only true if the installation wasn’t done correctly. Several factors must be taken into consideration when laying pavement and concrete—including precise mixing of the materials, local weather conditions, and creation of a solid, level, well-drained foundation—which is why it’s important to work with a company who truly knows their stuff. Maintenance is also key. In the long run, a properly maintained pavement is always much more economical than a total replacement.

As for whether asphalt or concrete is the better choice for your paving project, too many factors enter into it to list in this article. The best course of action is always to have an experienced, reputable paving professional come out and assess your property and its needs.

Myth #3: Sealcoating is unnecessary. Or it’s immediately necessary. Or any number of other sealcoating myths.

There are so many misunderstandings surrounding sealcoating, it gets a category all its own. In fact, we delved into this one in a separate article, awhile back. We won’t rehash all that now, but we felt it was at least important to hit a couple of the highlights. One of biggest of which being that sealcoating is merely aesthetic. Yes, sealcoating does make pavement look shiny and pretty and brand new. But it also prevents all sorts of cracking, potholing, and various other types of damage due to oxidation, water and chemical seepage, and the drying ultraviolet rays of the sun. “Seal” is in the name for a reason—a sealcoat provides a barrier, keeping out all those harmful elements.

On the other hand, while it’s an effective tool for preventive maintenance, sealcoating is not a “fix all” solution. There’s a myth floating around out there that it will fix cracks and buy time for replacement. In fact, sealcoat is a surface treatment only and has no structural integrity. You can fill the cracks with sealcoat to make them look better, but as soon as a heavy vehicle passes over it, the sealcoat itself will crack, and you’ll be right back where you started.

We hope this article helped to clear the name of our noble profession. But should you have any questions or come across any more pavement myths, we’d love to hear from you! Give us a call, or shoot us an email…Black Diamond is always happy to chat.