If you’ve done any research on paving materials, you’ve probably come across two: asphalt and chip seal. While asphalt and chip seal have distinct advantages and disadvantages for various paving projects and needs, asphalt is generally regarded as a better choice for multiple reasons.
In this article, we’ll look at the differences between asphalt and chip seal, each material’s advantages and disadvantages, and provide a detailed look into why asphalt is the preferred choice.
What Is Asphalt?
Asphalt can be found everywhere, including the roads we drive on, the sidewalks we walk on, and the highways we use to get to and from work. Not only is asphalt one of the most commonly used pavement materials, but it is also recyclable, highly durable, and easy to repair.
Asphalt is a long-lasting paving mixture made of aggregates, binders, fillers, and many layers of unbound and bituminous-bound materials used to bind the aggregates together. The semi-solid petroleum product provides a smooth, long-lasting surface for driveways, sidewalks, roadways, playgrounds, and parking lots.
Although asphalt pavement is typically made of 5% cement and 95% aggregate, many manufacturers supplement the mixture with additives and polymers to create a stronger bond and greater flexibility. Furthermore, the ingredients used to produce asphalt may differ slightly depending on the intended application.
There are three types of asphalt mixtures, each specifically manufactured to create even more distinct combinations that better fit the end goal of a project:
Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA)
Asphalt that is heated and poured at temperatures ranging from 300 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit is referred to as hot mix asphalt or HMA. This type of asphalt is commonly used for highways, interstates, and roads due to its flexibility, weather resistance, and ability to repel water.
Cold Mix Asphalt (CMA)
Cold mix asphalt is produced without heating the aggregate, resulting in a lower production cost, and it is typically recommended for less frequently used roads. CMA is based on bitumen emulsified in water, which breaks down during compaction or mixing to form the aggregate coating. The water then evaporates, and the strength of the asphalt increases during the curing time.
Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA)
Asphalt that is heated and poured at temperatures ranging from 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit is referred to as warm mix asphalt or WMA. It is less costly to produce than HMA and can be shipped over long distances and used outside the typical paving months because it doesn’t cool as fast.
Advantages of Asphalt
One of the main advantages of using asphalt for pavement is its durability. Asphalt is a strong and flexible material that can withstand the wear and tear of daily use. It is resistant to cracking, potholes, and other damage caused by weather and traffic, making it a long-lasting choice for paving surfaces.
Asphalt is one of the most cost-effective materials for various paving projects. Despite its low cost, asphalt can last 20 years or more. This makes it an attractive choice if you’re looking to pave surfaces on a budget.
Another benefit of asphalt is its quick installation time. Asphalt can be laid and compacted in a relatively short time period, making it an ideal choice for busy roads and parking lots that need to remain open and operational during the paving process.
Easy to Maintain
In addition to its durability, cost-effectiveness, and quick installation time, asphalt is also relatively easy to maintain. It can be sealed to protect against moisture and other environmental factors, and any damage can be quickly and easily repaired.
What Is Chip Seal?
Chip seal is a pavement method used for over 100 years. It’s used to resurface driveways and parking lots, and as a standalone pavement surface in less-trafficked areas such as rural roads.
First, a thin layer of hot tar or asphalt is applied to the existing pavement or prepared surface. A layer of pea gravel is applied to this with a spreader box. The gravel is then pressed into the oil base with a roller, compacting them into a single paved surface.
Chip seal is a popular option for sealing cracks, especially narrow ones like alligator cracks, which bind together and strengthen the pavement’s surface and underlying base. When used as a top layer or resurfacing measure, chip seal helps keep the existing pavement in good condition while providing little structural support.
Advantages of Chip Seal
Chip seal can improve the appearance of paved surfaces. The crushed rock or aggregate used in chip seal can be chosen to match the surrounding landscape, giving roads and driveways a more cohesive and attractive appearance.
When applied properly, chip seal can last for several years before it needs to be resurfaced.
Disadvantages of Chip Seal
While chip seal is a relatively cheap and quick paving option, there are several disadvantages to using this option for pavement that should be considered.
Not Long Lasting
One major disadvantage of chip seal is its short lifespan. Chip seal surfaces typically last between 5 and 7 years, while asphalt surfaces can last up to 20 years or more. This means that chip seal surfaces need to be replaced more frequently, which can be costly in the long run.
Susceptible to Weather and Traffic Damage
Another disadvantage of chip seal is its susceptibility to damage. Chip seal surfaces are prone to cracking, potholes, and other types of damage, especially in areas with heavy traffic or harsh weather conditions. This can lead to costly repairs and maintenance expenses for businesses and organizations that use chip seal paving.
Additionally, chip seal surfaces can be uncomfortable and noisy for pedestrians and drivers. The rough surface of chip seal can make walking or driving unpleasant, and the noise created by the stones can be disruptive, especially in residential areas.
Lastly, chip seal surfaces do not offer the same level of traction as asphalt surfaces, which can be a safety concern in wet or icy conditions. This can be especially problematic for businesses and organizations that rely on vehicles, such as delivery trucks or buses.
Why Choose Asphalt Versus Chip Seal?
Asphalt and chip seal are two popular options for pavement surfaces, but they have some key differences that make them suitable for different applications. Here are some of the differences between asphalt and chip seal that make asphalt the best choice:
Asphalt is generally more durable and long-lasting than chip seal. Asphalt can last for 20 years or more with proper maintenance, while chip seal typically needs to be reapplied every 5-10 years.
Asphalt is typically smoother and more comfortable to drive on than chip seal. Chip seal can be rough and noisy, which can be a nuisance for drivers and pedestrians.
Asphalt is generally more expensive to install than chip seal, but it can be a more cost-effective option in the long run due to its longer lifespan.
Asphalt has a clean, polished look. Chip seal, on the other hand, can look patchy and uneven, especially as the chips begin to wear away.
Contact the Asphalt Professionals at McConnell & Associates Today
With over 40 years of combined experience, our team of highly qualified professionals possesses all the skills required to ensure the success of your project and always keep your needs in mind.
If you’re looking for reputable, trustworthy, and professional asphalt maintenance services to assist you with your next project, contact McConnell & Associates today to speak with one of our experts about how we can help.