Many homeowners must decide whether to install a gravel or asphalt driveway. A gravel driveway has small, smooth stones dumped throughout the length and width of the driveway. Asphalt is a mixture of sand, gravel and asphalt cement that hardens when dried. Making this decision is easier if you weigh the pros and cons of each paving system.
You have more flexibility with a gravel driveway than you have with an asphalt driveway. The gravel comes in different colors, whereas the asphalt will be black in color. Most gravel can be purchased in a gray or red color. Gravel is also more flexible under the changing weather conditions in certain parts of the country.
A gravel driveway is less expensive than an asphalt driveway. If you have a limited budget, the gravel driveway will fit your budget better than the installation of an asphalt driveway. Home Construction and Improvement estimates that asphalt cost between $110 and $130 a ton, as of 2011. A driveway requiring 22 tons of asphalt will cost approximately $2,640. Cost Helper estimates the cost of a gravel driveway, measuring 12-feet by 50-feet, is between $300 and $1,200 or about $55 per ton, as of 2011.
Asphalt driveways have some advantages over a gravel driveway. The asphalt paving is smoother than gravel. Gravel driveways develop ruts over time; asphalt driveways do not have this problem and remain smooth. The gravel used in the driveway will be compressed into the ground with the weight of vehicles, causing the gravel to thin out. Asphalt is hardened and a base is placed below the surface of the asphalt driveway, preventing this from happening. Since a gravel driveway is a combination of dirt, clay, sand and silt, the dust and dirt from the driveway can blow into the home and stick to a vehicle. Asphalt does not have this problem.
Asphalt does wear over time and requires repairs, which can be costly. When a gravel driveway develops ruts, it is relatively easy to repair. You just have to grade the gravel smooth again. Areas of the country that get a lot of snow will cause the asphalt driveway to become slippery, where a gravel driveway will give you more traction in the snow. Asphalt driveways crack under changing weather conditions. The cracks in the asphalt do not present an aesthetically pleasing look. Gravel driveways do not have a cracking problem.