What Material Is Best For Your Parking Lot? - Tips from Pavement Pros

Ryan O'Malley
March 1, 2024
In this article, our pavement company pros walk through the types of materials available, the pros and cons of each, and other considerations. Thoughtful material selection is a key opportunity for Property Managers to optimize their parking lot projects based on specific needs and budget.

Parking Lot Pavement Types & Options


Asphalt is a combination of Bitumen (which is an oil based binder), aggregates of stone and sand, and mineral filler that fills in the gaps. Asphalt is flexible, durable, and provides a smooth surface, while presenting a classic blacktop look. It is the cheapest long term option and, with the right depth, can serve most paving needs. 

Asphalt does require maintenance, including sealcoating every few years to refresh the oil binder of the asphalt and maintain the black color, crack sealing to keep the asphalt watertight when it does eventually crack, and striping to ensure parking stalls, crosshatches, and any stencils remain vibrant as they are faded by weather and traffic. 

Asphalt is not a suitable solution for very steep slopes, as the steep angle makes it more likely to crack. 

Types of Asphalt

Asphalt Concrete (AC) is the more common pavement material while Composite Pavements use the base asphalt recipe and add other materials such as a layer of concrete for greater strength and geotextiles for filtration and separation between layers.

Asphalt Concrete (AC): 


  • Incredibly versatile and suitable for most paving needs
  • Easy to install  
  • Most economical long term option 
  • Withstands heavy traffic
  • Easy to repair 
  • Smooth ride and classic blacktop look


  • Requires periodic resealing to maintain color and water tightness
  • Susceptible to cracking from high heat and extreme cold
  • Will crack faster than other materials under larger trucks and semis
  • Easily damaged by standing water and poor drainage
Composite Pavements:


  • Uses AC and other materials such as geotextiles and a concrete layer for increased strength and durability
  • Built-in means to handle water drainage and hold off water damage


  • Higher initial cost
  • Requires specialized expertise to install


Concrete is a mixture of cement, water, and aggregates of stone and sand and other similar materials. Concrete is a highly durable material that will last for many years with minimal maintenance. It does, however, have a high upfront cost and can be prone to cracking if improperly installed. It also has a rougher driving surface when compared to asphalt lots. 

Types of Concrete 

The most common type of concrete is Portland Cement Concrete (PCC).

Portland Cement Concrete (PCC)


  • Much longer lifespan than AC
  • More durable than AC and requires little maintenance
  • Crack resistant and able to withstand temperature better than AC


  • Much higher initial cost
  • Prone to joint failures
  • Rougher ride than AC


Pavers are interlocking concrete blocks, brick patterns, or pleasing stone layouts. This material is the most aesthetically pleasing and allows for attractive designs. Pavers can be durable and it is relatively simple to repair individual units of the overall paved area. They also naturally allow for water to permeate the small cracks between the individual units. The beauty of pavers does come at a cost; they are more expensive than concrete and asphalt options and maintenance of crack weed growth is another cost consideration. Pavers also require skilled laborers experienced in this kind of installation. 


  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Withstands extreme weather conditions better than most pavement types
  • Segmented nature of pavers allows for extremely localized repairs


  • Expensive
  • Requires skilled laborers to install
  • Plants can grow in between the segments of the pavers


Gravel is made up of loose stones of varying sizes. It is cheap, low maintenance, easy to install, and perfect for low traffic areas. That said, it creates a lot of dust, leads to an uneven driving experience, and is reduced to mud and dust when put through intense weather or heavy traffic. It also has to be refreshed with new stones every few years adding a measure of cost over the long term that is worth considering.


  • Simple, inexpensive, low maintenance.


  • Requires refreshing every few years to prevent a dusty, dirty, uneven driving experience. 

Permeable Pavements: 

Permeable pavements are an alternative to traditional materials.  Water is able to flow through permeable pavement and into reservoirs and drain tiles where the water can be absorbed into the soil and not pool or sit on top of the paving material. This reduces the damage over time from the weather. It also reduces rainwater runoff, improves drainage, and is environmentally friendly. However, this material method is expensive, requires specialized workers, and cannot withstand heavy traffic.


  • Built to prevent drainage issues and water damage
  • Environmentally friendly


  • Expensive
  • Requires specialized labor 
  • Not suitable for high traffic areas

Key Considerations for Selecting Parking Lot Material Selection

Now that we’ve walked through each pavement type, let’s break down key considerations for selecting the right pavement: 

Traffic Volume:

High Traffic: If the lot gets consistent traffic, concrete and composite pavers are ideally suited to handle heavy traffic, both in terms of number of vehicles and the weight of those vehicles.

Low Traffic: If the lot gets minimal or infrequent traffic, gravel or asphalt may be able to meet parking lot requirements at a lower cost.


Short-term: If the parking lot needs are more short term on a tighter budget, asphalt is a great option. Take into consideration that preventative maintenance will be needed every few years.

Long-term: If the parking lot material will be a longer term investment, concrete is a great choice. It will last a long time with minimal upkeep required. That being said, concrete, due to its cost, is best suited for only high traffic areas of a parking lot (eg. drive-thru lanes for a fast food restaurant). 


If the parking lot’s appearance is a major consideration, pavers are an excellent choice. Pavers allow for more unique designs that stand out from other paving materials.

Maintenance Level:

Routine Maintenance: All lots and material types (with the exception of gravel) will require sweeping, cleaning, and minor touch up repairs to keep the lots looking fresh.

Preventative Maintenance: An asphalt lot will need sealcoating and a concrete lot will need joint maintenance every few years to maximize the parking lot's lifespan. 

When choosing a pavement company and pavement type, consider the priorities and goals of the project first. Do you need a budget friendly option or are you looking for a long term investment? Are aesthetics a major consideration or do you just need something that will get the job done? Do you have the time and budget to do preventative maintenance every few years or are you looking to set it and forget it? Regardless of the material selected, this is an important decision with cost and time on the line.

Need help selecting the right paving material?

Contacting pavement company professionals who can recommend the best pavement solution is a good next step. Diamond Solutions has years of experience paving parking lots and would love to work with you. Please contact us and our experts for a free consultation and estimate.

Related POsts