What Is the Difference Between Flexible Pavement and Rigid Pavement?

space between cars in parking lot
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Pavement is an essential component of proper road construction. Its primary function is to allow for the steady flow of traffic, moderate load distribution, and allow for safe passage of vehicles and pedestrians alike. Even in asphalt parking lots, pavement has numerous important purposes that are often taken for granted by the general public.

Factors such as environmental and climate conditions, heavy vehicles, frequency of usage, and vehicular weight can degrade the pavement over time and impede its longevity. This is especially true if proper maintenance isn’t applied during the lifespan of the pavement.

What Are the Different Types of Pavement?

Asphalt is typically categorized as hot, warm, or cold mix aggregate depending on the type of road to which it’s being applied and the temperature of the mixture itself. In addition to that, the two types of primary pavements that are internationally installed are flexible and rigid pavement.

Flexible Pavement

Bituminous or asphalt aggregates are used to apply this pavement. The structure of the pavement is designed to bend and deflect according to external factors like traffic loads and the weather. Essentially, flexible pavement is more adaptable to the elements to which it’s exposed.

The initial cost of mixing and applying flexible pavement is low and with excellent regular maintenance, it has a lifespan of about 10-15 years. Flexible pavement is applied in extremely thick layers, which gives it the ability to withstand heavy and more frequent traffic flows, which makes it the ideal choice for major roadways and highways.

Since regular maintenance is required for this type of pavement, repair work is fairly easy. Many companies that offer pavement services prefer to work on these types of roads at night or during off-peak hours because of the amount of traffic they attract.

Flexible pavements are applied in layers. The weakest materials are laid at the very bottom whereas the more durable materials are laid at the very top to ensure the structural integrity and adaptability of the entire structure. The top layer isn’t entirely load-bearing, making flexible pavement more structurally sound and less likely to collapse under heavy weight. Every layer bears at least a portion of the weight, especially as heavier traffic passes over it.

Rigid Pavement

Rigid pavements are generally more expensive and difficult to install and maintain. They’re made out of a cement concrete with a base and sub base. Unlike flexible pavement, rigid pavements have a high flexural strength, making every layer virtually immune to bending under pressure.

There’s no grain to grain load transferring, which essentially means that the top layer of concrete absorbs most of the pressure and weight from traffic or any other external factors. Rigid pavements are also less susceptible to permanent or semi-permanent oil and grease stains.

One of the downfalls of installing a rigid pavement is that the installation is very costly, but the cost of maintenance is reasonable. Considering you’re getting a durable product that’s sure to last a long time, this is certainly a worthwhile investment.

Flexible or Rigid? How Do You Know Which One Is Right for Your Property?

If you own a commercial property that gets a lot of vehicular and foot traffic, then it’s very likely that your parking lot will require a great deal of maintenance. In that case, you might be better off choosing the flexible pavement because it’s more cost-efficient and only needs to be repaired or replaced once every decade or so.

Even though rigid pavements typically have a lifespan of 30 years, they require a great deal of maintenance in order to make them last that long. As a property owner, you have to take a look at your budget for building and property maintenance to help you decide whether that’s the right option for you.

Another point to consider is the thickness of the aggregate. Flexible pavements tend to have more layers and are therefore much thicker by default. Rigid pavements have fewer layers and are thinner than flexible pavements, which makes them susceptible to more repairs over time.

This is a cost that you need to be prepared to take on if you’re going to choose rigid pavement for your property.

The Main Differences Between Flexible and Rigid Pavements

Advantages of Flexible Pavement

  • Can be applied during pre-construction stage
  • Repairs are easy and it can be opened and patched
  • Materials are inexpensive
  • Frost heave and settlement can be easily repaired
  • Resists ice glaze formation
  • Short curation time means short traffic and business disruptions
  • No joints required during installation

Disadvantages of Flexible Pavement

  • Shorter lifespan than rigid pavement
  • Frequent maintenance required, which drives up the cost
  • Susceptible to oil stains and damage from other chemicals
  • Edges are weak and therefore require curb structures or edging

Advantages of Rigid Pavement

  • Longer lifespan
  • Maintenance costs are low
  • Allows for future asphalt resurfacing
  • Allows for wider load distribution with fewer base and sub base requirements
  • Can be installed on low- and high-quality soils
  • Strong edges that don’t require additional edging work or curbs
  • Resistant to damage from oil spills and chemicals

Disadvantages of Rigid Pavement

  • Initial installation fee is expensive
  • Cost of repairs is expensive
  • Low and very rough riding quality
  • Support joints are required for concrete contraction and expansion in various conditions

Ultimately, when it comes to choosing the right materials for your commercial property, you need to research the best options based on the needs of your business and the environment in which you’re located. Pavement repair in Toronto shouldn’t be more complicated than it needs to be.

Trust the expert asphalt contractors at Sure-Seal Pavement Maintenance Inc. to provide you with all of the information and expert advice you need to make the right choice. We’ve been providing quality pavement maintenance services in Toronto and the GTA for more than 20 years. All of our projects come with an exclusive seven-year product and service warranty for your peace of mind. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.