Flexible Pavement Versus Rigid Pavement

Learn about the differences and similarities between flexible pavement and rigid pavement.

Roadways can be made of a variety of different materials, but the most common are flexible pavement and rigid pavement. Each pavement option has its own advantages and disadvantages and thus is suited for different uses. Explore the differences between flexible pavement and rigid pavement.

Flexible Pavement Explained

Flexible pavement is so named for its main characteristic: it’s flexible. Flexible pavement consists of layers—a subbase, base, and a thinner layer made up of a mixture of bitumen and aggregates, making it an asphalt pavement. The different layers affect the pavement’s structural capacity, and the flexible nature of the asphalt means that flexible pavement will deform due to the pressure of the loads put upon it. 

However, asphalt’s flexibility also means that it can be easily repaired and replaced. Asphalt is prized as a pavement surface for roads, parking lots, and walkways because only the upper layer—the asphalt made of bitumen and aggregates—needs to be replaced to make the pavement like new. Advantages of flexible pavement are that it is easily renewable with a new top layer of asphalt, temperature variations don’t stress flexible pavement as much as rigid pavement, and its flexibility means it can withstand a certain amount of wear and tear. Flexible pavement is suitable for roads, parking lots, and walkways that don’t experience heavy loads too often.

Rigid Pavement Explained

Similarly, rigid pavement is named after its main characteristic as well: it has high flexural rigidity. It’s generally made of a subbase, a base, and an upper layer of cement concrete or reinforced concrete slabs. Rigid pavement can withstand much heavier loads than flexible pavement, but it is more affected by temperature changes and deformations and damages are permanent. 

Advantages to rigid concrete in addition to its ability to support a great amount of weight due to its high flexural strength include the ability to “bridge over” small failures and imperfections. Rigid pavement is suitable for roadways and pavement areas that experience heavy loads frequently, such as airport runways.

With 25 years of experience in the asphalt and concrete paving industry, the Tucker Paving team offers expertise in both flexible pavement and rigid pavement. Contact us to explore how we can assist you with your next concrete or asphalt installation, maintenance, or repair project.