Flexible Pavements vs Rigid Pavements

flexible vs rigid pavements

It can be said that there are only a few places in the world that do not enjoy the benefits of pavements. The presence of paved roads is a sign that a country or nation is growing and is competing on a global scale. However, before a road can be paved, every decision maker must go through the two deciding factors of having one constructed which are vehicle traffic and human traffic. Having this in mind, they can then decide to whether have a flexible pavement or a rigid pavement.


Flexible Pavements

These are the type of pavements that are mixed with bituminous surface treatment (BST) or an asphaltic mixture. Flexible roads are usually constructed in different layers to allow the pavement to “flex” as heavy vehicle passes over it. It is for its ability to flex that this type of pavement is called “Flexible”. This makes it great for high ways and busy traffic areas. Flexible pavement has the ability to distribute the weight of a heavy truck to the lower layers of the pavement making the pavement very suitable for huge freeways and highways. Because the upper layer of the pavement is the one receiving most of the stress, it is required that this part of the pavement is made of high-quality materials. On the one hand, the layers underneath, as they don’t receive most of the stress, can be made of lesser-grade materials.


Rigid Pavements

If flexible pavements are made of BST or asphaltic mixture, rigid pavements are primarily made of reinforced concrete slabs or Portland Cement Concrete (PCC). This type of pavement is stiffer in comparison to the previous type. Because it is stiffer, it does not offer a lot of bendability or flexibility. It is also not constructed in as much layers as of the flexible pavement. It usually only has two levels which are the rigid pavement surface and the subgrade. The concrete is reinforced with steel. The use of steel can eliminate or reduce joints.


Differences of Flexible and Rigid Pavements

Flexible Pavement Rigid Pavement
Has several layers with the high quality material on top or near the surface of the pavement Only has one layer above the soil bed. The layer is made of PCC or its equivalent.
The weight is distributed in a small area to the lower layers of the pavement The weight is distributed on the wide subgrade area because of its rigidity
The design is based on its ability to flex and distribute weight The design is based on its flexural strength
The stability is dependent on its aggregate interlock, cohesion, and grain-to-grain friction The stability is provided by the pavement itself
Temperature changes do not stress flexible pavements in a great manner Temperature changes stresses rigid pavements greatly
Flexible pavements can self-heal to some extent even when a heavy wheel load passes over it because of its flexibility Damages because of heavy wheel loads may not be recoverable. Damages are permanent and will need immediate repair

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