What’s the Difference Between Tarmac and Asphalt?

Tarmac and asphalt look exactly the same on the surface, but even though they are strikingly similar they also have many significant differences.  Often people refer to the surfaces in different ways such as tarmac asphalt or bitumen tarmac. However, whatever the surface may be named, when deciding which one to choose there are several factors to consider which may swing the balance when looking at tarmac vs asphalt.



photo of tarmacadam 
Photo of Tarmacadam

Tarmacadam, usually called tarmac is a strong and durable surface.  Tarmac is made when a layer of crushed stone is coated with tar. Tarmac is strong, water resistant and enables a good grip as well as giving a good aesthetic to the finished surface. This is why it is most commonly used on tarmac driveways.

These days tarmac has been almost totally replaced with bitmac which is less prone to being damaged by accidental spills of diesel or petrol.

Bitmac is manufactured by removing the tar and replacing it with bitumen.  This creates a new surface which is more similar to asphalt. However the difference between bitumen and asphalt is that there is a far greater concentration of sand and filler in bitmac.  Asphalt has a much denser blend of aggregates bound together with bitumen. – a surface that is made by combining a certain blend of aggregates and using bitumen to bind them together.



Photo of Asphalt Concrete
Photo of Asphalt Concrete

Asphalt is a popular surface for roads because it is a cheap solution for surfacing large areas.  However, it can work out as an expensive option for smaller surfaces. Despite sometimes being referred to as asphalt tarmac the two things are not the same.  The difference between tarmac and asphalt is that asphalt is extremely hard wearing, however the main drawback is that it is not as resistant to the constant scuffing by car tires.  

This is also a major difference to consider when looking at the difference between bitmac and asphalt surfacing. Asphalt is much more resistant to extreme weather conditions and needs a lot less maintenance, and this is a key factor when deciding between tarmac and asphalt.

Another reason to choose asphalt vs tarmac is that asphalts are kinder to the environment.  Asphalt can be reclaimed when the surface gets old and can then be reused fairly easily elsewhere.    When looking at driveway surfaces it is always worth remembering that while it may be called an asphalt driveway it may actually be asphalt concrete.  This is another completely different type of surface.

Asphalt concrete is a mixture of asphaltic cement combined with sand or grit which provides a really hard wearing and long lasting surface.  These surfaces are much more expensive and are a lot harder to repair than tarmac or asphalt. Asphalt concrete is also more easily damaged by fluctuating temperatures.

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Tarmacadam Driveways Stafford
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