Asphalt Vs Tarmac : Pros and Cons

Asphalt and tarmac are commonly used interchangeably, but asphalt refers to a material made of bitumen and aggregates, while tarmac is a specific brand of asphalt. Asphalt is widely used in road construction due to its durability and flexibility.

Asphalt and tarmac are two terms often used when referring to surfaces commonly found on roads and pavements. While these terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to understand the key differences between them. This article aims to provide a clear distinction between asphalt and tarmac, shedding light on their composition, properties, and applications.

By the end of this article, readers will have a comprehensive understanding of these materials and their respective uses in construction projects. Whether you’re a civil engineer, a road construction professional, or simply curious about the topic, this article will provide you with valuable insights into the nuances of asphalt and tarmac. Let’s delve into the details and understand the key characteristics that set these two materials apart.


When it comes to road surfaces, two popular options that are often debated are asphalt and tarmac. Both materials are widely used for paving roads and have their own unique characteristics. Understanding the composition of these materials can help us understand their differences and benefits.

Materials Used In Asphalt

Asphalt, also known as bitumen, is a petroleum-based material commonly used for road surfacing. It is made up of various components that are combined to create a durable and long-lasting surface. The primary materials used in asphalt include:

  • Petroleum bitumen: This sticky and black substance acts as the binder in asphalt, holding the other materials together.
  • Aggregates: These are crushed stones and gravel that provide strength and stability to the asphalt surface. Different sizes of aggregates are used to achieve the desired smoothness and durability.
  • Fine aggregates: Also known as sand, fine aggregates are added to fill the gaps between the larger aggregates and create a smoother surface.
  • Filler materials: These are finely ground minerals, such as limestone or fly ash, added to improve the overall quality and performance of the asphalt mix.

The combination of these materials, along with the proper mixing and heating process, allows asphalt to withstand heavy traffic, extreme weather conditions, and regular wear and tear.

Materials Used In Tarmac

Tarmac, on the other hand, is a type of road surface that is formed by the combination of tar and crushed stones. It was once a commonly used material for road construction but has been replaced by asphalt in many areas. The materials used in tarmac are:

  • Tar: It acts as the binder and is derived from coal or petroleum. Tar is mixed with the aggregates to create a cohesive and solid surface.
  • Aggregates: Similar to asphalt, tarmac also uses crushed stones and gravel as aggregates to provide strength and stability.

While tarmac shares some similarities with asphalt in terms of the use of aggregates, its reliance on tar as a binding material sets it apart. Additionally, the use of tar in tarmac can lead to certain environmental concerns due to its production process.

In conclusion, asphalt and tarmac may have similar elements in their composition, but their main binding materials differ. Asphalt utilizes petroleum bitumen, while tarmac relies on tar. The choice between these two materials depends on various factors such as climate, traffic volume, and project requirements.

Installation Process

When it comes to installing a new driveway or road surface, the installation process is a crucial factor to consider. Both asphalt and tarmac are popular choices for surfacing, but they have different installation processes. Understanding these processes can help you make an informed decision about which option is best for your project.

Asphalt Installation

  • Preparing the Site: The first step in asphalt installation is site preparation. This involves clearing the area of any debris, vegetation, or existing pavement. The site is then leveled and compacted to create a solid foundation.
  • Applying the Base Layer: Once the site is prepared, a layer of aggregate material, such as gravel or crushed stone, is spread and compacted. This base layer provides stability and support for the asphalt pavement.
  • Installing the Asphalt: Once the base layer is in place, the asphalt is laid down using a paving machine. It is spread evenly and then compacted using a roller to ensure a smooth and level surface.
  • Finishing Touches: After the asphalt has been laid and compacted, the surface is left to cool. Any excess materials are then removed, and line markings or other finishing touches can be added if necessary.

Tarmac Installation

  • Preparing the Site: The first step in tarmac installation is also site preparation. The area is cleared of any debris and leveled to create a stable foundation.
  • Applying the Binding Agent: Tarmac installation involves a binding agent, which is a mixture of bitumen and aggregates. This mixture is heated and applied to the prepared surface.
  • Applying the Wearing Course: Once the binding agent is applied, a layer of tarmac wearing course is spread on top. This layer provides the final surface and is also compacted to ensure a smooth finish.
  • Cooling and Finishing: After the wearing course is laid, the tarmac needs time to cool and harden. Once it has cooled, any excess materials are removed, and the surface is ready for use.

Both asphalt and tarmac installation processes require proper preparation and attention to detail to ensure a durable and long-lasting surface. Understanding these processes can help you determine which option is best suited for your specific project requirements and budget.


Asphalt and tarmac are both durable materials often used in construction. Their long-lasting properties make them ideal for roads, driveways, and other high-traffic areas. However, asphalt is known for its resilience and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions, making it a preferred choice for many projects.

Durability is a critical factor when comparing Asphalt and Tarmac. Durability: Lifespan of Asphalt Lifespan of Tarmac Lifespan of Asphalt: – Asphalt can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance. – Resilient to weather conditions, such as rain and snow. – Repairs are easier and cost-effective compared to Tarmac. Lifespan of Tarmac: – Tarmac typically lasts 10-15 years before needing resurfacing. – Susceptible to cracking and deterioration due to weather changes. – Repairs can be more challenging and costly for Tarmac surfaces.


Maintenance is a crucial aspect when comparing asphalt and tarmac. Proper maintenance ensures the longevity and durability of these surfaces, ultimately saving on repair costs.

Maintenance Needs For Asphalt

Regular Sealcoating: This process helps protect asphalt from the damaging effects of oxidation and extreme weather conditions.

Crack Filling: Essential for preventing water from seeping into the base materials and causing further damage.

Pothole Repair: Ensuring any potholes are promptly filled in order to prevent further deterioration of the surface.

Regular Cleaning: Removing debris and dirt helps maintain the appearance and condition of the asphalt surface.

Maintenance Needs For Tarmac

Regular Resurfacing: Necessary to keep tarmac surfaces in good condition, preventing cracks and potholes from forming.

Weed and Moss Removal: Preventing the growth of vegetation that can damage the tarmac surface.

Drainage Maintenance: Ensuring proper drainage channels are in place to prevent water accumulation, which can damage the tarmac surface.

Regular Cleaning: Removing debris and dirt to maintain the appearance and condition of the tarmac surface.


When it comes to the comparison of asphalt and tarmac, one of the most significant aspects to consider is the cost. Understanding the initial and long-term costs of these materials is crucial for making informed decisions about paving projects. Let’s delve into the cost comparison of asphalt vs. tarmac to help you understand which option may be more suitable for your needs.

Initial Cost Comparison

Comparing the initial costs of asphalt and tarmac, it’s essential to consider the expenses involved in the installation process. Asphalt generally tends to have a lower initial cost compared to tarmac. The materials used in asphalt production are more widely available, making them more cost-effective. Additionally, the process of laying asphalt involves fewer steps and can be completed relatively quickly, contributing to lower initial labor costs.

Long-term Cost Comparison

When examining the long-term costs of asphalt and tarmac, several factors come into play. Asphalt requires regular maintenance, such as seal coating and crack sealing, to prolong its lifespan. On the other hand, tarmac may have a slightly higher initial cost, but it typically requires less maintenance over time, leading to potential cost savings in the long run. With proper care, tarmac can retain its durability and appearance for an extended period, reducing the need for frequent repairs and maintenance.

Environmental Impact

Asphalt and tarmac are commonly used materials for paving roads and surfaces, but they have different environmental impacts. While asphalt is known for its recyclability and lower emissions, tarmac is criticized for its non-renewable resources and higher carbon footprint. Considering the environmental impact is crucial in making sustainable choices for construction projects.

Environmental ImpactEnvironmental Factors of Asphalt
  • Production of Asphalt releases VOCs.
  • Asphalt production consumes significant energy.
  • Asphalt has lower albedo, leading to heat island effect.
  • Asphalt contributes to stormwater runoff pollution.
Environmental Factors of Tarmac
  • Tarmac production has lower carbon footprint.
  • Tarmac can be recycled, reducing waste.
  • Tarmac has higher albedo, reducing urban heat island effect.
  • Tarmac allows better permeability for water drainage.

Frequently Asked Questions For Asphalt Vs Tarmac

What Is The Difference Between Asphalt And Tarmac?

Asphalt and tarmac are both made from bitumen, but asphalt is a mixture of bitumen and aggregates, while tarmac is a proprietary product containing tar, bitumen, and aggregate. Although often used interchangeably, they differ in their chemical composition and application.

Which Is Better, Asphalt Or Tarmac?

The choice between asphalt and tarmac depends on the specific requirements of the project. Asphalt is known for its durability and versatility, making it suitable for heavy traffic areas. On the other hand, tarmac offers a smoother finish and is often preferred for decorative purposes and lighter traffic areas.

Can Asphalt And Tarmac Be Used Interchangeably?

While both asphalt and tarmac are common materials used in road construction, they have different properties and applications. It’s essential to consider factors such as durability, climate, and traffic volume when deciding which material is best suited for a particular project.


The choice between asphalt and tarmac comes down to specific project needs. Understanding their differences is crucial for a successful construction outcome. Both materials have their advantages and drawbacks, so selecting the right one will impact the longevity and performance of the surface.

Make an informed decision.