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Tarmac vs Asphalt: Which Material is Better for Your Driveway? - NFLG Asphalt Mixing Plant Manufacturer

tarmac vs asphalt

Tarmac vs Asphalt: Which Material is Better for Your Driveway?

April 28, 2023 Paddy Comments Off

I. Introduction

Tarmac vs asphalt are two of the most commonly used materials for surfacing roads, driveways, and airport runways. While both options provide a smooth and durable surface, there are significant differences in their composition, appearance, durability, maintenance, and cost. In this article, we will explore these differences and examine the pros and cons of tarmac and asphalt. We will also compare the two materials in different applications and consider their environmental impact.

A. Definition of Tarmac vs Asphalt

Tarmac, also known as bitumen macadam, is a type of pavement made by mixing crushed stones and tar. Asphalt, on the other hand, is a mixture of crushed stones, sand, and asphalt cement.

B. Brief History of Tarmac vs Asphalt

Tarmac was invented in 1901 by Edgar Purnell Hooley, a British civil engineer. Hooley was inspired to create a new type of pavement after observing a road construction crew in Denby, England, accidentally spilling tar on a road surface and then covering it with waste slag from a nearby ironworks. This combination of tar and waste slag proved to be durable and resistant to weathering, leading Hooley to patent his discovery as “tarmac.”

Asphalt has been in use for thousands of years, with the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians using it for waterproofing and construction. The word “asphalt” comes from the Greek “asphaltos,” meaning “secure,” and the ancient Romans used it to seal their aqueducts and construct their famous roads. In the United States, asphalt was first used for road construction in the late 1800s.

II. Differences between Tarmac vs Asphalt

A. Composition

Tarmac composition

Tarmac is made by mixing crushed stones with tar, a viscous byproduct of the distillation of coal or petroleum. The tar acts as a binder, holding the stones together and creating a smooth, durable surface.

Asphalt composition

Asphalt, also known as blacktop or hot mix asphalt, is made by mixing crushed stones, sand, and asphalt cement, a petroleum-based material that acts as a binder. The mixture is heated to a high temperature and then laid down in layers, creating a smooth and durable surface.

B. Appearance


Tarmac is generally darker than asphalt, with a deep brown or black color. Asphalt can vary in color depending on the type and quality of the asphalt cement used, ranging from dark brown to black.


Tarmac has a rougher texture than asphalt, with a slightly pebbly surface that can feel uneven or bumpy underfoot. Asphalt has a smoother texture and is generally more comfortable to walk or drive on.

C. Durability

Tarmac durability

Tarmac is less durable than asphalt and is more susceptible to weathering and cracking. Over time, exposure to UV rays, moisture, and temperature changes can cause the tar to break down, leading to cracks and potholes. Tarmac typically lasts for around 10-15 years before needing major repairs.

Asphalt durability

Asphalt is more durable than tarmac and is more resistant to weathering and cracking. The asphalt cement used in the mixture provides a strong and flexible binder that can withstand heavy traffic and extreme weather conditions. With proper maintenance, asphalt can last for up to 20 years without major repairs.

D. Maintenance

Tarmac maintenance

Tarmac requires more maintenance than asphalt, including regular resealing and filling of cracks and potholes. Tarmac is also more susceptible to damage from oil spills and other chemicals. Without proper maintenance, tarmac can deteriorate quickly and become unsafe for driving or walking.

Asphalt maintenance

Asphalt requires less maintenance than tarmac, but it still requires periodic upkeep to ensure its longevity. Routine maintenance for asphalt includes regular sealcoating, crack filling, and patching. Asphalt is also less susceptible to damage from oil spills and other chemicals, making it a better choice for high-traffic areas like driveways and airport runways.

E. Cost

Tarmac cost

Tarmac is generally less expensive than asphalt, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious homeowners and municipalities. The cost of tarmac varies depending on the quality of the materials used and the size of the area being surfaced.

Asphalt cost

Asphalt is more expensive than tarmac, but it offers better durability and requires less maintenance over time. The cost of asphalt also varies depending on the quality of the materials used and the size of the area being surfaced.

F. Environmental Impact

Tarmac environmental impact

Tarmac has a relatively low environmental impact compared to asphalt. Tarmac does not emit as many greenhouse gases during production as asphalt, and it is more easily recyclable. However, tarmac does require the use of tar, a petroleum-based material, which can contribute to air and water pollution.

Asphalt environmental impact

Asphalt has a higher environmental impact than tarmac due to its production process. The production of asphalt requires the use of large amounts of energy and the emission of greenhouse gases. Additionally, asphalt is not as easily recyclable as tarmac, and it can contribute to air and water pollution.

III. Conclusion

Tarmac vs asphalt are both viable options for surfacing roads, driveways, and airport runways. While tarmac is less expensive and has a lower environmental impact, asphalt offers better durability and requires less maintenance over time. Ultimately, the choice between tarmac and asphalt depends on factors like budget, climate, and intended use. Consulting with a professional contractor can help you make an informed decision and ensure that you get the best value for your money.

Also to read:

Everything You Need to Know About Stamped Asphalt Driveway

Asphalt vs Chip Seal: Which is the Best Option for Your Driveway?