Most commonly used for roads, highways, and motorways across the world, tarmac and asphalt have a lot of similarities. However, there are a few differences between tarmac and asphalt that may influence which one is used over the other.
When it comes to roadway surfaces, often these two terms are used interchangeably because of their appearance, but there are actually quite a few differences including their composition, manufacturing process, and uses.
Tarmac vs. Asphalt Composition
Think about when you’re driving down the road – more than likely you are paying little attention to the surface beneath you. The same can be said when you are taking off in a plane. All that you see is the black paved surface underneath you as you go about your journey. Although they appear nearly identical to the eye, tarmac and asphalt have different compositional makeups, making them useful for different purposes.
The term “tarmac” is short for tarmacadam which originated in the 1820s when the process of “macadamizing” was first coined. The process of macadamizing occurs when gravel is bonded on top of pavement. A tarmac’s base consists of a sticky black substance that comes from crude oil that is mixed with other components including gravel, sand, or crushed stone.
On the other hand, asphalt is made up of a variety of components. Typically, it is made from a mixture of aggregates and bitumen. Bitumen is known as an asphalt binder/cement, and it is what gives asphalt its black color and sticky texture. While the basic components stay the same, the composition of asphalt is dependent on its intended use.
A Look at Tarmac vs. Asphalt: How Are They Each Used?
Along with formation differences between tarmac and asphalt, there are also different uses of tarmac vs. asphalt that may make one product more desirable than the other for a specific project.
Typically, tarmac is designed to support extremely heavy loads, making it the perfect airport runway or taxiway element. It is also ideal because it usually features a smooth texture for easy flight passage. As for asphalt, the mixture is often used for more general uses such as driveways, parking lots, streets, and highways.
Another difference between tarmac and asphalt is that asphalt is known to be much more inexpensive compared to tarmac which is why it is used for covering larger surface areas. In addition to asphalt being cheaper to create and purchase, it is also cheaper to maintain.
Tarmac can be worn down due to excessive and harsh weather and can be costly to repair. However, asphalt requires more maintenance to keep up its appearance but tends to be more resistant to harsh weather.
Overall, the differences between tarmac and asphalt come down to their composition, manufacturing process, and uses. Both are known to be heavy-duty materials, but their differences make them more applicable to one project versus another.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tarmac vs. Asphalt
What is the lifespan of tarmac vs. asphalt?
The lifespans of tarmac and asphalt can range between 15 to 30 years. There are many factors that influence the longevity of both mixtures, including maintenance frequency, traffic load weight, climate conditions, and the quality of the mixture’s materials.
As mentioned above, the cost of maintenance for asphalt is typically cheaper than tarmac, but both can be well taken care of to extend their lifespans.
How do you maintain tarmac vs. asphalt?
The maintenance of asphalt and tarmac is not only important for the appearance of a surface, but also for its performance. There are many things that can be done in order to maintain the performance and longevity of these surfaces, which can include:
- Frequent assessments – Be sure to perform routine checks to identify any issues
- Sealcoating – The process of sealcoating should occur every couple of years to provide a protective layer over the material’s surface
- Routine cleanings – Frequently clean your surfaces to rid them of any debris, and be sure to do so using a power washer with no harsh or damaging chemicals
- Repair and patch holes and cracks – Promptly fill and repair holes or cracks to avoid water penetration and allowing further damage to accrue
Are there any disadvantages of using tarmac or asphalt?
There are many advantages to using tarmac and asphalt for paved surfaces, but there are also a few disadvantages. One disadvantage is that both materials can be sensitive to temperature changes. In hotter weather, they can become soft and decrease in performance, and in colder weather there is a risk of cracking.
Secondly, while the lifespans of these materials can be long, there is a lot of maintenance required for them to last several decades which is outlined above. It should be noted that there are other paving solutions that are longer lasting than tarmac and asphalt, but of course those come with disadvantages as well.
UNIQUE Paving Materials Supplies Diverse Asphalt Products
Here at UNIQUE Paving Materials, we provide products to assist in the maintenance and repair of asphalt and concrete. Not only do we supply a wide variety of products, but they are designed for all seasons and weather conditions.
We also ensure that all of our products undergo careful testing for optimized performance. Our products and services include:
- Asphalt repair products
- Concrete repair products
- Pavement preservation products
- Pavegrip® Hot Mix Adhesion Promoter
- Pug mill mixer
Contact Us for Questions on Tarmac vs. Asphalt
As you can see, there are many differences between tarmac and asphalt but they both have their uses. At UNIQUE, we have a dedicated team of experts here to help in any way needed and would be happy to answer any additional questions on the differences between tarmac and asphalt.
If you have questions on tarmac vs. asphalt or our product offerings, contact us today!