The Difference Between Asphalt and Tarmac

September 16, 2019

Even people with little to no pavement experience have heard of a tarmac, those vast oceans of black that surround airports around the world. Whenever a plane leaves a gate and taxis out to a runway, tarmac is the surface on which they glide. You may be curious, however, as to precisely how an airport’s tarmac is different from the asphalt that runs outside the front of your house. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an asphalt contractor in Montgomery County, MD to understand the distinction.

Which came first?

Pavement as we know it has been around for about 200 years. Of course, in those two centuries, pavement has undergone a number of innovations. One of the first advances in so-called pavement tech was the invention of macadam by John Loudon McAdam.

McAdam’s take on concrete involved pouring a layer of gravel on top of regular asphalt. The result helps tires gain more traction. Two decades later, businessman Edgar Purnell Hooley was supposedly walking by a factory when a barrel of tar was spilled across a swath of McAdams’ macadam. To avoid shoes sticking to the tar, the site foreman spread a thin layer of gravel on top.

The resulting mixture of tar, gravel and asphalt produced a sturdier, safer version of the previous macadam. A short time later, in 1901, Hooley patented his new invention: the tarmac.

What is tarmac?

Today’s airport tarmac is “tarmac” in name only. As it happens, the tarmac mixture is easily damaged by gasoline and diesel fuel, two substances that show up frequently in the day-to-day operations of an airport.

To help tarmac hold up against repeated contact with fuel, the tar in modern tarmac has been replaced with a petroleum byproduct called bitumen. In other words, most of the runways in North America should be referred to as “bitmac,” but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

What is asphalt?

Think of bitmac and asphalt as something like pavement cousins. The distinction, while important to your local asphalt contractor in Montgomery County, MD, wouldn’t be evident to most people. The major difference between tarmac and asphalt is the amount of filling agents like sand that are poured into the mixture.

Asphalt tends to be less expensive than tarmac, it’s cheaper to maintain and it stands up to harsh weather like rain, sleet and snow.

Maryland Asphalt LLC is your paving partner

Five years ago, a husband-and-wife team with years of experience pooled their knowledge and resources to form Maryland Asphalt LLC. In just a short time, the team at Maryland Asphalt LLC has distinguished itself as the premier asphalt contractor in Montgomery County, MD.

Guided by our philosophy of personal respect and unparalleled workmanship, Maryland Asphalt LLC is proud to support residential and commercial clients throughout Maryland. A smooth layer of fresh asphalt can increase your home’s curb appeal or add a layer of allure to your business.

There’s no end to the possibilities that professionally-applied asphalt can have on your home or business property. Contact Maryland Asphalt today and let us go to work for you. We can’t wait to hear from you.

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