The Difference Between Asphalt and Tarmac

November 1, 2021

Unless you’re driving a vehicle that’s made to be operated off-road, you need a solid, stable surface to drive on. Whether you’re in a car or a plane, paved surfaces are essential. There are several paving materials on the market, with asphalt and tarmac being two of the most common. While these two surfaces may look the same, they differ in material makeup and performance. Read on to get to know the major differences between these two paving methods.

What is asphalt?

Asphalt, also called bitumen, is a petroleum-based liquid. It’s a sticky, black, viscous and semi-solid material that’s found in natural deposits, or may be a refined product called pitch. Asphalt paving uses asphalt, a mixture of coarse aggregate including rocks and stones, fillers and binders and sand or other fine aggregate to create a surface that hardens and solidifies.

There are various mixtures used in asphalt paving. The exact formula you’ll use largely depends on the climatic conditions of the area in which you live.

What is tarmac?

Tarmac is mostly associated with runways at airports. It’s short for tarmacadam, a road surface invented in the early 20th century. Tarmacadam is a mixture of macadam (or crushed stone), tar and sand. In reality, most runways at airports aren’t made of tarmacadam—nowadays, the term usually refers to the physical place where airplanes park.

What are the differences between asphalt and tarmac?

Both asphalt and tarmac have similar material makeups, including their petroleum base, that enable them to successfully withstand heavy traffic. They also can easily be recycled, making either option a sustainable, affordable paving solution. There are some key differences between asphalt and tarmac, though. They include:

  • Material differences: Tarmac simply consists of stone, sand and tar. Asphalt, on the other hand, contains a greater range of ingredients that can include several types of fillers and binders. Asphalt also uses carefully sized aggregate that aids in pavement uniformity.
  • Applications: Asphalt is used for a wide range of surfaces you likely encounter on a daily basis. It’s an ideal material for driveways, walkways, parking lots, roads and even basketball courts. Tarmac, on the other hand, is only used for specialized projects.
  • Cost: In most markets, tarmac is the more affordable option when compared to asphalt. Keep in mind, though, that asphalt can endure a variety of chemicals and stains that can quickly eat away at the tar in a tarmac surface. In terms of durability and value for your dollar, asphalt paving is the preferred option. An asphalt surface requires much less care and upkeep, and will require less frequent replacement compared to tarmac.

While asphalt and tarmac differ in terms of material and applications, one characteristic the two have in common is durability. Asphalt is ideal for a range of residential and commercial paving applications. Learn more about the benefits of asphalt by contacting the team at Maryland Asphalt LLC today. We install long-lasting, durable surfaces that withstand heavy traffic and everyday wear and tear from the elements.

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