Asphalt and tarmac are both very similar in appearance and function. Disagreement over the appropriate terminology for asphalt or tarmac is largely dependent on location, with some areas favoring one term over the other. They are both sometimes referred to as blacktop, particularly when discussing road surfacing material. Although there are many similarities between asphalt and tarmac, they are not interchangeable materials.

What Is Tarmac

Tarmac can refer to either tarmacadam or cement concrete (PCC). Tarmacadam involves heating bitumen to melt it before mixing it with small stones that have been graded by size, usually stone dust from crushed rocks. The resulting turbulent mix is then laid down onto a prepared subgrade with rollers. The liquid bitumen in tarmacadam is meant to provide a binding agent for the small stones, giving it strength and durability. The bitumen also binds the small stones together.

Differences Between Asphalt and Tarmac

Asphalt or tarmac both are black-colored road surfaces. But what is the difference between asphalt and tarmac? Here are the main differences between tarmac and asphalt driveways.


Tarmac lasts much longer than asphalt, particularly the tarmacadam kind. It would be more likely that a vehicle would break down before tarmac on a road as it degrades over time and smooths out more as cars use it. This generally allows for better water drainage and makes tarmac roads safer in wet conditions. Asphalt is less durable, breaking down quicker as the surface is rougher and more porous, allowing water to penetrate easier.

Tarmac lasts longer than asphalt because it requires less maintenance, and it doesn’t need to be removed before laying down new surface materials. Asphalt can crack due to temperature change more easily than tarmac does, leading many drivers and engineers alike to express interest in using tarmac over asphalt where possible because it might last longer.


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Asphalt or Tarmac cost is usually dependent on the location and size of the project. However, tarmac costs less per square yard than asphalt for most roads because it isn’t as complex and effective as an asphalt road material. Essentially, if you want a smooth and long-lasting ride for your high volume of vehicle traffic on major roads, then asphalt is the way to go. But if you’re looking for something easier to install and maintain at a lower cost, then tarmac is right for you.

Maintenance Costs

Tarmac generally costs less in maintenance over time as it wears better and has a smoother surface that is less likely to collect water and ice in places that might cause a risk of automobile skidding. Asphalt requires much more upkeep from full-depth patching, crack sealing, surface treatments involving sanding or oiling, power sweeping, and street-cleaning. This upright maintenance generally becomes more expensive than tarmac when factoring in man-hours expended on these tasks. However, it should be noted that every city has differing needs based on weather conditions of various sorts, so some locations may favor one type of surfacing material over another for this reason alone.

Asphalt and Tarmac both require regular maintenance to ensure proper drainage and safety for drivers.


Asphalt is generally darker than tarmac roads, which are more greyish. This is due to the very small stone mix found in asphalt compared with the coarse crush aggregate found in tarmacadam. The smaller stones used in asphalt also allow it to crack easier while fracturing around fixed objects like expansion joints during periods of extreme temperature change. Asphalt tends to sink or settle over time, while tarmac remains rigid throughout this process, which makes it necessary to remove existing asphalt surfaces before laying new asphalt down temporarily.

Tarmac can also be cool colored on purpose with additives that allow producers of road surface materials to reduce the amount of stone used in the mix. This allows for a smoother riding surface that is more resistant to water penetration during wet conditions, but it does cost more money per square yard due to aggregate expense.

Burning Resistance

Asphalt does not burn very well, so it tends to be nonflammable and would be the preferred choice in regions that are likely to be impacted by wildfires. Tarmac tends to burn easily if ignited by fire but tends not to ignite itself naturally as asphalt does due to its high bitumen content.

Tarmac is more explosive than asphalt because tarmac doesn’t have the same level of binding agents used in asphalt. It also doesn’t include any substances designed to inhibit fire-related damage, though this depends on the composition of your particular tarmac material. Asphalt is considered nonflammable largely because it contains an agent known as bitumen. This prevents the ignition from occurring through its ability to resist heat transfer due to being moleculeically thick. If burned, asphalt emits a large amount of smoke and toxic fumes that can cause breathing problems. Asphalt is more flammable than asphalt due to bitumen, which prevents it from burning readily if ignited by fire.

Pros of Tarmac Driveways

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When you consider getting a tarmac driveway, it’s easy to see that there are many advantages. Here is a list of the benefits of tarmac driveways:

  • Tarmac driveways are very resilient, and this means that they will last a long time before you need to get them repaired or replaced.
  • It can be used straight away after installation without any curing times.
  • If you have a driveway that has been repaired too many times, it may be cheaper to replace the whole driveways rather than do more repairs on it.
  • Tarmac driveways are low-maintenance and only need to be cleaned or brushed down to keep looking smart.
  • Tarmac driveways look aesthetically pleasing to the eye, especially when laid by a professional company with years of experience in laying this type of driveway surface.
  • Tarmac driveways can give you suitable slip resistance, so you won’t have to worry about someone slipping on ice or getting their car stuck in the snow when it’s winter.
  • Tarmac driveways are very safe for children because they are skid-resistant, making kids less likely to slide across the surface and hurt themselves.

Cons of Tarmac Driveways

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Tarmac is an extremely durable substance that can withstand just about anything but has some downsides. Here are the cons of tarmac driveways:

  • Tarmac takes up a lot of time to install
  • In the winter, it can crack
  • Tarmac driveways attract water into them, causing puddles and flooding
  • They are expensive to install

Pros of Asphalt Driveways

Tarmac driveways are very popular and often the first choice when purchasing a new build or renovating an existing property. Here are the seven pros of Asphalt driveways:

  • More cost-effective and easier to maintain
  • It lasts up to twenty times longer than most paving stones and bricks
  • Available in a wide range of colors, ensuring that they blend into the color scheme of your property
  • It can be used on even the most difficult of sites, such as steep slopes and levels
  • It can be re-surfaced relatively easily and economically, giving you complete flexibility when deciding what kind of driveway you want

Cons of Asphalt Driveways

Asphalt is an excellent choice of driveway materials. However, the following are some downsides of using asphalt:
• Asphalt can be slippery during the winter or rainy seasons.
• Do not leave the garage door open for too long, as this material heats up very quickly, which may lead to major damage to your car’s engine, especially if it is made of metal.
• It costs more than other driveway materials like concrete and pebbles because it requires a lot of time to lay down asphalt.
• Asphalt can get damaged easily by lawnmowers and other gardening equipment because it is soft.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge of the pro’s and con’s that tarmac and asphalt have, why not look into our Short Guide For Asphalt Driveway Buyers. Or, get the low down on how to turn a rental property into a home!