When it comes to roadway and driveway paving, we commonly hear the terms asphalt and blacktop. A common misconception is that these paving materials are the same, but in reality, they do have slight differences. While asphalt and blacktop contain similar materials, they have different mixes and preparation. These differences in composition make them two slightly different paving products with unique properties.
Differentiating Asphalt and Blacktop
An asphalt driveway and a blacktop roadway may look the same and serve the same function for the motorists, but they are still distinct. Here we take a look at the main differences between these paving products.
The main ingredients of asphalt are bitumen and crushed stone or aggregates. Bitumen is a by-product of petroleum distillation and comes from the heaviest part of crude oil. It is a viscous black material that turns into a semi-liquid form at high temperatures. Aside from paving, bitumen is used in various applications like asphalt tiles, roof shingles, and electrical wiring.
Crushed stone is added into the bitumen to get the desired or workable consistency. The bitumen is heated at about 250 degrees minimum and mixed in a drum. This maintains the correct temperature and keeps the asphalt mixture malleable enough for application over driveways, roads, pathways, and other applications.
Uses of Asphalt
Its exposure to extreme heat makes asphalt highly durable paving material and stronger than asphalt. Hot-mix asphalt is most commonly used in high-traffic areas. Usually, asphalt is used in driveways, public roadways, residential roadways, city streets, and commercial highways. It is designed to withstand a lot of daily traffic and endure daily wear and tear. With proper installation and maintenance, asphalt can last for up to 25 years.
Orlando experts from CSG Sealcoating emphasize that since asphalt has higher bitumen content, it produces a smoother surface compared to the blacktop. This makes asphalt the best choice for roads that require a smooth ride.
In addition, asphalt is water-resistant and very flexible. Different composition or asphalt products are suitable materials for building waterproofing, reservoirs, pool linings, cable coatings, damp proofing, soundproofing, and other applications.
Blacktop is an alternative paving mixture to asphalt. It consists of the same ingredients (bitumen and crushed stone) asphalt concrete but a different ratio. Compared to asphalt, blacktop has a higher percentage of natural crushed stone in its composition. Due to the higher concentration of crushed stone, the blacktop surface shows a distinct sparkle.
Blacktop preparation is similar to asphalt, but it is heated at around 300 degrees or higher. This ensures that the bitumen and aggregates mix properly. The high temperature also results in a durable material.
Uses of Blacktop
Although the blacktop surface is guaranteed durable and strong, it may not hold up as well as asphalt. Hence, it is not recommended for roads or highways with heavy traffic. Usually, blacktop is preferred for low-traffic streets, driveways, parking lots, outdoor play areas, and other applications with less foot traffic. Blacktop offers suitable strength and durability for these purposes.
Similarities of Asphalt and Blacktop
Despite the differences between these two paving materials, they do have similarities.
Same preparation and installation process
Since they have the same materials, asphalt and blacktop are prepared in the same way. They are heated and mixed for a highly pliable material that can be poured and spread evenly to create a smooth surface.
Both paving materials require fully preparing and grading the surface for a stable foundation. Without proper support, the asphalt or blacktop surface could start to develop cracks or crumble prematurely.
Best time to install
Since asphalt and blacktop need to achieve the desired temperature, these paving projects are often implemented during the summer months. Summertime also ensures that the mixture sets properly without the possibility of rain.
Keeping the asphalt and blacktop surfaces clean and shiny is actually easy. To maintain its sleek, deep black look, you can reseal the surface at least every year.
At first glance, one can mistake asphalt with blacktop – and vice versa. However, each material has its unique qualities that can affect the results. This makes it important to choose the right paving material for your project. Choosing the wrong mixture can be detrimental in the long term. If you are having a difficult time deciding whether asphalt or blacktop is the right choice for your project, working with professional paving contractors can help you come up with an informed decision.