What Is The Difference Between Asphalt And Bitumen?

When looking at the various types of materials used for surfacing projects, it’s more than likely that you will stumble across various key terms that might leave you confused. One of the most common confusions is with asphalt and bitumen, more specifically, what is the difference between the two?

What’re the differences?

It’s unlikely that you will come across these terms unless you are planning on surfacing an asphalt driveway, but it’s often the case that people assume bitumen is the same as asphalt – when they are very different. 

To keep it simple, bitumen is the liquid binder used to hold the asphalt together. The process usually entails spraying a surface layer of bitumen on the driveway surface, where aggregate is then covered across and spread evenly to create a suitable surface. This is then repeated to guarantee a two-coat finish, which will then be flattened to create a smooth surface for vehicles. In this case, the asphalt is the overall composition of aggregates, sand and bitumen, which is the key difference that people confuse. 

An in-depth look at asphalt

As mentioned above, asphalt is the overall result of mixing the raw materials mentioned above. The primary reason that asphalt is so popular is due to its sheer durability compared to the low costs for materials and production, making it a very cost-effective solution for surfacing projects such as driveways and roads. 

  • Advantages
  • Asphalt has gained a glowing reputation due to its durability, primarily the reason that it’s used for road surfaces. It’s estimated that asphalt driveways can last over 20 years without a complete resurfacing, though there are several methods that can also prolong the life-span even more. 
  • If you are working with a strict budget, asphalt is a perfect choice for driveways and road surfaces. This is down to the low costs for the materials, as well as labouring thanks to the quick and simple labouring duties. 
  • Disadvantages
  • Despite the great strength, it doesn’t mean that it’s not vulnerable to weather damage, not notably, extremely hot temperatures. This is because the temperature can potentially heat up the asphalt, causing it to go soft and prone to further damage.
  • In order to lay the asphalt driveway, it’s important that the layer below is completely smooth and prepared. If this hasn’t been completed, then the asphalt surface that is being applied will also become unsafe to drive on. 

An in-depth look at bitumen

Bitumen is in fact a naturally occurring raw material, where it also plays a key role in several road surfacing projects other than asphalt. However, once it has been extracted it is then processed to become the adhesive that road surfacing contractors use for their projects. It’s also worth noting, bitumen can also be used for road surfacing without the need for aggregate or sand-like asphalt uses, though they lack the quality and durability as asphalt surfaces. 

  • Advantages
  • If you thought asphalt is cheap, then you will be pleased to hear that bitumen is even cheaper. This is primarily due to the small process required to make raw bitumen prepared for use, which is very cheap and easy, hence the low cost for bitumen. 
  • Unlike several other driveway surfaces, bitumen has the opportunity to be recycled, much like asphalt. This is because it can also be heated back up to a melting point, where it can then be surfaced once a suitable asphalt mixture has been prepared. 
  • Disadvantages
  • If a bitumen surface becomes damaged, then it becomes a very unsafe surface to drive on. Not only that, but they also become extremely noisy, as well as risking the danger of wearing down your tires. 
  • Much like asphalt, bitumen surfaces are also prone to damage because of the heat. In this case, the surface layer will become very soft and slick, which isn’t the most suitable surface for driving nor walking on. 

In need of quality road surfacing contractors?

Thinking about installing a brand new asphalt driveway? Then look no further than Bestco Surfacing, one of Hertfordshire’s highest surfacing contractors. Specialising in residential driveways, our team has over 30 years of experience planning, surfacing and maintaining asphalt driveways to the highest standards. To find out more, we recommend giving us a call today on 01992 652 477, where you will have the opportunity to speak to one of our specialists about your specific project. Alternatively, we are also available via email – simply direct your message and contact details to info@bestcosurfacing.co.uk, where you can expect a reply within a single working day. 


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