Difference Between Asphalt and Blacktop

Asphalt vs Blacktop

When it comes to material that are commonly used for the construction of roads, asphalt and blacktop are two terms that are used very frequently. Often these two names are used interchangeably, but there is a minute difference between the two that set them apart.

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt concrete or asphalt as it is commonly called is a composite material comprised of mineral aggregate and asphalt that is commonly used for laying the surface of roads and pavements.  The mineral aggregates, often sand and rocks, are bound together with asphalt, which is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid also considered a semi-solid form of petroleum. It is compressed with a steamroller and is known for its smooth, solid and water-resistant qualities which make it more durable. Although the practice of paving roads was a practice that dates back centuries, it was Belgian inventor and U.S. immigrant Edward de Smedt who refined and enhanced the practice to what it is today.

There are many mixes of asphalt which are geared towards different situations and purposes, and each of these mixtures have different compositions, designed to answer the purpose. However, asphalt concrete needs maintenance once in a while as they are prone to crocodile cracking, upheaval, potholes, ravelling, shoving, bleeding, stripping, rutting, and grade depressions while, in colder climates, it can be cracked with frost heaves. These can be avoided with proper compaction and drainage methods as well as timely maintenance.

What is Blacktop?

Blacktop is a form of asphalt concrete that is a composite material comprising of mineral aggregates and bitumen. The blacktop mixture is comprised of 95% stones and 5% liquid asphalt which is combined at about 300 degrees in order to coat the stone properly and give the mix workability for compacting and placing. After cooling of the mixture, the asphalt hardens and acts as a glue or a binder that holds the stones firmly together. Blacktop is mostly used for paving roads and streets today.

What is the difference between Blacktop and Asphalt?

While asphalt and blacktop are commonly used terms when it comes to construction material, there are a few factors which set them apart.

• Asphalt is a composite material used for the construction of roads and pavements. Today, it is also quite popular as the core of embankment dams. Blacktop is a type of asphalt mostly used for paving roads and streets.

• There are many methods and mixes of asphalt concrete geared towards specific purposes. Blacktop, a form of asphalt concrete, consists of 95% stones and 5% liquid asphalt combined together at about 300 degrees for the ingredients to mix properly.

• Asphalt is used mostly for commercial purposes such as public roads, parking lots etc. whereas blacktop, because of its lesser endurance, is used mostly for residential driveways.

• However in North America, asphalt is also commonly referred to as blacktop.

While the two terms asphalt and blacktop are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that the composition of blacktop, its purposes and strength is quite different to those of asphalt and, therefore, must be considered as two different materials altogether.