Is There a Difference Between Asphalt and Blacktop?

Even though we drive on roads every day, we very rarely stop to consider how these roads got there. What are they actually made of? Many people have never felt the need to consider if there is a difference between asphalt and blacktop. However, if you find yourself needing to build a parking lot for a business, or install driveway leading up to your house, you’ll want to be familiar with the difference between asphalt and blacktop — and which paving material will be better suited to fit your purposes.

How did the term “blacktop” come about?

Both asphalt and blacktop are common words used to describe the material for roads, parking lots and driveways. Previously, cities constructed roads out of concrete, which is a very stable and durable material. However, concrete develops cracks and signs of wear over time, so a need for additional materials arises. A common solution came about by simply covering the preexisting concrete roads with a layer of asphalt. Thus, the term “blacktop” became prevalent. In the modern day, this process of covering concrete with asphalt is standard procedure. The blacktop gives an economical solution for handling the wear of tires on the road — but the old concrete still exists beneath.

What is the difference between the two terms?

Although the terms “asphalt” and “blacktop” are used interchangeably most of the time, there are a couple defining characteristics that set them apart from each other. While asphalt is used for the construction of roads, blacktop is used simply to pave and is used frequently in residential driveways since it’s less durable than asphalt is. Blacktop is comprised of liquid asphalt (5%), and the other 95% is stone. Asphalt itself is comprised of sand and rocks bound together with a form of petroleum. Both asphalt and blacktop are heated in order to lay the material. When it cools, the result is a hard surface that will endure for years to come. Both materials are easy to maintain, cheap to repair, and considerably durable.

Who should I hire to lay it for me?

Although it’s possible to mix and lay your own asphalt or blacktop, it’s generally not recommended unless you have the years of requisite experience and skills to do it properly. It might seem simple enough, but when you really get down to it, the steps for properly laying these paving materials must be carried out completely and correctly in order to produce a reliable and economical result.

For example, the ground underneath the pavement must be leveled and smoothed before construction can begin. This involves a very specific set of steps and tools — and if these base and sub-base layers aren’t properly installed, you’ll run into real problems down the road (no pun intended).

A pavement specialist is trained and skilled in completing these jobs quickly and efficiently. Just make sure you find a reputable and experienced company who has positive feedback, highly trained staff, modern fleets, and plenty of successful pavement projects under their belt. That’s how you know you’re dealing with a true professional.