What is the difference between tarmac driveways and asphalt driveways?

8th October 2019

Hazell & Jefferies team members preparing a road resurface with shovels

To many of us, there does not seem to be much difference between tarmac and asphalt. As two of the most commonly and widely used road surfacing materials, they have a lot of similarities – but, there are some distinct differences between the two materials too. While they do look almost exactly the same on the surface, there are a few factors that you should consider when deciding which material to use.

If you’re looking for the perfect material for your driveway but do not know whether to settle for tarmac or asphalt, you’ve come to the right place. Choosing between the two can be tricky if you’re not clued up on the benefits of each one, so for your convenience, we’ve put together a guide on the difference between tarmac driveways and asphalt driveways, and which one is more suitable for your requirements.

What is tarmac and asphalt?

Firstly, let’s take a look at exactly what these materials are. Tarmac, short for tarmacadam, is made when a layer of crushed stone or aggregate is coated and mixed with tar. This mixture is laid and then compacted with a vibrating roller to form a smooth surface. Asphalt, on the other hand, is a more modern variation in which the tar is replaced by bitumen (a byproduct of petroleum distillation). While asphalt is a similar mixture to tarmac, it actually consists of less external materials, making it slightly harder wearing. Both asphalt and tarmac are used for driveway, pavement and road surfaces.

Deciding between a tarmac driveway and an asphalt one can be difficult – after all, which one is going to best meet your needs? Read on to learn about the benefits of both.

Benefits of tarmac driveways

Long-lasting and durable

Tarmac is a strong and durable surfacing material and is exceptionally resilient to vehicles that are heavy, which is why it is so commonly used for driveways and roads. If you have a big family with lots of cars or there is lots of traffic coming in and out of your driveway daily (for example, if you run a business from your own home), you’re going to need a material that will not get damaged or crack under pressure.

Tarmac is long-lasting and strong as well as weather resistant. Whether you live in an area that gets extremely cold and suffers from a lot of rain or you’re located in an area where the summers are hot, tarmac is a reliable surface material that can withstand all conditions. Because of its smooth surface, tarmac has no cracks that can be filled when it rains.

Quick and easy to install

Tarmac driveways are extremely easy to install. They’re perfect for those who want a simple and plain driveway, and can be installed in nearly no time at all. Tarmac is laid as a hot liquid; once it is applied, it must be allowed to cool, allowing the particles to bind together. One of the key advantages of tarmac driveways is they can be laid directly onto existing surfaces, making them easier to use than other road surfacing materials. Other surfaces, for example, require a full depth bedding layer to be laid down first – only once this is done can the new surface be laid.

Advantages of asphalt driveways

Low maintenance costs

Asphalt driveways can be repaired easily and inexpensively. If an asphalt driveway begins to crack, you can easily and cheaply purchase crack sealant products at your local home improvement store, or, alternatively, there are lots of companies and contractors who can come out and make repairs quickly and easily for you. Generally, however, asphalt requires little maintenance.

To get the most out of an asphalt driveway, you should clean the driveway at least twice a year using a stiff broom and strong hose spray, ensuring that all debris and dirt is removed. In addition, seal-coat the asphalt every two to five years to ensure that it remains attractive and weather resistant.

Durable and strong

Similarly to tarmac, asphalt is also strong, durable and long-lasting. Large cracks are less common for asphalt paving simply because of its flexibility. As asphalt is made of aggregate that is mixed into a petroleum-based binder, it is particularly flexible. This flexibility can also help asphalt driveways from freezing and thawing when temperatures drop below freezing.


Perhaps one of the most appealing benefits of an asphalt driveway is that it is an affordable and cost-effective road surfacing material. While all road surfacing materials, including tarmac and concrete, have their own individual benefits, asphalt is an ideal option if you’re concerned about budget and are looking for an affordable solution.

If you’re looking for a material that is both tough and cost-effective, asphalt is generally the preferred choice. It can be laid in just one or two days, and only takes two days to cure. The materials used to make asphalt are cheaper than the ones used to make concrete, allowing a more economical solution to labour costs.

The differences between asphalt and tarmacing

Below, we take a look at a few general differences between asphalt and tarmac:

●Tarmac is not reusable. Asphalt, however, can be scraped off the surface and then reprocessed and used for a different project or use. This makes asphalt the more environmentally friendly option when compared with tarmac.

●Asphalt has a smoother surface and finish than tarmac, which increases tyre grip and makes it a safer, more suitable option for roads and driveways. This is because tarmac has larger aggregates than asphalt.

●Asphalt can be cheap when used over a large area which is why it is commonly used for road surfaces, driveways and pavements, however, for a small area it can be an expensive option.

●Tarmac is prone to damage from petrol or diesel spills, whereas asphalt requires less maintenance over time.

Hazell and Jefferies Ltd: professional and high-quality paving in Oxford

At Hazell and Jefferies, we are proud to be the leading asphalt paving experts in Oxford. From private driveways to public highways, our skilled and experienced team can accommodate for any type of asphalt paving project, no matter the size. In addition, we can also construct public cycle tracks, domestic pathways and commercial use car parks.

Our team will always work to your specific requirements, designing the perfect tarmac driveway for your property and leaving you with results that you’ll be proud of for years to come. Plus, when your asphalt driveway begins to show signs of wear and tear and deterioration, we can carry out efficient asphalt repairs to ensure that your driveway is always in top condition. From small patching repairs to large surface dressing projects, you can count on us to look after your driveway.

If you’re looking for a reputable and reliable company that offers affordable asphalt driveway costs without ever compromising on quality, you truly needn’t look further than the team at Hazell and Jefferies. With over 40 years of experience under our belts, we’re proud to use only the highest quality materials coupled with the very best paving techniques to ensure that your driveways and roads are protected for years to come. For more information, visit our website or get in touch today.

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