It may seem that asphalt and blacktop refer to the same thing, but there are differences between the two paving surfaces.
The two words are frequently used interchangeably, but while similar, they do refer to different products.
When talking about asphalt, people typically refer to roads, streets, and highways, while blacktop is reserved for smaller roads, parking lots or driveways.
To make asphalt, two main ingredients are used: stone and bitumen.
How are they made?
Bitumen is made from petroleum distillation, a crude oil byproduct. It’s typically black or dark in color and viscous (thick and sticky, between a solid and a liquid).
The two ingredients are mixed at a temperature around 250 degrees.
The same ingredients are used to make blacktop, but the ratio is different.
There’s more stone in blacktop. As a result, blacktop must be heated to a higher temperature (around 300 degrees).
After being heated, both asphalt and blacktop are pre-mixed and then poured into a road or driveway.
How do they differ?
The hot-mix asphalt is designed to stand up to heavy traffic loads. Blacktop is better used for areas where there isn’t as much traffic, such as drives or parking lots.
Because a blacktop surface has a higher percentage of stone, you’ll notice more of a surface “sparkle” to blacktop.
Since asphalt has less crushed stone, it is smoother than blacktop. As a result, asphalt is quieter than blacktop, since the smooth surface cuts down on noise from tires.
Since both asphalt and blacktop need to stay hot while being applied, large paving jobs are typically completed in the warmer months.
The dark color of both paving types helps them retain heat, which means snow and ice melt more swiftly in the winter months.