Paving Knowledge: The Difference Between Bitumen, Tar, and Asphalt

Paving Knowledge: The Difference Between Bitumen, Tar, and Asphalt

Paving Knowledge: The Difference Between Bitumen, Tar, and Asphalt

When you look at your parking lot or driveway, you probably do not think much about the different materials used to create it. However, there are several paving types used frequently for asphalt surfaces. Our experts on paving and sealcoating in Austin, TX, want to educate you on the differences between types of paving.


Bitumen is commonly referred to as mineral tar. While it is comprised primarily of carbon, there is also a small percentage of oxygen and hydrogen. Bitumen is created through the partial distilling of petroleum. Bitumen has four main types, each with its own uses.

  • Blown bitumen- This product is created by exposing materials to high pressures and high temperatures. It is an excellent choice for insulation material.
  • Plastic bitumen- This product is used most often as a sealant. It is utilized for filling in breaks and cracks between masonry and stonework.
  • Bitumen emulsion- This product is produced by finely grinding bitumen and mixing it with an aqueous solution. It is most commonly used as a stabilizing material.


Tar is another option used in paving. It is a high carbon content liquid commonly used in paving and wood preservation. Tar is available in three forms: mineral tar, coal tar, and wood tar, each with unique qualities.

  • Mineral tar- This product is created from bitumen-rich rocks like shale. Because of its adhesive properties, it is commonly used to bind together construction materials.
  • Coal tar- This product is a byproduct of the coal gas creation process. It is produced by combining gases released in coal production with water. It is most commonly used for road paving.
  • Wood tar- To create wood tar, resinous wood is distilled until the release of creosote oil. This tar type is best for wood preservation applications.


There are two different types of asphalt to be aware of: natural and residual.

Natural asphalt is usually found in rocks and lakes, with each type being different than the other.

  • Rock asphalt- contains between 10 and 15% pure bitumen and is most commonly used for tiles.
  • Lake asphalt- contains between 40 and 50% pure bitumen and is most commonly used in roadway creation.

On the other hand, residual asphalt is created through the distillation of asphalt-based petroleum.

There are various forms that asphalt may take, in addition to the two main types, with each having different uses.

  • Mastic asphalt- is created by adding sand and minerals to heated asphalt. Its solid properties make it excellent for waterproofing applications.
  • Asphalt cement- is created by applying extremely high, extremely hot pressure to natural asphalt. The material it produces is excellent for use in roofing and flooring.
  • Asphalt emulsion- is created with a large amount of water and a small amount of emulsifier. The material produced is often used for building projects in wet climates and cold weather.
  • Cutback asphalt- is a purely liquid asphalt form commonly used in roof repair or paint solutions.

There are different characteristics and uses for each of these paving materials. So when you are ready to use them for paving or sealcoating in Austin, TX, call M. Carroll Black Top Service to get things started today.

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