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Is Asphalt Concrete The Best To Use On Pavement?

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Asphalt concrete is a popular choice of material in the construction industry. It dries smoothly, provides a safe working surface, and stands up relatively well to the test of time. However, whether or not it is the best option for pavement construction is a subject often up for debate.


What Is Asphalt Concrete?

Pavement is a crucial aspect of infrastructure. It plays a significant role in transportation and overall urban development, as well as among residential or commercial properties. Choosing the right material for pavement is essential for durability, safety, and cost-effectiveness. 

One of the most widely used materials for pavement is asphalt concrete. For those unaware, asphalt concrete is a composite material consisting of asphalt binder and mineral aggregate. The asphalt binder acts as a glue, holding the mineral aggregates together resulting in a strong and resilient pavement surface. 

You often see asphalt concrete on roads, parking lots, and other paved surfaces. Many contractors prefer asphalt concrete because it’s durable, flexible, and relatively affordable.


What Is the Difference Between Asphalt and Bitumen?

In the construction industry, experts know the difference between bitumen and asphalt. However, to someone from the outside, it is easy to mistake one. Some even use the two terms interchangeably. However, while closely related, bitumen and asphalt aren’t the same.

Bitumen is a sticky and black substance that often takes the form of a highly viscous liquid or semi-solid petroleum. Asphalt, on the other hand, refers to the mixture of bitumen and mineral aggregates. Therefore, asphalt is a composite material containing bitumen as a key component.


Types of Asphalt and Where to Use Them

Asphalt is a general term that refers to a mixture of binder, filler, and aggregates. However, it comes in several forms, each with an ideal function. Here are the types of asphalt and where they apply the best.

1. Hot Mix Asphalt

Hot mix asphalt (HMA) is the most common asphalt for pavement construction. It is produced at high temperatures, making it suitable for various climates. HMA is known for its durability and ability to withstand heavy traffic loads.

2. Warm Mix Asphalt

Warm mix asphalt (WMA) is produced at lower temperatures than HMA, providing environmental and energy-saving benefits. WMA is considered a more sustainable option suitable for regions with temperature restrictions. It cools down slower, making it better for colder climates. This also means contractors and manufacturers can easily transport WMA over HMA.

3. MC Cold Mix

MC cold mix is designed for use in colder temperatures. It is a bituminous mixture that remains workable at lower temperatures, making it ideal for patching and repairs in areas with cooler climates. However, it is not as durable as HMA, so it serves more as a temporary fix than anything else.

4. Dense-Graded Mixes

Dense-graded mixes have a high percentage of fine aggregates, providing a smooth and dense pavement surface. These mixes are commonly used for highways and high-traffic areas. There are two types of dense-graded mixes: fine-graded mixes and coarse-graded mixes.

5. Porous Asphalt

Porous asphalt comes with voids in the pavement surface, allowing water to permeate through and reduce surface runoff. It is an environmentally friendly option that helps mitigate flooding and water pollution. Many contractors use it to manage stormwater and reduce the headaches associated with puddles. It’s also durable, lasting over 20 years when applied correctly.


Asphalt vs Tarmac: What’s the Difference?

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As with bitumen and asphalt, tarmac and asphalt are two terms that people use interchangeably.

They refer to different things, though.

Asphalt is the material itself, while tarmac is a colloquial term for a type of road surface. Tarmac is a shortening of “tarmacadam,” a road surfacing material that includes crushed stone and tar.

Asphalt is far more durable than tarmac, which offers moderate strength. Tarmac is also more susceptible to damage from gasoline and diesel spills. It works best on small parking lots, walkways, and residential driveways. In contrast, asphalt works better for large parking areas, commercial spaces, and roadways.


Concrete or Asphalt Driveway: Which Is Better?

Asphalt and concrete driveways are popular choices for homeowners. Concrete is rigid and more durable, providing a clean and smooth surface. Asphalt driveways, on the other hand, are flexible and can withstand freeze-thaw cycles without cracking. 

Moreover, asphalt is easier to install and generally cheaper, too. However, it is more prone to absorbing pollutants thanks to its porous nature. The choice between them depends on climate, budget, and personal preference.


Cement or Asphalt Driveway: Which Is Better?

While many people refer to concrete as cement, cement is an ingredient used to make concrete. When comparing cement and asphalt driveways, it is important to note that asphalt is a more flexible and cost-effective option for driveways. It is easier to repair and maintain, making it a preferred choice for residential applications.


What Is the Best Material for Pavement?

The best material for pavement depends on various factors such as climate, traffic conditions, and budget constraints. Asphalt concrete, with its various types catering to different needs, is often a versatile and practical. Its flexibility, durability, and price tag make it the preferred option for many contractors and in many scenarios. Given the choice, an asphalt pavement certainly works well.


Safety Precautions

Installing asphalt concrete in a residential or commercial space comes with its fair share of risks. While it offers durability and flexibility, it can cause injury when applied improperly. Asphalt burning is a serious threat that can even lead to infection. As such, it is best to leave the asphalt concrete applications to a trained professional.


The Bottom Line

Asphalt concrete stands out as a reliable and strong material for pavement. Its various types catering to different climates and conditions offer a cost-effective solution for constructing durable and resilient road surfaces. As with many things, though, it is best to seek the help of a professional when it comes to asphalt concrete application.