Project Description

What is the difference between Tarmac, Asphalt and Bitmac?

Tarmac (tarmacadam), Asphalt and Bitmac are all forms of surfacing materials. They can be used on roads, driveways, car parks and for various other domestic and commercial applications. Each form of surfacing material has its own benefits, which we will explore in more detail below.

FP McCann offers a number of surfacing options, including Bitmac, Asphalt and SMA (Stone Mastic Asphalt).

What is Tarmac?

Tarmac is a company and brand name. It is commonly used as a term for surfacing, in the same way Hoover is used as a generic term for a vacuum cleaner or Biro for a ball-point pen.

The full name for the material often referred to as Tarmac is Tarmacadam – an amalgamation of the word “tar”, the black sticky organic substance used as a binder, and “macadam”, which is a type of surfacing or road construction referring to the use of layers of compacted stone, named after its creator, John Louden McAdam. Tarmacadam combines tar with aggregate or crushed stone particles.

What is Bitmac?

Bitmac is a more modern version of tarmacadam, which replaces the tar component with bitumen.

What is the difference between Tarmac, Asphalt and Bitmac?

Bitumen and tar are very similar and sometimes bitumen is referred to colloquially as tar and vice versa. However, there are differences in the two substances. Bitumen can be found naturally, whereas tar has to be artificially distilled and is derived from coal, petroleum or wood.

Bitmac is primarily used as a basecoat or base layer for road surfacing. It is not as hard-wearing as the more expensive Asphalt, lasting approximately 10-15 years vs. Asphalt’s 25-30 year lifespan. However, it is often used as a top coat for surfacing driveways in residential properties that would not experience the same volume of traffic as a motorway, public road or car park.

Usually black in colour, bitmac is identifiable as having a coarse look of tightly packed stones or aggregate vs. Asphalt’s smoother finish. These forms of surfacing may also be referred to as Blacktop.

What is Asphalt?

Asphalt is more hard-wearing than bitmac. As mentioned previously, it can typically last 25-30 years, where bitmac may only last up to 15 years. Due to its durable nature, Asphalt it normally applied as the top layer of surfacing in applications such as roads, motorways and other commercial and residential surfaces.

Asphalt is a combination of binder, aggregates and filler. Similar to Bitmac, bitumen is commonly used as the binder in Asphalt, however, it uses finer aggregates resulting in a smoother surface. Coarser stone can then be added to the Asphalt to create a decorative effect, for example FP McCann’s red chip or black chip Asphalt, which is popular for driveway surfacing.

Another form of surfacing offered by FP McCann is SMA or stone mastic asphalt. This is Asphalt that has been modified with fibres, increasing durability even further.

FP McCann What is Bitmac?
FP McCann What is Asphalt?
Red Chip Asphalt
FP McCann Black Chip Asphalt
Black Chip Asphalt

Summary of Asphalt vs Bitmac

So, what is the difference between Tarmac, Asphalt and Bitmac? Bitmac (containing bitumen instead of tar) is now more commonly used than tarmacadam. It is  cheaper than Asphalt, but not as hard-wearing with a 10-15 year lifespan. It is more suited as a bottom coat in commercial surfacing, or can be used in areas with lower traffic volume, such as residential driveways.

Asphalt will last 25-30 years. It is more expensive but also more durable than bitmac and is therefore suited to commercial surfacing jobs such as roads and car parks, and it can also be used for residential properties.


Q: How much does Asphalt/Bitmac cost? 

A: Asphalt is more expensive than Bitmac. Final cost depends on a number of factors, such as the area that is being surfaced, the finish of the Asphalt required, delivery distance, etc. Click here to get a quote.

Q: Do you sell surfacing products in bags for smaller jobs?

A: FP McCann’s Easi-Repair™ Cold Lay Tar can be purchased in 25kg bags, tonne bags or in loose bulk. It is a temporary surfacing solution, suitable for driveways, potholes, etc.

Q: What is the best product to surface my driveway with?

A: FP McCann offers a number of residential surfacing solutions. Bitmac is a more cost-effective option for driveways than Asphalt, however, Asphalt is a more durable option and comes in a number of aesthetic finishes, such as red chip and black chip.

Q: How long before I can drive on my driveway after it’s been tarmacked or surfaced?

A: Allow at least 72 hours before driving on newly laid Asphalt, Tarmac or Bitmac. If the weather is hot, allow a longer period for the blacktop to completely cool. It is also advised not to park on a newly surfaced drive for around 14 days.

Q: Does FP McCann hold any industry-recognised surfacing accreditations? 

A: Yes, find out about our surfacing accreditations here.

Surfacing options offered by FP McCann

  • Bitmac
  • Asphalt
  • McCannphalt thin surfacing materials
  • Surface dressing and geotextile surfacing overlays
  • SMA (Stone Mastic Asphalt)
  • Ready Mix Concrete
  • Concrete Exposed

If you would like any further information on our surfacing solutions, email, find out more on our website or request a quote.