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Why is Tarmac So popular

Updated: Feb 15, 2019

The word "asphalt" is derived from the late Middle English, in turn from French asphalte, based on Late Latin asphalton.

Tarmac (Asphalt) is a product that has been used for over 150 years and I get asked now why is it such a widely used product and I always answer the short way because it is so good but even though that is true it doesn't tell the full storey,

Road-way resurfacing
Howdens joinery Kirkintilloch Road-way resurfacing
First of all Tarmac is a company not a product the company was founded in 1903 by Edgar Purnell Hooley after he patented the road surfacing material tarmac in 1901 as such it has become like the term hoover to us British people yes I know I don't like saying the Americans have it right but they do Vacuum cleaner and Asphalt are there right terms

But since they have made the term Tarmac so prevalent we all fall into the same routine of calling it that.

So all the naming aside the question remains why is it so widely used well I my opinion it is because of two or three reasons


It has so many variations that allow it to be customised to a specific use ie; Drive way use a mix design that is designed to provide Smooth black finish and not the tensile strength of something like a HRA (Hot Rolled Asphalt) which is being used in the photo, This allows the contractors to use a material with complete faith, This also separates true Asphalt contractors for the small have a go heroes as most don't understand the difference they only know the aggregate make up size eg; 6mm 10mm 20mm see Photo

Machine laid Asphalt blog photo
10mm HRA for use on this yard/compound provides higher surface resistance to thing like tire scrub

They look quite similar but they are miles apart,

Tarmac drive way info
6mm Dense surface course designed to be more flexible for drive-ways and maintain its finish

Also there is a question of how they are laid,

with both of them being able to be laid by machine or hand the HRA if you ask anyone who has tried to hand ball lets just say its a workout.

sorry I digress

But you get my point if there is a specific use for you surface in most cases there is a specific Asphalt for it too and this is what divides the Tarmac or Asphalt world into two main categories,

The ones that know!

And the ones that don't!

We like to think we are the later here at GSS.

Reason 2.

Its alive

Sorry couldn't help myself but it is a live product "how?" you ask well I am happy you asked what makes Asphalt, Asphalt is its binder,

Binder is the bitumen used to bind the aggregates without it you have loose stones and sand on average there is only about 10-17% binder in any mix design this is subject to use but that is the average.

And bitumen is a sticky, black, and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid form of petroleum.It may be found in natural deposits or may be a refined product, and is classed as a pitch. Before the 20th century, the term asphaltum was also used.

The primary use (70%) of bitumen is in road construction,

and its this vicous material that make Asphalt a live material as it my become a semi-solid but never/or rarely becomes a solid so as you use Asphalt it moves.

now this movement is minuet Micro millimetres over a long time but it does move allow the material to and binder to continually mix slowing the ageing process down and allow the material to be more flexible unlike Concrete that is rigid Asphalt we move over time with the Sub-base.

Also a by product of this moment is finish quality "ever wondered why there are two smooth black lines on each lane of the motorway?" we didn't put them there you did by driving on it.

One of the main uses for Tarmac or Asphalt is tarmac repairs not many people would put this as a key to Tarmac or Asphalt success over there years but it has proven itself time and time again not just for repairing Tarmac or Asphalt but as a multi surface repairer from concrete (we have a video on this and this is because of the live product part (thought the was a good transition) it moves over time this means while we level and roll the Tarmac or Asphalt and then seal the edges with over banding if there are any micro inclusions that can not be fill "where the Tarmac or Asphalt meets road" so to speak over time traffic and general use will 99% of time fill those void naturally this is great because as any material if there is a risk of water or any other agent getting between the Tarmac or Asphalt and the existing surface it will eventually break the bond and result in the repair not working as it should.

So there you have it a few paragraphs some shameful pluging (GSS are the best surfacing contractor's in the world) and we have a good idea why Tarmac or Asphalt are used so much and for so long

I hope this

blog post has giving you some more insight into a product and possibly answer the question as to why its is so widely used.

Here at GSS we are trying to do more of these blogs to help inform people and give some insight into an industry we love so if you have any questions please get in touch.

Many thanks for reading

All at GSS

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