Bitumen Vs. Asphalt

Bitumen Vs. Asphalt

What’s the difference between Asphalt and Bitumen and which is best for your project?

When it comes to deciding how to pave your property’s driveway, you’ve got options and, as we all know, options can be overwhelming! The antidote to this problem is research and the team here at Road Seal Australia is here to help demystify the problem so that you do not suffer from buyers’ remorse down the line.

Driveways can be as simple or as fancy as your budget allows from bitumen to asphalt and even concrete. Which one you should pick not only depends on your budget, but also the length of the driveway, your aesthetic, local by-laws, and how much work you want to put in to maintaining it.

Most common driveway surfaces

Most common driveway surfaces

In Australia, we like to use bitumen and asphalt for our driveways, with the cement option being more in-line for garages, as any oil stains stay visible and it takes 1 to 3 weeks to fully cure. Keeping that in mind, we’re going to go through the major differences between Asphalt and Bitumen to help you decide on the best choice for your property.


Bitumen is typically used on rural roads that don’t see much traffic and is sprayed onto the surface before being covered with aggregates such as pebbles and other crushed up materials, before being sprayed again, giving it a two-coat seal.

The finish is coarse and may have patches of exposed or loose aggregate which can create a bit of road noise, even to the point of sounding as if you’re driving on a gravel road. While bitumen has a lower upfront cost, you can expect to resurface it in 5 to 10 years as the 10 – 20mm layers wear down. It is relatively cheap, with a rough finish, but would be great for a long driveway.


Like concrete, asphalt is a mixture of ingredients and compounds such as aggregate, bitumen and sand, mixed into a hot composite which is laid 25 – 40mm thick onto a prepared surface. Due to the mixture and thickness of the asphalt, we’ve found it to last a minimum of 20 years and can last longer if taken care of properly.

While it is a more expensive option, the smooth and fine finish results in a nicer appearance and minimal noise factors. This also means that due to its smoothness your vehicle’s tyres will take much less wear and tear, plus you’ll get better fuel economy. These are reasons why asphalt is used for major roads and highways, any area that is expected to get high traffic volumes.

How are Bitumen and asphalt affected by the weather?

How are Bitumen and asphalt affected by the weather?

Australian weather can be harsh, and nothing is worse than stepping on a tar or bitumen bubble with bare feet. As we discussed in a previous post, asphalt and bitumen both react differently to temperature fluctuations.

Asphalt is less sensitive to temperature changes but can still be affected by extreme heat or cold snaps, whereas bitumen surfaces are more sensitive to extreme temperatures. It can re-liquify, causing soft and slick patches which can be dangerous to drive on.

If you live in an area which is subject to extreme weather, it would be a good idea to go for the more expensive, but more durable, asphalt option.

Which one should I choose, asphalt or bitumen?

Which one should I choose, asphalt or bitumen?

Wear and tear

As we’ve discussed above, asphalt has a higher price point, lasts longer, is more tolerant to extreme temperatures, and is designed for high traffic roads, plus it’s great for laying on sloped surfaces. When laid properly, asphalt will last and provides a smoother, more durable road surface for decades.

Short term or long term

Bitumen is a part of asphalt and is a great binder, commonly used for rural roads as it’s easy and cheaper to use and can simply be sprayed over existing paved areas for quick repairs. If you’re after something more short term, bitumen can be recycled rather than going to a landfill. However, keep in mind that it can cause pollution to soil and groundwater, so it’d be best to not use near any protected habitats or wetlands.

Price vs durability

If we’re going strictly on price, bitumen is the way to go with its cheaper installation costs and is a good investment for resurfacing roads with low traffic volumes. Asphalt on the other hand is more expensive but is also the most cost-effective thanks to its 20 plus year lifespan only requiring periodic maintenance.

Weighing up the pros and cons, asphalt has more benefits and less disadvantages than bitumen does and is morez commonly used around Australia.

If you’re unsure about asphalt and bitumen, contact Road Seal Australia

No matter your choice, the team at Road Seal Australia is here and ready to help! Road surfacing is our heart and soul, and we are here to help you make the right choices for your property and your needs. Call our team today on 1800902202 or click here to send us an online message. Alternatively, email us at to find out more about how we can help you and your organisation.