Understanding the Basics of Tarmac Surfacing
Tarmac, also known as tarmacadam, is a ubiquitous sight on public and private roads, driveways, and car parks across the UK. Its smooth, durable surface is suitable for both domestic and commercial applications. Before you can decide whether tarmac is right for your road surfacing needs, you need to have a grip on the tarmac surfacing basics.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the fundamentals of tarmac surfacing, shedding light on its composition, benefits, applications, and maintenance. Whether you’re considering tarmac for road surfacing or simply curious about the roads you drive on, our guide and the FAQs will be a go-to for all you need to know.
If you wish to speak to an expert, send us a message or contact our London or Kent office right away.
Tarmacadam: History and the process
The history of tarmacadam dates to the early 19th century in the UK. John Loudon McAdam was a Scottish engineer who came up with the unfamiliar concept of macadam roads. His road construction methods involved a unique process of layering smaller stones to create a solid foundation. Later, it was John’s son, James McAdam who introduced the use of bitumen in road construction. This process was properly called bituminous macadam or bitmac. With time, the term evolved to become “tarmacadam” or “tarmac” for further brevity.
The tarmacadam process involves combining crushed stone or aggregate, bitumen, and sand. This mixture is then heated to high temperatures to produce a viscous asphalt-like substance. The process makes for a robust road surface which is smooth and highly durable.
Due to the hard-wearing properties of its component aggregates, tarmac boasts excellent weather resistance. It is also one of the cheapest and most eco-friendly choices you have for road surfacing in the South East of England.
The benefits of tarmac surfacing
To understand tarmac surfacing basics, it is paramount to know its many benefits including:
Tarmac is known for its resilience. Its high-quality materials such as crushed stone and bitumen are carefully selected for their ability to withstand heavy loads and extreme weather conditions. This ensures that you can use tarmac for road surfacing in high-traffic areas.
Tarmacadam creates a smooth surface on your roads and driveways, thus creating a comfortable driving and walking experience on private or public roads.
Tarmac is known to be one of the quickest methods of road surfacing. Which is why it is also popular among developers, homeowners, and infrastructure companies in the UK. This material can be quickly laid whilst ensuring minimum disruption.
Tarmac is ideal for the UK weather. It can effectively handle all the extremities including harsh rains, frost, temperature fluctuations, high winds, and thunderstorms.
Tarmac can be recycled and reused. Its component aggregates have no real run-off, thus ensuring that the material doesn’t pollute any water systems.
Applications of tarmac in road surfacing
Public roads and highways
Tarmac is the go-to material for road and highway construction across the UK. Owing to its high durability, weather resistance, and smooth surface, tarmac is considered safe for high-traffic roads.
Tarmac remains one of the most popular choices for a smooth finish on private driveways. It’s durable, long-lasting, affordable, and highly flexible. When finished to the highest standards by an experienced road surfacing company, your driveways will surely stand the test of time.
Public car parks
Commercial properties use tarmac for their car park surfacing and resurfacing. It gives a smooth surface and can easily handle the constant movement of vehicles.
Playground surfacing is important for schools, and safety remains a crucial factor. Tarmac ensures that your playground surfaces remain smooth and sturdy throughout the year without giving in to regular use and weather conditions.
Tarmacadam, like any other material, requires regular maintenance to ensure its longevity. Although it’s highly durable, there will be inevitable damage such as cracks and chips over a longer period of time. Your routine maintenance activities for tarmac roads include:
- Line markings and road signs for safety and clarity
- Periodic resealing for protection against moisture and wear
- Installation of proper drainage systems to prevent water accumulation
- Regular cleaning to remove oil stains and debris
- Timely repairs and basic maintenance to keep your road smooth and resilient
Tarmac surfacing is the cornerstone of many roads, highways, driveways, and car parks throughout the UK. Its durability, versatility, and smooth surface make it an unparalleled choice for both domestic and commercial road surfacing needs. We hope this article has helped you understand the tarmac surfacing basics by touching upon some of the most crucial points related to it.
If you’re considering tarmac surfacing or resurfacing, get in touch with Swift Surfacing Ltd. We are road surfacing experts with over 30 years of experience working with local developers, homeowners, government infrastructure organisations, schools, and more in the South East of England. Call our London office on 020 81665109 or our Kent office on 01233 840088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
What is the first layer of tarmac?
The first layer of tarmac is called the base course or binder course which adds strengthening properties to surfaced roads. The thickness of this layer should be at least 50 to 80 mm. And the material used is popularly known as Dense Bitumen Macadam or DBM.
What are the different types of tarmac surfacing?
Tarmac surfacing can be of two major types including open-graded and close-graded. In open-graded tarmac surfacing, there are fewer small particles within the mixture. This makes the road surface porous, thus easily letting water or gas pass through it.
Close-graded tarmac surfacing includes a greater number of small particles. This makes the surface less permeable but more uniform. It is often a preferred choice for smooth roads in the UK.
How thick should tarmac be laid?
The thickness of tarmac should depend on the intended use, traffic volume of the road, and local road construction regulations. However, the standard guidelines would be as follows:
- The top course should be about 25 to 40 mm in thickness
- The binder course should be somewhere around 50 to 80 mm thick
- Beneath the base course, there is often a subbase which should range from 100 to 300 mm
Once again, the thickness of the layers will vary depending on the type of road being surfaced, the region, and various other factors related to the usability of the road.
What are the grades of tarmac in the UK?
Tarmac is usually graded on the stiffness of Bitumen, one of its mixture components. A lower pen or penetration value of Bitumen means it’s stiffer. And hence, it will be preferable for heavily trafficked roads. Commonly used Bitumen grades are 40/60 pen, 70/100 pen, 100/150 pen, and 160/220 pen. The higher value Bitumen is suitable for hand lay work as it can be easy to use. These can be ideal for private driveways with less load on the road.