Blacktop Paving

Blacktop is often used for daily paving projects, the types of projects that you would usually expect when talking about paving. If you have not used this material for your paving project, you may be curious to know what it is. 

In this article, we will be addressing the many queries regarding blacktop paving including:

  1. The difference between blacktop and asphalt
  2. How blacktops are installed
  3. How much it cost to pave with blacktop
  4. How durable is blacktop pavements
  5. Maintenance for blacktop pavements
  6. The advantages and disadvantages of blacktop vs. other paving options

So, what is blacktop? And should you use it for your next project?

Blacktop is a solid substance that is used for road and outdoor paving projects. It encapsulates a more natural stone that is added to the mix. It has more shimmer, glitter, and sparkle surfaces because of the natural stones it contained. Thus, even a thin layer of blacktop can be visible as it is sparklier than a fine coating of asphalt. 

It is individually mixed, but it has the same primary ingredients as asphalt. The differentiation lies in the bitumen and crushed stone ratio used for the aggregate. 

A lot of homeowners assume that blacktop is the same as asphalt, hence have been using it interchangeably.  

A newly installed asphalt over the gravel driveway.

But, are blacktop and asphalt the same?

  • Blacktop is primarily used for a residential paving project that does not experience heavy traffics, unlike asphalt that is commonly used for paving major highways 
  • Blacktop contains more natural stones in its mix, contributing to its sparkling nature than asphalt.
  • Blacktop needs to be heated to an elevated temperature of about 300 degrees during its mix. While asphalt requires a minimum of around 250 degrees temperature for its mix
  • Paving your driveway with blacktop is relatively cheaper than with asphalt
  • Blacktop has only one grade, unlike asphalt with up to five grades

If you’re looking for a durable, helpful driveway for your home, roadway, or parking lot, blacktop paving is a fantastic option for you. 

What is the difference between blacktop and asphalt?

To help you understand the distinction between asphalt and blacktop, we are going to be highlighting the three major differences in:

  • How blacktop and asphalt are made
  • What blacktop and asphalt are used for
  • Their grade

If you have used the terms “blacktop” and “asphalt” synonymously in your entire life, you aren’t the first, but there are some significant distinctions between the two that you must be aware of.

Although the two contain identical materials, their form defines if it is blacktop or asphalt. A gray asphalt driveway and a blacktop roadway can look similar and serve the same purpose when you drive over the materials, but they are undoubtedly not the same.

Asphalt is widely used on main roads and highways, while blacktop is limited to residential areas that don’t experience heavy traffic, including pathways, driveways, playgrounds, and parking lots.

A workers busy on making a driveway using a blacktop.

How blacktop and asphalt are made

How blacktop is made:

Although the blacktop is almost similar to asphalt, there is a difference in their making. The main component of most blacktop mixtures is natural stone. When you use your blacktop paving roadway, parking lot, driveway, etc., you will observe that the layer shines and sparkles compared to a dense layer of asphalt. This sparkly aesthetic appearance results from the more significant proportion of natural stones added to the crushed mixture.

Blacktop is heated to elevated temperatures of about 300 degrees elevated temperatures (around 50 degrees greater than asphalt), which, together with the varying ratios of stones, contribute to its durability. 

As time goes on, blacktop would generally be more resilient than asphalt. This resilience is due to the process of production requiring higher temperatures, rendering it a more pliable surface that you can reseal instead of it to suffer potholes and sharp cracks easily.

How asphalt is made: 

Asphalt is made directly from the heaviest component of petroleum after it is processed from fossil fuels. This dense and heavy product requires a cutting agent such as crushed stone to get the right consistency. 

The use of crushed stones as cutting agents help to achieve the required correct consistency. The petroleum by-products and crushed stones mixture are then placed in a big drum to help keep climate control for the mixing phases. It is now pliable enough to pour on driveways, roadways, parking lots, etc. Asphalt is mixed at a minimum of around 250 degrees to make it tough enough to endure anything that moves, walks, and runs over its surface.

The 250-degree level is a standard that is required to be reached for asphalt. However, the temperature needs to remain in that range rather than rising higher. Anywhere between 250 and 260 degrees is perfect because higher temperatures negatively affect the finished product. The asphalt surface is rigid, but it does not have the same flexibility as a blacktop paving surface.

A wet surface of blacktop road

What blacktop and asphalt are used for

Uses for blacktop:

Unlike asphalt, blacktop surfaces are more susceptible to highly congested areas. It does not have much weight strength to tolerate heavier loads, so it is not as popular as asphalt to be used on major roadways. Instead, blacktop is a perfect blend which is commonly used on:

  1. suburban roads, 
  2. driveways, 
  3. residential sidewalks, 
  4. parking lots,
  5. Playgrounds,
  6. Usually, blacktop is also used to construct game and court areas.

Blacktop does not have heavy traffic and weight load, like major roadways using asphalt; thus, it is usually used when referring to game areas and residential pathways.

Uses for asphalt:

Asphalt is primarily recognized for its long-lasting performance and capacity to withstand harsh conditions. Hence, it is mostly used for:

  1. Major roadways, 
  2. highways, 
  3. freeways.
A workers flatten the surface of asphalt road.

Aside from major roads that cross the world’s cities and byways, the versatile and water-resistant characteristics of asphalt make it suitable also for:

  1. Airport runways
  2. Reservoir linings
  3. Cable coatings
  4. Pool linings
  5. Soundproofing
  6. Tile underlying waterproofing
  7. Damp-proofing

Blacktop grade and asphalt grade 

Asphalt grades

When you talk of blacktop and asphalt variations, it is also important to note that asphalt has more distinctions. The five grade types of asphalt include:

  1. Quiet Asphalt: This type of asphalt is widely used in residential neighborhoods or motorways that are near residences
  2. Porous Asphalt: It is generally used for parking lots or other pavements where you want the water to flow under the surface down to the ground.
  3. Warm mix asphalt: It uses a reduced heating temperature to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and prolong the paving season.
  4. Hot Mix Asphalt: This is identical to blacktop paving since “hot mix” is what makes its blacktop
  5. Perpetual Pavement: It’s a multilayered asphalt process. It can be deemed much comparable to the blacktop since it is the most versatile way of installing asphalt.

Blacktop grades

Although blacktop can differ based on the quantity of natural stone used or the ratio in which it has been blended, it is worthy of note that there is only one type of blacktop

A blacktop road that is surrounded by trees on both sides.

How are blacktops installed?

There are several aspects that homeowners and business owners may not know about when it comes to paving with blacktop. Of course, there are specific steps you need to take and things you should consider while installing a new blacktop or replacing an existing one, ensuring its longevity. 

Whether you want to carry out the project yourself or contract a professional, below are the steps you should take to properly install a blacktop pavement.

  1. Remove Old Paving

The first step in installing a blacktop is to remove old paving employing heavy equipment, like forklifts, small bobcats, front loaders, etc., if necessary.

  1. Grading and Sloping

Level the surface to be paved using laser-guided transits and automated motor graders, ensuring that water runs properly as water is a primary cause of damage, including cracks, potholes, and heaving.

  1. Preparation of the Sub Base

The sub-base offers a steady surface to support fresh pavement. Therefore, if the sub-base is not adequately compacted, the top’s blacktop surface will not render the desired years of durability.

  1. Sub Base Repair, Undercutting, and Proof Roll

Once the sub-base is thoroughly graded and compacted, an additional step such as proof roll, undercutting, and sub-base repair should be performed, ensuring the ground surface is stable and prepared to support new blacktop paving.

  1. Binder and Surface Course

Once the sub base is placed and any soft areas are found and fixed, it is time to install the binder. The binder layer is a huge aggregate blended with oil, keeping it very solid and durable.

  1. Apply a new blacktop

After installing a new blacktop’s supporting structure, apply the top layer of a new blacktop to provide a comfortable ride and a shiny, attractive finished surface. Make sure to warm the blacktop to around 300 degrees before application.

  1. Final roll

Ensure to also smooth the transition and butt joints areas, ensuring that the grading and water run-off is correct. Also, make sure to smooth and compact the entire surface after laying the blacktop and butt joints using a roller truck. This phase of the process guarantees no tiny bumps of aggregate or stone sticking through the polished new surface.

  1. Curing

Your blacktop will need some time to cool and strengthen before it is fully ready for use, likely 24-48 hours before you can drive on it. If you don’t give it enough time to cure, your blacktop will appear stretched and can damage much faster.

How much does blacktop paving cost?

Three factors may affect the average cost of blacktop installation, including:

  • Location on Property
  • Regional Variations
  • Excavation/Grading

The average cost for paving and installing a 2-car driveway is $3,600, with many homeowners paying between $950 and $7,940. However, a backyard blacktop installation may cost between $3,500 to $32,500.

How durable is blacktop paving?

A blacktop pavement can last between 10 and 30 years, depending on several factors, including but not limited to, the following: 

  • Proper Installation
  • Type of usage (residential or commercial)
  • Weather conditions
  • Maintenance culture
A big house with a residential blacktop driveway.

The first step towards a long-lasting pavement is proper installation. So, ensure you hire the right contractor who will observe all the correct steps in the process to avoid damage caused on top of the pavement by water pooling.

You could cause premature damage to your driveway if you fail to plan for the correct type of use. So, ensure  to properly determine the vehicles’ style and weight that will be using the driveway or parked on it.

Weather conditions, including Cold, freezing temperatures can cause contraction and crack of the pavement. If you reside in a region with significant seasonal changes in temperature, then this is something you need to watch out for.

Furthermore, remember that proper maintenance and repairs can elongate the durability of your pavement. Hence, always ensure you give adequate care to your blacktop pavements. 

Blacktop paving maintenance 

If you want your blacktop surfaces to last long or longer than expected, you need to adopt proper maintenance because good maintenance contributes to pavement durability. Below are tips on how you can adequately maintain your blacktop pavement:

  • After installation, allow your pavement to cure properly before use.
  • Assess the blacktop pavement periodically for cracks and immediately patch them to prevent water from seeping into and weaken the material. 
  • Don’t park vehicles that are leaking fluids like oil or gasoline on your driveway because it can cause damage that can result in early repair of the driveway.
  • It is also important to keep heavy commercial vehicles away from residential blacktop driveways. If required, park tow trucks or other similar vehicles in the street.
  • During wintertime, use rock salt to remove ice and snow or thick brush for the same purpose, rather than to use a shovel or snow blower to shield this material’s upper layer from scratches and damage.
  • Do not drive along the blacktop edge because the closer it gets to the edge of a paved region, the weaker the blacktop gets.
  • Do not park vehicles in the same spot in the driveway at the same location because it will sustain excessive pressure and weight on one blacktop area. This area could then begin to degrade over time.
A residential driveway surrounded by plants.

The advantages and disadvantages of blacktop paving vs. other paving options

Advantages of using blacktop

You can use blacktop in several places, including parking lots, roadways, home driveway, game areas, etc. Below are the advantages of using blacktop:

  1. Safe: blacktop pavement provides a very smooth, sparkling, and attractive surface. This implies a comfortable ride for your tires, resulting in fewer accidents.
  2. Minimum disruption: Since blacktop can be handled in lanes or strips, you can use your parking lot or road in places where the contractor is not working. Besides, since projects can be carried out fast, they can often be executed outside regular business hours, which does not hurt your business.
  3. Noise control: Blacktop pavement is the quietest option for paving surfaces. It is claimed to reduce noise pollution by 50 percent.
  4. Cost-effective: Blacktop pavement is inexpensive to maintain. It can be done on time, saving you money on human resources.

Disadvantages of using blacktop

Despite its many benefits, it also has a downside. The disadvantages of using blacktop for your paving project are but not limited to, the following:

  1. Its uses are limited to areas that do not regularly experience heavy traffic.
  2. The mixing nature of blacktop’s ingredients is not sturdy enough and does not last long compared to asphalt paving.
  3. Blacktop paved surfaces tend to need more maintenance than other paving options.
  4. Blacktop has a higher mixture of stone than its other option, requiring it to be heated to a higher temperature (around 300 degrees). This means more time would be needed to prepare the mixture.

Other attributes of blacktop and asphalt

Asphalt and blacktop are required to be mixed in elevated temperatures, so it is common to see contractors performing projects during the warmer months. Asphalt is also typically smoother than blacktop as the latter contains higher amounts of crushed natural stone in the mix. However, asphalt is better for roads that require a smoother ride, which is why they are great for building major roadways.

A smooth surface of a blacktop paving with leaves on top.

Related Article: Blacktop Sealcoating


Blacktop paving is a safe, durable, and commonly used paving option for a wide range of projects as much as asphalt. While blacktop is durable like asphalt, it is more malleable, and asphalt is typically more rigid than blacktop. 

Their resemblances make them both commonly used materials for paving projects, but their disparities help you better understand which will be your project’s best pavement choice.

It is critical to analyze how each material will impact the performance, irrespective of the project intent. A small variation could go a big step in the making or marring of your next project. So, ensure to consult a professional paving contractor for any paving project you may need for your home or offices. 

Professionals know the right material for a particular project, understand the perfect time for paving work, and can give you a precise cost estimate to ensure the project’s success.