What is the Difference Between Bitumen and Asphalt?

When it comes to building roads, or just road topics in general, you may have come across the terms “asphalt” and “bitumen.” From this, you might have assumed that both words mean the same thing. However, the reality is that asphalt and bitumen aren’t the same material Bitumen is a liquid binder that is used to hold asphalt together. Regardless, asphalt and bitumen are used in various applications, a common use being roads.

With that in mind, you might be wondering which of the two options is best for your application. To answer that, we’ll delve deeper into the main differences between asphalt and bitumen, along with talking about the pros and cons of each material:

What Are the Main Differences Between Bitumen and Asphalt?

Asphalt is a mixture of aggregate, bitumen, and sand that is produced in a plant using heat. Bitumen is the liquid binder that is used to hold asphalt together. Think of bitumen as the glue used to stick two objects together or an egg to bind various ingredients together. When building a bitumen road, the surface will be sprayed with a layer of bitumen, creating a bitumen-sealed surface that’s covered with some form of aggregate. This is generally then repeated once more to create two layers of coating.
When asphalt is produced, it is spread and flattened onto a prepared surface, resulting in asphalt roads.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Bitumen and Asphalt?

When it comes to building roads, there are pros and cons to the two materials. To start, let us talk about the pros and cons of asphalt.

The pros of asphalt include a long lifespan of over twenty years, energy efficiency (as it minimises friction between the car’s wheel and the road), a smoother and more skid-resistance surface for safer drives, and reduced wear to the tyres. Noise is also minimised for more comfortable driving. However, the main cons of asphalt are that it is much more expensive to install than bitumen and requires a surface to be thoroughly prepared before application. Note that despite the higher upfront cost, asphalt is more cost-effective because of its increased lifespan.

The main pros of bitumen include a much cheaper road solution than asphalt and bitumen can easily be recycled for other purposes. Unfortunately, the pros end there. The cons begin with the fact that bitumen pavements are looser, making the driving experience much noisier and causing more wear to the tyres. Overall, bitumen roads are much less durable, and extreme weather can cause its surface to become slippery.


With all of that said, you might be wondering which option is better for you. That will entirely depend on your needs and budget, as both bitumen and asphalt have their uses that make them perfect for the job! If you need help deciding, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. Whether you are trying to build a driveway or thinking about resurfacing an area, a professional can assist you in understanding what your needs are. They will also consider your budget to develop a surfacing solution that meets your needs and expectations.

KEE Group is Australia’s civil and mining support service, offering hire, transport, fuel, and surfacing to meet various needs. KEE Group has several divisions under it’s surfacing banner. These include KEE Asphalt, KEE Profiling, KEE Spray-Seal, and KEE Basecourse Paving. If you are looking for professional technicians in Australia to help you plan out and lay quality asphalt or bitumen surfaces, work with us today!

IMAGE © Katharyn Quinn 2021

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