Tarmac Material: Composition and Uses

Tarmac, short for tarmacadam, is a type of road surfacing material. Its name is derived from John Loudon McAdam, who designed the macadam road construction method, and from the subsequent addition of tar. Tarmac Glasgow is known for its durability and ability to withstand heavy traffic loads, making it a popular choice for road construction and repair.

Composition of Tarmac

Tarmac is composed of crushed stone aggregate, sand, and filler, mixed with a binder like tar or bitumen. The mixture is laid on a solid base of compacted earth or concrete and then compacted by a roller until it hardens. The tar serves as a waterproofing agent and binds the aggregate together, creating a smooth, solid surface.


The aggregate used in tarmac is typically made from crushed rock, slag, or gravel. The size and type of aggregate can vary depending on the intended use of the tarmac. Smaller aggregates are used for smoother surfaces, while larger aggregates are used for surfaces that need to be more durable.


The binder, traditionally tar, has been largely replaced by bitumen due to environmental concerns associated with coal tar. Bitumen, a byproduct of petroleum distillation, is less harmful and provides similar binding properties.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process of tarmac involves heating the bitumen and mixing it with the aggregate at a hot mix plant. Once mixed, it is transported to the site while still hot. The hot mixture is spread on the prepared base layer and compacted with rollers until it cools own and hardens.

Advantages of Tarmac


Tarmac is highly durable and can last for many years with proper maintenance. It is capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions and heavy traffic without significant damage.


Compared to other materials like concrete, tarmac is more cost-effective, both in terms of initial installation and maintenance over time.

Time Efficiency

Tarmac surfaces can be laid down and become usable much faster than concrete, which requires a longer curing time.


Tarmac is a recyclable material. Old tarmac can be removed, crushed, and reused in new tarmac mixtures, reducing the need for new materials and minimising waste.

Uses of Tarmac

Road Construction

Tarmac is most commonly used in the construction of roads, from motorways to residential streets. Its ability to be quickly laid and used makes it ideal for minimising traffic disruption.

Driveways and Parking Lots

Due to its cost-effectiveness and durability, tarmac is a popular choice for driveways and parking lots. It can support the weight of vehicles and withstand oil spills to some extent.

Airport Runways

The strength and durability of tarmac make it suitable for airport runways. It can support the weight of aircraft and provide a smooth surface for take-offs and landings.

Playgrounds and Sports Courts

Tarmac is also used in playgrounds and sports courts. It provides a flat and stable surface for various activities and can be painted with lines and designs as needed.

Maintenance and Repair

Regular Inspection

Regular inspection and maintenance are crucial to extend the lifespan of a tarmac surface. Small cracks and holes should be repaired promptly to prevent water infiltration and further damage.


Over time, the surface of tarmac can become worn. Resurfacing involves applying a new layer of tarmac over the existing surface, restoring its appearance and functionality.


Sealcoating is a preventative maintenance measure that involves applying a protective layer over the tarmac to seal small cracks and protect against water and UV damage.


Tarmac is a versatile and efficient material widely used in various construction projects, particularly for surfaces that require durability and resilience. Its composition allows for a quick and cost-effective solution for paving needs, and its recyclability aligns with environmental sustainability efforts. With proper maintenance, tarmac surfaces can provide reliable performance for many years, making it a staple in modern construction and infrastructure development.